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Lucy's, Where the Real Draw is its Namesake

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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. Follow him on Twitter.

[Bess Adler]

The heart of Lucy's, an Avenue A dive that has somehow held back the tide of East Village trendiness, is Lucy. She's a small woman about three times the age of the kids she serves. She had a puffy, light-brown coiffure that sits awkwardly on top of her head, and talks in a high, piping voice of an Eastern European songbird. She cheerfully takes orders, none of which are particularly difficult (beer, shot), and doesn't seem to have a mean bone in her body, probably because she doesn't pay much mind to the antics of her patrons.

The hipster-doofuses who populate the bar seem to get a kick out of Lucy. "Hey, Lucy! You like this song," said a young barfly, a juvenile delinquent smile on his lips, a PBR in his hand. It was "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton. He may as well have been asking Lucy if she had Prince Albert in a can. "What?" tweeted Lucy, distracted, smoothing out dollar bills plucked from the old cash register. The man asked twice more, intent on his joke. Finally Lucy paused and took a listen. "Yes. Yes. I like this song," she piped. She then took the TV remote and turned up the volume on the AMC presentation of "Young Guns."

The bar's facade is so warped with age, it looks like it might fall flat to the sidewalk at any moment. I believe it's held in place by the recently installed ATM machine. Getting past the often-locked metal gate is harder than at most dives. Lucy opens when she opens. It varies from night to night, but don't try coming before 7 PM. She also takes a ton of vacations, seemingly whenever she feels like it. Aside from her annual visit to her native Poland every August, don't be surprised to find the bar closed for a weeks at a time, without warning, any given month of the year.

Inside, there are two pool tables, a long old vaguely Art Deco bar, and an unintentional circle theme made up of round mirrors and round spaces where mirrors used to be. I've never seen so many bottom-shelf bottles prominently featured on the top-shelf shelf as I did at Lucy's. But the beer selection, in bottles and on draft, is surprisingly large and decent. A couple newer draft lines, hiding over near the window, draw on hipper craft brews like Goose Island. Their location seems to silently ask the question: "Who would drink this stuff when you can get a Bud?" Behind the bar, near the door, there's a glass-doored cabinet of tchotchkes. China cups and such. It's the kind of thing you'd see at your grandma's place.
—Robert Simonson

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