[Photos by Gabi Porter]
If you lived, or even just hung out, on the Lower East Side in the mid-to-late 2000's you probably clocked a fair number of hours and drinks at 151. It was a divey hub for the neighborhood with its graffitied walls and unmarked door. Alex Day of Death & Co. explains that he "used to go there a little too often." He now owns the space, which very recently reopened, with his partners David Kaplan, Cedd Moses, and Eric Needleman, from L.A.'s Honeycut.
Several months ago when the bar went up on the market, the team knew they wanted to take it over. The bar "was collectively part of our past," says Day. The space and menu needed some work, but they wanted to keep its DNA intact. "Our intention was...if you walk into 151 today you would feel at home in same environment as old bar." The team brought in designer Daniel Schillberg to help with that. "We talked to him about maintaining the identity of a dive bar, I hate saying that. You can't create a dive bar...but he took the idea and ran with it. It has the feeling of grandpa's basement bar." The amber wood panelling, red vinyl leather booths and 60's bar stools, help with that, but Day is emphatic that it's "in no way thematic."
The cocktail menu has also been reworked and while it is very long, don't expect the extravagance of the drinks at Day and Kaplan's Nitecap. Rather, the menu has five house cocktails including the dazzle ship made with cachaça, lillet rosé, pamplemouse, aperol, and pineapple and lime juices, which comes from a slushie machine. There's a small beer selection, but the heart (and bulk) of the menu, which debuts next week, is a list of 75 classic cocktails that Day says you should be able to find in any bar, these, however, will presumably be done better.
Corwin Kave's food menu is small but nods strongly to the neighborhood with plates like a pastrami bialy sandwich, pickles from the the Lower East Side and a caramel popcorn mix that's a recipe from Kave's mom who owns a stall in the nearby Essex Market. A lot of it's "sourced within five blocks of the bar," says Day. There are also frozen Girl Scout Cookies on the menu, which have been tough for the team to track down since they are sold only once a year: "Now is not Girl Scout season, since it's rosé season," explains Day half seriously. "There's this whole underground thing about buying them. They are hard to source." For the time being, they have Samoas.
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