Hell's Kitchen

If you like to drink-with or without a crowd-HK's mix of Irish pubs and cocktail lounges is the route to follow.

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Xai Xai

Photograph: Francesca Magnani

1.

Xai Xai
In addition to its cocktails, HK’s sleek new South African wine bar (pronounced “shy shy”) features a patriotic wine list. The decor—which manages to be both rugged and swanky—and friendly staff make up for the $12-plus my friends and I spend on pours of sauvignon blanc, while the jazzy trip-hop is a soft background for the crowd of couples in their thirties. Keep in mind: The place is more restaurant than watering hole, so instead of squeezing in to the small bar, get a bottle and a table. 365 W 51st St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-247-7826, xaixaiwinebar.com). Drinks $10–$24.

2.

McCoy’s Bar
Completely generic on the outside, the teeny-tiny Irish pub is a secret sports haven: We can’t turn around without catching a glimpse of some game on one of 11 widescreen HDTVs. Sipping on cold pints of Guinness and Bass (each $6), we mingle with the unpretentious and weird mix of young hipsters and seasoned locals. Most of the space is taken up by stools and booths, but then again, the jukebox’s stellar collection of ’80s tunes is enough to keep you on your feet. 768 Ninth Ave between 51st and 52nd Sts (212-957-8055). Drinks $4–$10.

3.

Bocca di Bacco
This newish Italian spot has a huge wraparound bar with tons of stools and, it’s worth noting, extremely good-looking bartenders (with Italian accents!). Paolo treats us to a few cocktails: a crisp grape martini made with prosecco, a violet concoction garnished with fresh berries, and that night’s special, a pear martini lined with paper-thin slices of Bosc. 828 Ninth Ave between 53rd and 54th Sts (212-265-8828, boccadibacconyc.com). Drinks $8–$30.


Photograph: Francesca Magnani

4.

Therapy
Speaking of hot guys, our next destination is jam-slammed with two floors of gorgeous men. Okay, so they’re all gay, but hey, a girl can ogle—and drink strong cocktails, listen to loud dance music and meet random German artists. It’s fun, but with the blaring techno and no real reason to be there, we move on. 348 W 52nd St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-397-1700). Drinks $5–$12.


Photograph: Francesca Magnani

5.

Druids
Whatever time we lost not flirting at Therapy, we make up for by simply walking into this pub, where we are confronted by a room full of friendly Celtic folks who have just come from a concert at the Irish Arts Center. Like us, they are happily inebriated and in true Irish fashion, can’t wait to buy us pints. After a few Guinness and some folk-music sing-alongs, our new friends send us to our next destination. 736 Tenth Ave between 50th and 51st Sts (212-307-6410). Drinks $4.50–$8.

6.

Landmark Tavern
Upon our arrival at Landmark, we find two more pints of Guinness waiting for us—a welcoming token called in by our friends from Druids. Unfortunately, that’s all we find. The pub is empty; apparently, the “amazing time” our buddies had promised is over by 2am. 626 Eleventh Ave at 46th St (212-247-2562, thelandmarktavern.org). Drinks $5–$12.

7.

Le Rendez-Vous Café
I won’t lie; my memory gets hazy at this point. But I do recall three things: This cheese fest of a bar was packed; couples were making out next to their single friends, who were smoking hookahs; and I tried, unconvincingly, to salsa to the DJ’s mix of hip-hop, reggae and samba. 739 Eighth Ave between 46th and 47th Sts(212-265-2233). Drinks $6–$14.

FINISH

Playwright Tavern Act II
When we arrive, it’s nearly 4am and the crowd is a smattering of meatheads, monitored by an aging bouncer with a spectacular mullet. It’s possible that I befriended one or more of said meatheads, as I have a vague recollection of chatting with someone at the bar. Now if I could only remember who “Mike” is… 732 Eighth Ave between 45th and 46th Sts (212-354-8404). Drinks $5–$14.


FRIDAY, 3/14/08
Wanna try this crawl? Join TONY writer Katharine Rust at Xai Xai Fri 14 at 9pm. Be sure to brush up on your Irish folk songs.*

* WARNING: If you join a crawl, TONY is not responsible for your tab, health, hangover or morning-after humiliation.