The family took me to Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook for Father’s Day, and much fun was had by all. If you haven’t been, here’s a few tips:
1) Although they are open year round, now is obviously when you want to go. They have an extremely enjoyable upper patio that offers stellar views of the wide part of Hudson and refreshingly cool breezes. It’s a sweet setup. They’ll offer you a variety of seating when you arrive, but trust us: what you want is the patio.2) Even if you don’t have kids, you may appreciate the miniature golf course they have in the back. It may depend on how much you’ve had to drink, so plan accordingly. There’s also a game there called “Cornhole,” but I don’t know from that. Maybe it’s a New England thing.3) Get the blue crabs. In fact, we think it’s sound policy to always get the dish the restaurant is named after. And at Brooklyn Crab, they are certainly kind of pricey but they know what they’re doing with the preparation. Steamed, smothered in Old Bay, corn on the cob, slaw, and a pint of cold Narragansett. Yum.4) Bring a helper along to assist you with smashing the claws. This is without a doubt a two person job.
One of the things we all enjoy about New York is that it’s a place where unlimited access meets mindboggling diversity. From ordering Cuban sandwiches to be delivered at 3:30am or medieval armor welding seminars, regardless of how esoteric there pretty much isn’t anything you can’t get here the moment you want to get it. But I’m not spoiled yet and it doesn’t mean I don’t thoroughly appreciate a great place like Jalopy Theatre down in Red Hook.Primarily it’s a cozy ramshackle live music venue in a 160 year old storefront near the BQE where on any given evening you can see fantastic bands jamming out folk, bluegrass, blues, country, klezmer, dixieland– well, you get the idea. It’s non-stop rootsy awesomeness and if you haven’t seen a show there we insist you should. But what makes the place truly unique is that they also have the Jalopy School of Music. It’s a place where if you want to learn how to play banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, ukulele or even the guitar you can do all of it. They even offer singing workshops for harmony duos and trios. Classes are only $245 for 8 weeks and the classes are song based so you start playing music immediately. No banjo in your apartment presently? No sweat. You can rent any of the instruments for $25 a month. Amazing. You live in a city where anything is possible! And there’s no reason The Avett Brothers or Chris Thile should get to have all the fun.
Recently while walking down Broadway I almost met my doom. If you live in this town long enough, the occasional near death experience is par for the course and seldom noteworthy. You might think to yourself, “Whoa! Close one,” and then wonder about lunch. But this happened to be a good one. It was morning and I was walking south on Broadway headed toward Spring Street. Doing the commutation shuffle: looking down, coffee in hand, up in my head and navigating on autopilot. I was vaguely aware of being in parallel lock-step with a woman walking next to me. We must have paced this way absently for about a block, tunneling under the ubiquitous scaffolds, when suddenly and without warning something massive passed centimeters in front of our noses at warp speed. It landed on the pavement with enough raw force that the resulting shockwave blew a Learning Annex kiosk over. Looking down, a 150 pound bag of dry concrete lay at our feet. Quikrete, actually. I turned to the random woman standing next to me and her face was probably a reflection of my own. Yikes. We didn’t swear or gasp or yell; perhaps the realization that if we were one half-step faster we’d have been flattened to the sidewalk was enough. After who knows how long standing there, we engaged in peculiar small talk. “That could have killed us,” she said. “I know,” I said.I became aware of another pedestrian screaming, and I realized a random guy who saw us almost get squashed was now loudly raging against the workers high up on the scaffolding above. “You ought to be sued! You almost killed those two people! I ought to call the police!” and so on. It was nice he cared, but it added a layer of intensity that was hard on the nerves. “I’m going to go,” said the woman. I agreed, and we both started walking again. We developed a block-long friendship, the kind I think unique to big cities. We talked about how weird it would have been to go out in that fashion. And it’s true, most of us probably don’t imagine meeting our Maker at the hands of a sloppily tossed bag of cement from the sky while ambling down Broadway. Anyway, our gallows camaraderie was short lived. At the corner of Broome, I turned to cross the street to work and bid her farewell. In return she said, “Be careful.” Which is certainly good advice.
The trouble with being a homebrewer is that eventually you drink it all and must make more. That happened in my house recently and we decided this time around to brew something seasonally appropriate. In our minds, a crisp, cold pilsner is perfect for summer. However, a pilsner is a lager beer (which requires a refrigerated fermentation period) and without beer-nerding out on you, for the sake of simplicity we decided not to make a pilsner but instead a spiritual cousin: the California Common, or “Steam Beer.”NOW I’m going to beer-nerd out on you because Steam Beer is a uniquely Californ-eye-ay style of brew and it has a history that’s shrouded in mystery (I got rhymes like Abe Vigoda). It’s brewed with a special strain of lager yeast that works better at warmer temperatures, which is a technique dating back to the 1850’s in San Francisco when refrigeration was a great luxury. But why the “steam” moniker? Well, there’s a coupla theories here. What we know is that having no ice and no fridge, those old timey Gold Rush brewers had to improvise to cool the beer down. They pumped the hot wort up to huge shallow open top bins on the roof of the brewery where it would be exposed to the cool, briny ocean breezes coming in off the Pacific. And for miles around San Francisco, a distinct cloud of steam was visible rising off this rooftop brew. I can only imagine it smelled fantastic. Anyway, you can see how this might be a plausible origin story for the name. Others have put forth the proposition that since this beer happens to have a very high CO2 pressure, that the “steam” came from the escaping gas when a keg of steam beer was tapped. Perhaps! Others suspect that the name is a derivation from “Dampfbier” (“steam beer”), which was a traditional German beer which was also fermented at high temps. And given the proliferation of German immigrants in San Fran at that time, it’s certainly possible they would have brought the technique with them.But in the end, what matters most is that it’s a truly delicious beer and you sure can’t get drunk off historical anecdotes (I’ve tried.) Since Anchor Brewery trademarked the name “Steam Beer,” everyone else legally must call this beer style “California Common” and you will recognize it in your glass by it’s dark straw color, medium body and mildly fruity, malty character. And in three weeks fermenting time, this delightful beverage will be ready for us to drink. And in five weeks time, sadly it’ll be back to the drawing board.
(P.S.- We haven’t named our Steam Beer yet. Please help us! Love to hear any suggestions in the comments…)
Back in ’94 when I hopped off the moving truck and into my shit-box apartment on Weehawken Street, I knew I wanted to get a job in the movie business. So I ended up scouting locations for not very many dollars a day. Pretty quickly, I realized that I could make a few extra bucks charging the production company a rental fee for my vehicle. So, I bought an Amtrak ticket and headed south to grab mine. As little brothers are exclusively conceived to fuck up big brother’s effects, mine totaled my car while I was on the train to bring it back to the city. When I told my roommate what had happened, he laughed his ass off and then told me to grab his truck from his mother’s place. He’d get his truck on weekends, I’d make a few extra bucks during the week and we’d both get free parking in Manhattan. Score! You see, back in the day the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television used to give out parking permits like they were candy. No Parking Anytime meant, “Greg, park here!” Of course, I grab the ’86 Ford Ranger and there began my love and deep respect for the good old-fashioned Ford pick-up. So this morning, I came across this fantastic specimen of a 1975 Ford F100 slant-nose in the East Village.This body style which was built between 1973 and 1979 came to be my favorite as I drove around New York, New Jersey and Connecticut comparing every other Ford pick-up I saw to mine while looking for places for a rising starlet to fall in love or an aging rocker to make his television debut. I completely dig the way its no-nonsense body and build tell you that this badass is going to go do its job and then go home. And that the next morning, it’ll do the same thing. And then again and again for hundreds of thousands of miles.This particular model was built with contractors and campers in mind, so when I buy my house upstate, I’m going to buy every single one I can get my hands on to haul around tons of 2×4′s and other reclaimed cool shit. I’m also going to get camper backs and trailers for trips to parks and dips in lakes just like they did back in the 70′s. Plus, I’ll likely get to hang out with more chicks in yellow hipster bikinis (well, ok, maybe only one. Hi honey!). And, as it turns out, the F100 was the predecessor to the F150, which continues to be the best-selling pick-up truck of all time. Nifty.
We recently welcomed tattooed biker and auto technician Alan Brownfeld to the show. Whether your ride was a horse and buggy or a 2012 Prius, for over 90 years New Yorkers of all stripes depended on Brownfeld Auto on the far west side of 29th Street to keep their conveyances humming. However, with the advent of the High Line Park, Alan found himself in a highly-publicized battle to keep his family business against the tide of a rapidly changing city.
It was a fight he ultimately lost, after which Alan decamped down south for good. We expected Alan to be bitter and brooding about it, as we might have been. We were prepared for this man to rage against the machine of “gentrification.” What actually went down conversationally was completely surprising. He may call the Sunshine State home now, but rest assured, Alan Brownfeld is a true-blue New York character.
There’s been a lot of chatter in the city about bicycles lately but if you ride around as much as we do, our feeling is “why rent, when you can buy?” Trouble is, seems like even average bikes basically start at a grand and go north from there. And there’s an excellent chance at some point your bike is going to get ripped off, run over, cannibalized for parts or worse in this town. Where can you get a good ride at decent price secondhand? We found the solution, and it’s a dude named Chris who lives in New Jersey.By day, Chris is a MTA city bus driver in Staten Island but his sidegig and passion is running a business called Homeless Bikes. Back in the 80’s, Chris worked as a bike messenger in Manhattan and the way he tells it, if you didn’t know how to keep your own bike running smoothly you could never make a living. Changing rims, fixing brakes, replacing chainrings; Chris got his bike mechanic master’s degree from the city streets. He knows a good ride when he sees one, and today he scours Estate sales, police impound lots, junkyards– basically any place where an unlucky bike might end up. He refurbishes them, gets them humming again, and resells them. And the resale price is totally reasonable. Most of the ponies in his stable average around $150-$350. And the selection is pretty sweet — he’s got vintage Schwinns, Peugeots, Motobecanes, Fujis, Raleighs and even the odd Canondale in there. You just browse his photo gallery online, pick a few you’re interested in (based on your height) and Chris will drive the bikes out to your apartment on the back of his minivan for you to test drive. One stop shop; the man even sells locks. And he’s the friendliest guy you’d ever hope to deal with, and his enthusiasm for bikes and riding is infectious.As for me, I picked up a mid-70’s era all-steel Belgian racing bike made by Bertin. Chris had added new rims, a new chain, and a new rear cassette. The thing is ridiculously fast and nimble (which hopefully will not be my undoing). Sure, the paint is a little chewed up but it’s a bike that has lived a little, and maybe, just maybe, bike thieves will be less inclined to steal it. Maybe. In any event, we give Chris and Homeless Bikes two greasy thumbs up for being a great small business. You can find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. Ride on.
No one can argue that exercise is critical for your mental and physical health, but it is also indisputable that going to the gym can be a repetitive, boring affair. We are always on the lookout for something sporty to spice up a jejune routine. Luckily, we have found a new program that is cutting edge and revitalizing, and dammit if it doesn’t work right away.
We here at On The Real are very excited to endorse this fitness program because it really and truly gets results (although our lawyers have cautioned us to point out that results may vary.) Enjoy Prancercise, as well as your weekend.