What Happened When I Went To The 10 Biggest Bro Bars In New York City Friday Night

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“Why shouldn’t I go to every single bro bar in New York City,” I thought to myself as I unhooked my dog from her leash for her morning run around the park.

That’s… really all there was to it. I spent the next 45 minutes looping around the dog park, developing a rough path in my head. Start in the Financial District, head up the west side of the city, hit the big Murray Hill bars after one when things were really going, my only firm plan to end up at Union Pool in Williamsburg sometime around three a.m. to watch the late night hookup scene there unfold.

That and, you know, Bro out.

9:04 p.m., The Iron Horse NYC in the Financial District; An unflushed toilet with puke trickling down the side.

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I can’t help but think it’s the bro in the sombrero who shimmy shaked out of the bathroom that was the one who also puked on the side of the toilet. We’ve all done that. Taken a shot that didn’t sit right and scurried to the bathroom, praying our buddies didn’t realize we were holding back vomit, then after unleashing, peacocking out the door, cracking a joke or dancing to let everyone know we were straight.

“Nah, bro. I didn’t puke. Just had to shit. Nothing pussy about that.”

When I walked into Iron Horse, a blonde bartender was riding a swing, spraying whipped cream into the mouth of a dude lying flat down on the bar. I opted for a $3 Natty Light; the bartender didn’t even bother removing the giant cube of cooler ice that got wedged into the mouth of the can when she opened it. I tried to pull it out myself, but instead it got pushed into my beer.

That can’t be clean, I thought.

9:35 p.m., Wicked Willy’s in Greenwich Village; A couple making out to a cover band playing Cheap Trick’s Surrender

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I can’t remember the last time I got so housed that I was making out with a girl in the middle of a bar before two a.m., but back in the day I was always the person who tried to kiss any stranger that would willingly sidle up next to me as I bumped and bounced offbeat against their body. Who cares who sees, and you figure that if they’re willing to make out with you in public, they’re willing to do sex with you in private. It’s not an exact calculus, nor is it even one that’s been confirmed by repeated attempts to prove its veracity, but it’s hard to dissuade yourself of that idea.

Meanwhile, a server walked around the bar, adorned in a glow stick necklace, offering neon jello shots for a buck a pop. In the middle of the tray was a can of whipped cream. I did not know this evening would so heavily involve Reddi-wip.

9:59 p.m., Pig ‘N’ Whistle in Midtown; A dead bar, an eight dollar Bud Light and my recollection of a Tinder date from eight months ago

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I figured beforehand this would be the slowest part of the night, a kind of post-happy hour, pre-evening witching hour. I was right, the bar was dead. The last time I was here was after I lied to a Tinder date about how much I liked her, to get her to take to a Rangers game that she had third-row seats for.

“Yes, I would like to see you again,” I said, after she mentioned she had great tickets, but also after I’d already made up my mind that she was terrible.

We met here at the Pig ‘N’ Whistle and I bought us our $8 Bud Lights, the same as what I was drinking right now. I bought all our drinks at the game and grimaced through four hours of talking to her (she really didn’t understand hockey) before going back to her place.

When she asked me a week later if I was “Ever going to speak to her again,” I thought it was best to not respond.

10:54 p.m., Jake’s Dilemma in the Upper West Side; Trying to relate to these kids

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When I was in college, a 20 ounce Budweiser cost $3. Here the pints were $5. Sure, these Columbia kids are all getting money from their parents, but still, that’s pricey to drink. I think about how old I am, and how I’m standing in a corner, looking way older than any of these people in the bar, drinking a beer. Am I coming across creepy, lustful, terrifying?

Probably all three of those. It was my intention to, when I got here, talk to some college girls. You know, see if I could … hit on them. See how different it is when you are sober and much older.

Yep, that comes across as creepy as it sounded in my head. So Instead I opted for taking pictures from an elevated perch that overlooked the lower half of the bar. That probably wasn’t a good look, either.

11:20 p.m., the M79 bus stop at 81st and Central Park West; Me. Alone.

I barely missed the 10:59 bus and then both the 11:09 and 11:19 didn’t show. I waited here for a half hour. Written in my notebook?

“What a sad, pathetic, embarrassment you are.”

Solitude doesn’t always do me well.

11:45 p.m., Dorrian’s Red Hand in the Upper East Side; a group of 10 Bros dancing together to Fat Joe’s ‘Lean Back’

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For any dude who has gone to a bar with a bunch of dudes to get laid, your desire to remain at said bar is determined by an entirely nebulous, yet somehow inexorable, answer to the question, “Would I fuck these sluts?”

It’s not framed as “Would these sluts fuck me?” because it’s not based in a reality wherein you would interact with these girls and impress them and maybe have that lead to consensual intercourse. No, whenever a guy is “analyzing the trim,” he often has no intention of ever actually hitting on these girls, because he’s afraid of being rejected. Thus, it’s very difficult for a bar to clear the “Would I fuck these sluts?” hurdle, because even if the women are attractive and engaging, a guy who won’t actually approach any of them there will simply dismiss an entire bar full of women by saying “I wouldn’t fuck these sluts.”

That’s because us men are bitter, angry, aggrieved individuals.

At Dorrian’s Red Hand? I would totally fuck these sluts. They were hot.

But I didn’t talk to any of them and left after 45 minutes to eat a slice of pizza.

12:35, Turtle Bay Tavern in Turtle Bay; A bartender who opened my Budweiser bottle, set it down behind him, then walked away for ten minutes

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There is my beer. I can see it. I want it. But the bartender left to go to one end of the bar to talk to a girl, then walked past me, got out from behind the bar, and did not return for a while. When he came back, he tried to hand me the same beer.

“What, you don’t want it anymore?”

He bitterly opened and gave me a new one. As I was writing this interaction down, a short, squat, vaguely Southeastern Asian girl knocked my notebook out of my hand and began aggressively and very intimately, shoving her ass against my crotch. Completely unprompted. I didn’t even introduce myself. And she was like, she was in to it. In to me.

“Fuck it,” I thought and began to dance, having not said a word.

Twenty-four-year old me would have killed for this. When I was at these bars at that age, I had no idea how to navigate a field of dancing women without some dude wanting to sock me in the face. It must have been how mature and stately I looked that attracted her. An Elder Bro. As we were moving and grinding to Coolio, I thought about canceling the rest of the crawl. It was almost one. I’d hit six bars. Wouldn’t it be perfect if I picked up a girl on this?

But a bartender asked her to jump on the bar to dance and when she came back down one song later, she grabbed the drink I was holding for her and walked away without even a word.

1:17 a.m. The Joshua Tree in Murray Hill

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My first note read “Dudes get so gay here they have to assert themselves by punching you in the face while belting out Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

The next said, “It’s raining men.”

I somehow walked to the back of the bar and then to the front and out with only three guys getting visibly angry at me for, you know, having the audacity to be in the same bar as them.

1:45 a.m., Brother Jimmy’s BBQ in Murray Hill

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All I remember from here is what was what I saw in my notebook the next morning, which was, written out, all the lyrics to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.”

2:20 a.m., Union Square; Waiting for the L train

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Bar #9 was going to be Nite Owl in the East Village, but I just couldn’t take another fucking scene. Sorry for the misleading headline. But I hear it is a good Bro bar. I’m sure it is.

My notes while waiting a half hour for the L Train:

  • “Why can’t I?” is the Bro refrain
  • “Why can’t have that?” is what causes frustration and anger in Bros

I was exhausted and hot, but I think that makes sense? Something like, being entitled but not being entitled enough is the undercurrent that moves the world. Or, at least, the bro world.

Like we’ve got it great, which is still not good enough.

2:55 a.m., Union Pool in Williamsburg; Waiting in line to get in.

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It’s been years since I’ve waited in line, especially at a bar like this, especially at three in the morning, but there was no way I wasn’t checking it out. Inside was a zoo of dancing and groping, which I tried to fight through to get a chicken taco from a truck in the back. It was good and I ate it sitting down somewhere and then I left.

My last note for the evening was just the word “SEX” written in all caps and underlined twice.

Which … yea. That’s what dudes going out to these bars have on their mind.

There’s not anything deeper here, because, honestly… there really isn’t anything deeper here. Dudes just like to get hammered and have sex and these bars appeal to them because they’re cheap. I only spent $75 total in seven hours out.

Sure, I saw all the anger and animosity and posturing that shouldn’t exist within this blessed subsection of life, but whatever. I think. They’re just getting drunk and punching each other.

And somehow, not me. That was actually my biggest victory. I was certain eight hours out with the aggressive, intoxicated dudes would wind up with someone swinging at me.

But I arrived home intact. And, probably like a lot of dudes that night, somewhat bitter, because man, I totally could have gotten laid.

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