245 Eldridge St nr Houston St, Lower East Side
The Place: A dark, sexy Japanese cocktail bar run by Kenta Goto, formerly of Pegu Club (a power-player in the NYC cocktail world, for those who just drink cocktails and don’t sling them).
The Time: Thursday November 16, 7:15pm. I went to a pretty heinous open-mic, and had some time to kill before seeing a friend’s (wonderful) play. Bar Goto has been on my list for a while, because if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a cocktail nerd, so I have a stupidly long list of cocktail bars at the ready.
The Vibe: It's a busy Thursday night so I have to wait for a spot at the bar, even after telling two separate men who work here that it’s “just me.” I wait only a few minutes before a seat opens, and a guy who’s also alone sits at the vacant stool next to me. There’s dim sexy mood lighting, the music’s loud but not oppressive, the ceiling is low. A high curtain separates the bar from the tables. It’s like, intimate minimalism? Everything about this place screams Date Spot, and there are a few couples, but it’s mostly friends and small groups. There are two British women drinking beer, two guys who look like the Duplass brothers but who are not, in fact, the Duplass brothers, a group of 4 guys in tweed jackets snacking on wings. I'm good here.
The Bartender: A guy named Matthew who knows what’s up. Before I have a chance to really look at the cocktail list, he comes over and asks me what I’m feeling. I tell him “something refreshing with gin,” and he knows exactly what to make me, no questions asked. I spend half my time watching Matthew bartend because he's excellent and it's exciting to watch. But then again, I’m a cocktail nerd.
The Drank: Every cocktail is Japanese-inspired in some way; the menu is filled with ingredients like sake and shochu and matcha. Matthew makes me the L.E.S., a delicious concoction of gin, cointreau, chili, cucumber and shiso. It comes in an adorable porcelain cup. Sadly it’s $16 but that’s hip Manhattan cocktail bars for you. I also get a mushroom okonomi-yaki, a yummy and saucy cabbage pancake. I think "Something Refreshing With Gin and a Saucy Pancake" may sum up my personality in 8 words.
Was I Hit On? You probably guessed that the solo guy sitting next to me would say something to me. So did I. I’m reading a play, halfway done with my saucy pancake, when he leans over and says, “Are you full?” Which is now one of the best pickup lines I’ve ever gotten, second only to “So you read.” I say something like, “I’m a slow eater,” and go back to reading my play. He gets the hint and doesn’t bother me again.
Should You Drink Here Alone? I’m gonna say yeah. I had a perfectly lovely time by myself at Bar Goto, even with the minor interruption of a strange man inquiring about my appetite. There’s some serious cocktail action happening here that you don't wanna miss, whether you’re a nerd or not.