Presenting Sound of the City's First Annual Nightlife Awards: Best New Club, Best Place to Dance, and More
The best thing about living in New York is that there's never a lack of things to do. We've given up countless hours of sleep to go see our favorite DJs, catch late-night shows, peek into neighborhood hangouts, and investigate the opening or closing of some new venue. And--after a hundred or so ventures into the night this year--we're just about due for a very long nap. But before we sink into holiday hibernation, we thought we'd take a moment to reflect on our exploits, and present to you our very own 2010 SOTC Nightlife Awards. Below, our first installment of four examines the victories and disappointments from our nights out on the town, starting with the clubs first.
The Martinez Brothers rock Good Units, 2010's best place to dance. Photo by Puja Patel.
Best New Club: District 36
Finally! A club in midtown that doesn't feel like it's in midtown (that in itself is worthy of an award). Really, we're excited about any large capacity, city-side venue that encourages house music without encouraging bottle service. Beyond the generally laid back vibe of the place, the venue boasts one of the best sound systems we've heard in a long time (designed by the same guys who installed Love's). Perfect for new residents and Blkmrkt Membership's Taimur & Fahad to put on their epic underground techno/house parties, which they do once a week on rotation. Not to mention the other talent that's been showing up--Claude VonStroke played this past weekend and Victor Calderone moved his monthly over from Pacha. Best of all, the venue is so new that the crowd is still mostly comprised of older, underground dance music nerds and true house-heads (the kind you'd find at Cielo or Sullivan Room). Here's hoping it'll stay that way.
Best Place To Dance: Good Units
A candidate for "Best New Club" as well, Good Units has reinvented the warehouse-style dance floor. The space has hosted its share of semi-formal events since opening its doors in September--Paper Mag Awards included--but it really excels when stripped of all the branded swag. For dance nights, the gigantic basement pit pushes comfy couches to the side (pretty much forcing you to participate), the bar is in an adjoining room to keep those waiting from encroaching on the dance floor, and the speakers are almost deafening (but not quite enough to leave your head pounding). They've already hosted La Roux, Afrika Bambaataa, the Martinez Brothers, and even the return of the Down And Derby Roller Disco (from Studio B's glory days). The more we think about it, the more it looks like this is filling the hole that Studio B left us with a few years ago.
Best Speakeasy That Isn't One: Tandem Bar
Located in Bushwick, this is the bar that we wish was just a little bit closer to the rest of the world. Highlights include relaxed bartenders that are devoted to making your cocktails so perfectly that you don't realize how strong they were until they're gone (we recommend the extra dirty martini), a warm atmosphere, and all of your artsy friends and their bicycles. Basically, this neighborhood hangout hasn all the old-timey charm of a speakeasy without being too much of a snob about it. The back room of the bar serves as a dance floor and hosts DJs that usually play a mix of disco, boogie, funk, soul, r&b, and other grown-up jams. Bonus: All-vinyl nights and rare edits make an appearance more often than other bars in the area (and we're suckers for that kind of thing).
Best Place To Drink While Someone Else Drives: The Rusty Knot Party Bus
Unwilling to sit in an empty bar during the brunt of winter last January, the owners of nautical dive bar Rusty Knot took it upon themselves to reel in their friends and regulars with a rather extravagant plan. Their bait? A free weekly party bus that shuttled patrons from Williamsburg's Bedford Avenue to their West Village bar, and then back home again at the end of the night. As if that wasn't enough, the bus came fully stocked with free beer, party favors, clubby mood lighting, and a live DJ - inevitably turning the sixty-minute ride into a raging dance party of its own. (The best part about all of this is that as long as the riders bought drinks when they disembarked at Rusty Knot, the bus paid for itself and the owners made a profit. Brilliant!)
Club Closing That Still Makes Us Sad: APT
This one hurts to write. A safe haven from Meatpacking's otherwise tourist-filled, bottle-service lounges, APT shut down very, very quietly back in January. The bar had been working through a few kinks (remodeling, mysterious nights off, and so on), but when the club went dark for over a month leaving the venue's resident DJs and patrons without any sort of explanation beyond a tweet or two - well, we knew it was over.
In it's glory days, the bar served as home to the who's who of the city's elite. Rich Medina & Akalepse's Little Ricky's Rib Shack was a Wednesday-night go-to for years, Bobbito held down his Waffles & Falafels party on Mondays, Deadly Dragon Sound brought reggae vibes for their Tuesday monthly, Prince Paul had a residency, as did Stretch Armstrong, Ursula 1000, and so many others. The bar was truly a place for DJs and the people who wanted to see them.
My favorite memory of the place was from a Monday night about one month after I first moved to the city. Crooklyn Clan's DJ Riz had sent out a MySpace blast (yeah, back then) about playing records in the small downstairs room. Turned out that the guy's biggest fans are our favorite DJs - DJ AM, DJ Premier, Stretch Armstrong, Eclipse, and about five other DJs showed up to take turns playing hype man for him during the intimate soiree. RIP APT :(
Best Places for Dinner And A Hangover: Roberta's and Satsko (Tie)
Let it be known that I had never eaten at Roberta's before the introduction of Tiki Disco to the restaurant's back yard this summer. Helmed by Brooklyn's Andy Pry, the party initially started out as a Sunday brunch-friendly happy hour that quickly became Bushwick's go-to hangover cure. Cheap beers, sangria, Roberta's reasonably priced brick-oven pizza are the initial draws, but a rotating cast of disco DJs keep the party going well into the night. Basically, Sunday evenings at Roberta's is one of the top ten reasons why we're looking forward to spring.
And Satsko! The sushi bar is one of the East Village's hidden gems and Monday night is the night to go. Gigantic avocado rolls aside, the hole-in-the-wall restaurant boasts a million types of sake, $7 sake bombs, and most importantly, a DJ behind the bar. Cubic Zirconia's Nick Hook plays music off his laptop with one hand while knowingly topping your drink off with the other. If the hundreds of polaroids on the wall are any clue, the bar has become a favorite of the neighborhood - a bar for people to meet and make friends. Who needs an icebreaker when you've got sake bombs? Don't expect to walk away after just one either--some combination of the jams, friendly regulars, and cozy setting makes this place virtually impossible to leave. Best of all, everyone will remember your name the next time you go back.
Stay tuned for parts two through four!