Kelly and Andrew are a couple of my friends from grad school back in good ol' Muncie Indiana (every time I say that I feel like Norville Barnes). Well, Kelly is actually a friend from grad school. Andrew is her husband. He is also an excellent friend in spite of the fact that he is not a historian.
|Muncie: "At least you don't live in Cleveland!"|
Kelly and Andrew moved to New York City about a year or so ago, and I always try to stop in and see them when I am in the Big Apple. Kelly and Andrew are some my best friends. One of the many great things about Kelly and Andrew is that notwithstanding their friendship with me, they have excellent taste and a nose for superb restaurants and bars. In fact, one of the things that they love about New York, especially compared to Muncie or Indianapolis, is that the city is packed with a bewildering array of dining establishments across the spectrum.
|Kelly and Andrew wound up in Matt Green's photo Blog of New York. Andrew is the one examining the manhole cover.|
Consequently, a side benefit of visiting with Kelly and Andrew is that I get a chance to experience some of the best restaurants and bars in New York. Last month Kelly and Andrew took me to a mind-blowing little underground tiki bar called Painkiller.
Painkiller is a trendy bar on the Lower East Side, apparently cool enough to announce its presence with little more than a graffitied wall that reads "Tiki Bar." The underground bar is slim and bustling. Patrons are greeted by a long bar in a narrow hallway that leads to a slightly more expansive area with booths.
The bar has a definite "dive" atmosphere, which I am told is par for the course in the LES. The interior is dark, lit predominantly by rows of neon lighting, and is bedecked in a bamboo-filled Tiki style. If you venture past the booths, a funky little back room awaits, lit by slowly pulsing multi-colored LEDs of the sort that slowly brighten and dim in a rotating array of colors. The resulting ambiance is close without being cozy, lending itself to something akin to privacy given the fact that you often can't see the people at next table over.
|Painkiller's interior in the harsh light of non-business hours|
Painkiller is strictly about the drinks, serving no food of any kind, unless you are willing to subsist on your cocktail's elaborate garnishing. The menu is vast, but the bartender-server is an expert, so ordering off is fine, and I would recommend allowing the attending mixologist some freedom to innovate.
|That's more like it|
If you are into tiki bars, Painkiller does not disappoint, with a menu full of staples of the genre that are executed very well. Painkiller claims that Doug's Pina Colada is the best in the city, but enthusiasts will have to judge that for themselves. As I understand it, Painkiller has some stiff competition.
Overall, if you're looking for a secluded spot and an expertly crafted cocktail, Painkiller is hard to beat. Whether or not you are a fan of the tiki theme, Painkiller's mixologists are experienced enough to leave you satisfied.