Take 10 seconds to define irony. Now shred it and trek to the Lower East Side—where sooty tenements and synagogues are giving way to lofty hotels. Limos clog skinny streets. Even skinnier waifs (and their foreign-tongued courtesans) crowd the sidewalks. Gruff begets glitz, and there’s nowhere to buy a damn Schlitz.
The definition of irony is opening a rock ’n’ roll bar in this ’hood. No, scratch that. Open two rocker bars in a neighborhood that’s as edgy as my dad in black socks and Birkenstocks. On that note, let’s welcome Marshall Stack and Revolver.
Marshall (named after booming speakers) is a former rice-and-beans joint tricked out as a rough-brick rectangle rife with windows. The bar’s rock quotient is achieved via Who posters, a jukebox brimming with the Rolling Hendrix Zeppelins and bathrooms wallpapered with the namesake sound boxes. Just don’t expect to snort lines off the too-clean toilets.
Unwashed bass players and grubby guitarists avoid Marshall. Instead, it’s frequented by kissy couples, gabby girlfriends and suits—folks favoring cheese boards ($14, served with Sullivan Street flatbread), not soundboards. They also consume salty duck club sandwiches ($11) and gooey English muffin pizzas ($5), prepared by a gloved man working behind a separate bar island.
These are tasty, appreciated touches, for Uptown swells seeking sanitized Downtown experiences. Still, the damn fine suds selection offers the potential for rowdiness. Draughts of dangerously drinkable Sixpoint Sweet Action ($6) and Arrogant Bastard ($7) join $2 cans like Carling Black Label and Iron City. Pound enough of ’em and Marshall Stack ain’t half heinous for a post-work pit stop; just don’t expect the Interpol after-party.
For longer drinking sessions, I travel to the intersection of the projects and Pitt Street, where there’s a dark bar with a double-handgun motif. Revolver is where “tattoo artists and hipsters throw back shots with edgy Wall Street bankers and Upper East Side socialites,” according to the press release. Time to slit your jugular with a guitar pick, right?
Wrong; that’s just PR blather. Still, death is Revolver’s preferred motif: the cushy couches, glossed wood floor and linen wallpaper are black as smoker’s lungs. The dark uniformity is only interrupted by Warhol’s gun-slinging Elvis Presley montage and boudoir-red candles. High above the crowd, a fist-pumping DJ drops the Pixies and riotous ’80s stadium anthems on a killer sound system.
“Body parts I never knew I had are rattling,” my drinking companion tells me one night.
The libation list is as strong as the speakers. Frosty mugs of the house-brand Revolver beer (“It’s like PBR,” the bartender tells me) are $3. When I ask if it can be partnered with a shot, he asks, “What do you want?”
“Done. How does $6 sound?” he asks, filling a jigger with brown heaven.
My money answers him. To imbibe, however, I must return to a couch; the bar lacks stools.
“You’re supposed to take your debauchery away from here,” the bartender says.
I do. And I ponder relocating it to the bathroom. It’s a palace sizable enough to seduce a groupie. Not that I, or the pretty, party-hearty crowd (fueled by pineapple- and habañero-soaked tequilas) would take advantage of such indiscretions. I’m suggestin’ that, at Revolver, rocker fantasies are but a belt buckle away.
66 Rivington St. (at Allen St.)
210 Rivington St. (betw. Ridge & Pitt Sts.)