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Twins Pub, the Perfect Meeting Spot in the Shadow of MSG

There are more than 6,000 bars in New York City. About 200 of them get regular press. This column is about the other ones. Robert Simonson, a journalist and blogger of the drinking life, and the originator of the "A Beer At..." column, takes a peek inside Gotham’s more anonymous watering holes, one by one.

[Horine, 4/7/11]

Perhaps because it shivers in the western shadow of hulking Madison Square Garden, the block of Ninth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets has preserved something of the tang of the city's pre-Giuliani underbelly. The gritty stretch holds not one but two Chinese takeout joints, a money order office, an antiquated office supply shop, a place to repair shoes and a couple dueling Irish pubs. It's a living museum of midtown Manhattan that John McNulty might recognize.

One of these pubs is Twins Pub, which has a couple of immediate things going for it. One is its unique signage, in which "Twins" is spelled out in gigantic letters on both the ground floor and the second floor, the upper version in red neon and curved, stadium-style. It's a hell of a beacon. The other is the unusual name itself. Twins is actually run by twins, a couple of middle-aged men named Pat and Danny. They're the sons of the man that founded Twins some four decades ago.

The place has been renovated since then, I'm sure. It's slick, and spic and span these days, not a stain on the smooth wooden bar, framed pictures of famous sports moments or red-white-and-blue bunting. There's a roomy dining area in back, and further space upstairs. The music is U2, Springsteen, Bon Jovi and nothing unexpected. Not a thing is out of place or broken in, which gives the bar an unexciting, antiseptic feel. But perhaps this is why its patrons like it. (That, and the $3 Harps.) "See you tomorrow," said the bartender to an elderly couple, who had enjoyed their drinks in leisure. Perhaps they come every night.

Given its location, Twins attracts people in transit, on their way to and from Penn Station or a game. ("Stuck in Midtown waiting for the bus with time to kill?" reads a Yelp entry.) Two women wheeled their luggage out of the pub after finished their beers, and then hailed a taxi. A couple stopped in for a nightcap after returning from a Yankees game that had been rained out. This was their point of parting. The man, who wore a bulging black leather jacket that read "World Champions," lived in New Jersey. His girlfriend lived in the Bronx. Very generous of her, I thought, to leave her home borough for 34th Street, just to say goodbye to her man at Twins. They both complained that the Yankees had given in too early to "this kind of rain." The twin on duty agreed. The Yankees, by the way, had played the Twins.
—Robert Simonson