Approaching Mars Bar, you might notice young punk couples leaning against the wall, making out; inside, you might notice graffiti sprayed all over those same walls, letting you know who is promiscuous and who isn't. The glass bricks, once windows to the outside, are now instead canvases where cuss words come to meet in varying mediums: Sharpie, spray-paint, sticker. The room itself is a tight hallway housing a damaged wooden bar with doodles carved into it; the slashed stools have bits of foam falling out. Mixed drinks come in a smaller-than-usual glass (though there's always more gin than tonic), and beer only comes in a bottle or a can. The bar's exterior is a perpetually changing mural that once read, "The East Village Is Dead." Perhaps not.
"Well, a person can work up a mean, mean thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all," goes the ultimate wounded-romantic ballad for go-nowhere drunks, and it's a sentiment that resonates deeply at the Mars Bar. Two heads slump over the bar and marinate in their own saliva. . . . A fading artist addresses everyone by saying, "Hey asshole, no disrespect." . . . "Here Comes a Regular" blasting on the jukebox in this charming-but-beaten-down dump would be a lighter-raising moment if the... More »