Articles by

<Nicole Disser>

04/22/15 6:26am


323 Franklin Avenue, Bed-stuy

I’m not usually one for sweet drinks; I actually like my cocktails supremely bitter and boozy. Even so, strangely enough, I hold a special place in my heart for frozen drinks. But since last summer’s Phrosties are now a distant memory, getting a frozen Pink Baby at Baby’s All Right involves swimming through throngs of people who think being health goth entails actual exercise, and Glady’s—even with its fantastic frozen cocktails—is less a bar and more a place to gorge on delicious Carribbean grub, the time was right for Chilo’s to come along, with its perfectly crafted frozen drinks.

A brand new Mexican-themed bar in Bed-Stuy owned by the people behind Mayfield in Crown Heights, Chilo’s has been a hit since the day it opened. Maybe it’s because people are finally feeling optimistic that summer isn’t too far off and Chilo’s is the perfect place to ring in the new season, with its backyard full of ample picnic table seating and a taco truck (which, yes, takes cards). Even the indoors retains an outdoor vibe: The big corner door was wide open on a warm evening and I imagine the large, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows will be open when it’s hot out, to let in the breeze. (more…)

04/08/15 11:11am
Photo by Jane Bruce

The Brooklyn Voodoo Lounge
273 13th Street, Park Slope


The Brooklyn Voodoo Lounge is a sight to behold in Park Slope, where the accepted aesthetic standards hover somewhere between tony and twee; everything is just so. And because I love disruptions to the acceptable order of things—the sore thumbs, if you will—I was happy to walk into this newish bar just off 5th Avenue, with its awkward purple glow, plywood floors, and oddly miniature tables un-artfully carved out of church pews. And while I won’t pretend to know much about New Orleans (I’ve only been there once and was full-throttle drunk the entire time), the Voodoo Lounge definitely has that Big Easy feel. (more…)

03/11/15 9:14am
Photo by Jane Bruce

Moot Bar
579 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill


Yesterday was one of the most brutal days I can remember in a long, long time and not just because I started out the day supremely hungover but because snow blobs rained down on the entirety of our fine borough, mocking us with their insolence, their relentlessness. Winter will not end; surrender is the only option. So it was in the face of our collective defeat at the hands of this interminable season that I headed to Moot Bar–a good 20-minute walk plus 20-minute bus ride from my comfortable abode in Bed-Stuy. After a day of hustling and working and running to and fro, I just wanted to put my feet up on a cardboard box and slam a couple of beers in silence, solitude, and partial nudity. But that was not to be. (more…)

02/11/15 8:40am



You might be surprised to learn that speed dating still exists–and not just in limbo somewhere between Missouri, middle management, and web 1.0. In fact, speed dating is still an option for singles right here in our Tinder-addicted metropolis. And lest you think I’m referring to some kind of ironic meet-up during which people put bags on their heads and rely solely on conversation and olfactory senses to determine if doinking is in their immediate future, rest assured, straight-up, no gimmicks speed dating is still alive and well in old New York.

Speed dating was first developed in the late 90s by a Los Angeles-based Rabbi named Yaacov Deyo in order to help busy Jewish singles meet marriage material in record time. The system might seem a little outdated now, and for good reason—who needs face-to-face meet-ups when there’s an app for that? But back at the turn of the century, word got out, trend pieces were penned, and speed dating became a full-blown phenomenon. It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around in the age of meeting over the internet, but speed dating was once considered a somewhat impersonal form of courtship, something for reluctant people pressed for time.

Now, of course, speed dating feels supremely sluggish in comparison to dating apps. How do I know this? From experience, like, last week’s experience: I attended an event organized by New York Minute Dating.

The process basically entails a series of brief, five-to-ten minute, two-way interviews with a slew of completely random people. I knew time was up when organizers ran a bell. And while generally the conversations were awkward but polite, a few seasoned participants asked “clever” questions. They were not shy about their alumni status.

One of my partners asked me if I’d heard of the psychologist Arthur Aron’s 36 questions that supposedly make you fall in love with anyone. I lied and said, no, I had not. He switched gears and asked the name of the last movie that made me cry, I admitted that a recent episode of Girls was so terrible that I felt like crying. I turned the tables on him: Police Academy II was his answer. So, you know, these conversations can be quite entertaining.

But things started out weird. I was the first to arrive–which was already an unusual thing for me–at a really rather awful dive in the East Village. The drinks were pricey, the crowd… scary, and the place smelled like piss and looked like a well-worn horse stable: ground-down wood, dark and dank, lit only by the glow of sports games and Bud Light beer signs. I could only bring myself to speak in a whisper to the bartender when I asked where the “event” was happening; she pointed me to the poorly-lit and drafty back room.

The hookup corral was exceedingly lonely, silence was broken only by the whir of a space heater. “You’re here for speed dating?” asked one of the organizers, a tall guy with a New York Minute Dating T-shirt haphazardly throw over a button-down. “Yup,” I nodded.

He did a double take: “Really? Are you sure? Speed dating?”

I sat down in a large leather booth awkwardly lit by red and blue spotlights and awaited my inevitable fate. What the hell was I doing in this shame-hole? As a few other women sat down, the guy who had checked me in walked to a mic stand in the center of the room and started reading off instructions, dropping a few terrible jokes in between.

“We’ve been doing this since the 90s,” he said. “Things were way different then. No one had cell phones.” He singled me out: “You, you wouldn’t have had a cell phone. So what would you be doing right now? Playing with a Rubik’s cube?”

No, sir; I wouldn’t have been playing with a Rubik’s cube. If I’d been here in the 90s, I likely would have been pooping in my diaper.


I actually started to get nervous. My Budweiser was almost gone and I was out of cash. Generally, I enjoy talking to strangers, but the prospect of jamming into a booth with total randoms and having to deflect pick-up lines while completely sober was starting to freak me out.

But maybe I’ve just grown used to the initial anonymity and relative distance offered by dating apps? Maybe I should try something out of my comfort zone? In what other circumstance would I feel so vulnerable? This was so public, so… real. And it would just be for five minutes at a time. How is that suddenly an eternity? I could do this.

I’m not even a regular user of dating apps. In fact, I’m just a sick weirdo who flips through profiles when I’m bored, with absolutely no intention of meeting up with people. But I can empathize with the staunchest critics of Tinder et al, who point to the encroachment of a Silicone Valley-ethos into our romantic relationships and sex lives, which reads something like: The goal is to manage one’s time efficiently so as to maximize work output for the corporate monsters we devote nearly all our waking hours to already. Why risk wasting time at a bar scoping out potential hookups when an app can eliminate all the variables that come between you and a person you consider attractive? You only need to have the smallest degree of mutual attraction and then you’re free to PM. Sex is within reach like never before.

And I have friends that swear by the convenience of Tinder while they trash OK Cupid for being a time-suck, a site to which many of these same people were once devotees. The rate at which dating aids become outmoded these days is nothing short of astounding. Call me a romantic, but when it comes to relationships, expediency seems counterintuitive. Doesn’t this sense of urgency, the quick swipe, go against what relationships and sex stand for: a welcome departure from the daily schlep, the opportunity to enjoy the closeness of another human being? Of course, dating apps can still help you arrive at these ends, but what are we missing in between if the means are so swift and calculated?

Back at the East Village bar, the room was suddenly packed with other women. All were dressed like the “young professionals” the organizers called for—attractive, prim, and fairly adept at hiding any nervousness. Though one girl sat in the shadows brushing her hair repeatedly and glancing over at me.

Another woman who sat down at the booth next to Brush Girl proved to be less reserved. “Would you like anything to drink?” one of the organizers asked her. “Get me a Bud Light and two shots of Fireball–chilled.” Brush girl looked up inquiringly. “Well, if we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do this,” the newcomer said.

Right on! I swilled the rest of my Budweiser and said fuck it.

After all the women were seated, the men began to file in toward the back of the room, sipping beers from plastic cups and milling about, unsure of themselves. The women stayed comfortably seated, shooting out last minute texts: “OMG WTF am I doing here?” “Wish me luck, everyone looks like a loser!” “This is going to be awful FML!”


The bell rang and the guys rotated about the room, stopping at each table for five minutes of either incredibly stilted conversation, typical small talk, or surprisingly honest exchanges.

My first suitor, we’ll call him K, was incredibly nervous at first. His hands were shaking and he fell back immediately on a list of painful questions he’d obviously prepared in advance.

“What do you do for fun?”

Wow. What do I do for fun, I wondered. I quickly made something up about going to shows a bunch, which I do occasionally but not enough, right? I just conveyed my ideal self, the person that goes to shows three times a week because she’d rather spend her money on supporting local music and touring bands than piss it away on beer and over-priced Negronis.

But apparently K bought it, because he immediately became more relaxed. We had something in common. Turns out K is a DJ and rapper. We talked about shows, the music industry, a record deal he almost had. But while K was defending his poetic integrity as a “lyricist,” the bell rang. He finished his sentence, we shook hands, and K moved on, even though he’d just been really starting to get somewhere.

What followed was a diverse stream of boy-men in finance, guys from New Jersey, a driver for National Grid living in Queens. And unlike the dating pool that pops up on my Tinder, these guys were a bit more of an accurate representation of New York City: one Ukrainian, a Pakistani guy, a very nice fellow from Kenya, and just a handful of white guys in the bunch. Our conversations were mostly enjoyable, but totally platonic. I wasn’t “hitting it off” with anyone. Have dating apps jaded me to the point where this seemed less like some elaborate courtship ritual than a middle school dance?

I then realized, disappointed with my own shallowness, that I would have definitely swiped 90 percent of these guys to the left had I seen them on Tinder. Being young professionals, and mostly polite, respectable people, none of them were exactly “my type.” However multiple studies have shown that our ideal type rarely matches up with who we date in reality.

Consider suitor B— he was probably one of the largest humans I’ve ever had the opportunity to shake hands with. He could have crushed me into oblivion without so much as a sneeze. But despite his intimidating physical presence, B turned out to be the most appealing suitor to me. Our conversation was so frank, so real, so free of bullshit. And it was only five minutes long. Sparks, amirite?

We talked about his work as a security guard, how being nice helps “diffuse the situation” and that being tough and mean probably never helped anyone. I know, I know. But he was being real. I could tell. B’s a chill guy, not much of a partier, he prefers to go out for a glass of wine and watch movies. B was a good listener, a good talker, and had a great sense of humor. In short, a total dreamboat.

But I’m going to be honest here—I deal exclusively in men who are about my size. It’s not a conscious decision, but things have only worked out with people that are within a few inches of me, height-wise. Otherwise, I might have proposed to B on the spot.

For a lot of these guys, whatever “flaw” inspired them to seek the help of a dating service as opposed to relying on the old fashioned pursuit of picking up broads at bars, parties, whatever, was immediately discernible. They were clearly either too busy, not conventionally attractive, not the most socially adept beings, or lived in places that are inhospitable to meeting interesting people (i.e. Jersey City). They weren’t the hippest bunch, and many of them were wary of app-based dating.

The benefit of speed dating is that it gives people a captive audience. Everyone had an opportunity to prevent that knee-jerk swipe, to make their IRL profile linger for just a little bit longer.

That’s not to say that every encounter I had was successful. Very first impressions aside, though, and each encounter for me was less about how someone looked, and more about what they said. For example, this guy D and I spent most of the five minutes discussing the lighting. It was dark and dingy, I said. He argued it was almost too bright, more so than last time at least.  “You don’t want to see someone in full light when you first meet them,” he said. “Brightness is for the second or third time you meet, not the first.” I laughed, he didn’t–that’s when I realized he was serious.

And while the five minute window can protect you from having to speak to anyone like this for too long, it doesn’t necessarily protect you from avoiding any “sensitive” topics (political, ideological, religious, etc.) that could be serious deal breakers. One guy, R, turned to politics in what was maybe record time for a date. He revealed what he thinks about Mayor Bloomberg (loves him) and how he misses him (a lot). It took every bone in my body to resist asking this delivery truck driver these questions: But what about Bloomberg’s outlandish fetish for billionaires? and what the fuck is up with his habit of drinking beer on ice?


One big, weird problem was that the women were cordoned off at the event in a manner that felt so very 1950s. We were spread out, separated from one another, obligated to sit still, and lie in wait until the men approached us like so many bumbling weirdos. There was little opportunity for camaraderie or exchange amongst the women, but plenty for the men, something that resulted in pretty weird power dynamics.

But positioning aside, based on Tinder numbers, it was the men who were starting with a handicap. If the same selectiveness behavior of Tinder users is proportionate to that of speed daters, the men on average probably thought they were compatible with about half the women. While the women would have considered just 15 percent of the men worthy of a right swipe.

But in a way, speed dating is the anti-Tinder. While dating apps rely on users’ snap judgement of physical appearance, speed dating pushes beyond that. As obvious as it sounds, it’s the face-to-face interaction that changes everything. Sure you might eventually meet up with a match on Tinder, but there are several hoops to jump through way before that encounter. Making eye contact with a person, shaking their hand, hearing them nervously stumble, gauging their sense of humor, noticing them smile or frown, laugh or look confused–all of these hold remarkable clues as to whether or not you have any chemistry with another person. Maybe it’s only for five minutes, but that physical proximity is what makes the whole thing… human.

Dating apps give users time to prepare instant messages. Users could, and probably are scrolling through faces while they’re on the toilet, while they’re drunk and waiting for the bus–these are times of boredom, not excitement or nervousness. Selecting matches is done in your spare time, it’s not an event in itself.

On the flip side, speed dating and face-to-face interactions do leave a lot of room for forgiveness. People are more likely to be frank about rejecting someone behind the anonymous cloak of a Tinder account, or a text message to a stranger. But you also might be more likely to forgive what you perceive to be physical flaws when you vibe with someone in-person, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find someone attractive for reasons other than his or her appearance. 

01/14/15 10:00am
Photo by Jane Bruce


300 Malcolm X Boulevard, Bed-Stuy


I was surprised to find the front door of Casablanca locked on a Monday night; I could hear people murmuring from inside the softly glowing bar and the faint hum of music. But I remembered the new Bed-Stuy lounge hasn’t exactly been forthcoming on social media and, save for an address, there’s no contact info online. I shrugged and turned to walk home, figuring the bar wasn’t quite ready for business and still in private event mode. But then out of nowhere a passerby stopped and asked me, “Going in for a drink?” I explained that I’d tried to do just that and indicated the locked door. He shook his head and pointed toward the adjacent side of the building. “That one,” he said, and disappeared into the dark. 


11/05/14 4:00am

The Lighthouse
under the Manhattan Bridge

The evening was looking a little nasty. It was not the kind of night where I could get super excited about sitting outside in the cold for a couple hours. In fact, all I wanted was an empty bar where I could sit gloomily over a depressing can of Genesee, and turn my back on windows looking out onto a world of pain and fast-
approaching winter. But here I was, getting off the train in DUMBO, heading to an outdoor bar. I pressed on through the dark.

Head down, following my phone to the supposed location of my destination, I almost bumped into the friend I was meeting, at the Lighthouse, a new beer kiosk under the
Manhattan Bridge from the good people who run DUMBO stalwart Superfine.

Admittedly, I’m not much of a DUMBO person, but I found myself really taken with the scenery around the Lighthouse. One of the Manhattan Bridge’s massive archways stretches overhead, completely shielding the sky from view. There was absolutely no one else around except for a street- sweeper on a nearby bench, and two women standing inside the cutesy, red-and-white striped, lighthouse-shaped structure. A disco ball spun silently inside the glowing purple kiosk, which was lined with kegs, bottles of wine, and bags of chips. We shouted our orders over the trains and cars and trucks rumbling above, grabbed our beers in plastic cups, and sat down at one of the empty picnic tables.

This being a kiosk, there are minimal options to choose from. You’ve got your unremarkable white and red wines, and for beer, there’s Pacifico Clara and Fire Island Sea Salt Ale on tap, both rather summery choices, but hey, we can’t complain about anything that distracts us from our impending wintery doom.

And that’s exactly what the Lighthouse does best. This place has got all the trappings of summer: picnic tables, a kitschy boardwalk kiosk, and outdoorsy minimalism. It’s really just a spot to (legally) drink under the bridge, but maybe that’s all you need. You’re still at one with the city—dog people and panhandlers walk on through and chat you up or don’t—but you’re also sort of hidden. On weekends, the Lighthouse has a lineup of DJs, but it was pretty dead on a Wednesday night.

But hey, that’s just the way we like it sometimes, especially since every public drinking yard we can think of in this city always seems to be packed to the gills. We imagine the place is filled with strollers and even more dogs on a sunny weekend afternoon, but if that’s not your scene, make like we did and wait for the rain.