Wednesday, September 30, 2009

McSorley's Old Ale House

McSorley's is and old pub--really, really old. Founded in 1854, it's the oldest continuously operating bar in New York City. It even operated through the Prohibition era, albeit secretly in the basement. This little bar in the East Village is just dripping with age; absolutely everything about the place seems ancient. From the tables to the walls, the photos and newspaper articles on the walls, the original bar taps, even the front doors, everything seems to have an antique yellow patina to it. Stepping in McSorley's feels like going through a time warp.

The only thing they serve to drink (not counting sodas) is their McSorley's Ale, available in either light or dark. Each has their strengths, and while the dark is more my taste, I'd suggest having both. They're served in small glasses, two at a time, but they're dirt cheap. Everything's on the honor system, so keep track of what you drink. And be aware: cash only!

There's a little kitchen in the back serving a nice selection of bar-style food. It's certainly not a restaurant, but you won't have any problem getting something to eat if you're hungry.

Sure, place is a definitely a novelty, but it's a good one.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dave's Quality Meat

Dave's Quality Meat has the weirdest shop name (there's a story behind it with this name-changing meat/veal shop in the Meat Packing district, kinda funny) but there's no denying it's one of the coolest shops in NYC. Sneakers, streetwear, and skater gear in all its glory. Skaters sitting on the stoop smoking cigarettes talking about where to score some weed. Unique sneaker collabs with the biggest names in the sneaker industry. Sneaker exclusivity at it's finest, being one of only six Nike Tier Zero accounts in the entire country. Dave's Quality Meat is fresh, no doubt.

Of all the places in NYC that I wanted to hit up, DQM was near the very top of my list--I was not disappointed. Like most other sneaker and streetwear boutiques, the shop is very small, so they're limited in how much they can possibly carry, but what they do have is dope as hell. Prices on t-shirts are very affordable (as low as $15 on sale), but some of the pricier outerwear can run into the hundreds of dollars. Sneaker prices are in line with most other places, but what really sets this place off is the DQM-specific products, both original and collaborations. Some of it is very affordable, some not, but that's the nature of unique shop-specific collab products.

One extra cool thing about DQM that they carry my favorite streetwear brand, Benny Gold. Anyplace that rocks his gear is golden in my book.

Highly recommended.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bleecker Bob's Records

Bleecker Bob's is a famous vinyl record store in Greenwich Village; it's one of the oldest record shops in New York and has one of the weirdest and most eclectic collections of music you'll find anywhere. There are categories for every music taste imaginable, and probably entire genres of music you've never heard of. There are plenty of rarities behind the counter as well, one of the better selections I saw for collectors.

Unfortunately, while I was able to find some interesting stuff, there really wasn't a lot there that really interested me. The hip hop section had plenty of odd, off the wall records, but nothing I'd really pay money for in order to listen to that I didn't already own. Their dollar bins might have been fun to dig through, but I didn't have the time to do that right then.

There's a strangely large selection of water pipes for the pot heads--in fact from the outside, the places looks more like a head shop than a vinyl record collector's store.

I'd go again if I was looking for something oddball, especially if I wanted something outside of my normal genres, but it's not really my kinda shop.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fat Beats

Fat Beats is a vinyl record shop in a second floor walk-up on the edge of the West Village in Greenwich Village, NYC--and it's the best hip hop centric vinyl record store I've ever seen.

I've been ordering online from their website for several years now, so it was sweet being able to hit up their actual brick & mortar store, but even though I knew sold new vinyl I had no idea just how extensive their selection really was. I mean really, it's crazy how much shit they got--I kept hearing myself say, "damn I didn't even know this was available on vinyl!" And on top of that, every one of my favorite classic hip hop albums was there, available for purchase, on shrink wrapped virgin vinyl. It was like heaven, but it hurt the hell outta my wallet. I spent more at this record store and any other in NYC.

You know that this place is for real when you see the lineup of folks who do album signings, promos, releases, and other events here: Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, 88-Keys, EPMD, J. Rocc, Large Pro...and then the day after I was there, Raekwon was gonna be doing a signing event for OBFCL2 that dropped that week. Damn.

If you're looking for hip hop on brand new vinyl, either classic releases or new joints, then Fat Beats can hook you up better than probably anywhere else on earth.

Highest Possible Recommendation

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Era Cap Flagship Store

If you're into streetwear, or baseball, then you know what the New Era 59fifty cap is: the original fitted ball cap, and the official on-field cap for all MLB teams. New Era only operates a handful of Flagship stores in the world, and only three in the US: Buffalo, Atlanta, and NYC.

Located in the NoHo district near a few blocks east of NYU, the New Era Flagship Store is practically a museum dedicated to the iconic flat billed 59fifty cap. In addition to every on-field MLB cap, the store also sells licensed NHL, NBA, and NFL caps as well as collaborations with a diverse range of streetwear brands--and even licensed DC and Marvel Comics caps. They also sell other New Era hat styles and some apparel, but the store mostly deals with the 59fifty.

People ask me all the time why I wear fitted baseball caps, especially since most folks seem to wear adjustable or flex-fit golf style caps. In my opinion, wearing an adjustable/flexible cap is like wearing stretchy pants. I mean come on, I wear shirts, pants, socks, underwear, and shoes fitted to my size; why wouldn't I wear a cap that's fitted as well?

Recommended for fans of the New Era 59fifty.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flight Club

No doubt, Flight Club is a hardcore sneaker collector's heaven. There are three locations in NYC: Green St. in NoHo; Nassau St. downtown just outside of Tribeca near the WTC; and Lafayette St. in SoHo. I did hit the Lafayette shop (which mostly has apparel and used sneakers) but the real heat is at the main Green St. location next to the NYU campus.

Unlike most sneaker shops, Flight Club sells consignment shoes, but that doesn't necessarily mean used; at the Green St. shop, everything on the walls are all brand new (but there are a few highly collectible kicks in a display case up front). What this means is they have shit in stock that you probably cannot find for sale anywhere else outside of eBay.

I went in looking for a few specific pair, and to their credit they had them in stock on the shelf, available in my size. Unfortunately, they were priced way outta my league. That's what I get for wanting highly desirable and collectible sneakers. Ha ha!

One surprise I found was the new international-only Jordan III in the True Blue colorway. That shoe flat out isn't available for sale in the United States--but if you want em, they got em in stock for just $275.

If you're a Jordan sneakerhead, Flight Club will blow your mind. I think they had every relatively recent release and tons of various colorways of just about every Air Jordan ever released, including many premier releases. Most were priced between $175 to $400, but the rarer releases went up as high as $2000 (maybe more, but that's the highest price I saw). They even had the 2009 Jordan XI Space Jams in stock--and that shoe don't even come out for public release until this Christmas!

While their strength is probably in Air Jordans, they had plenty of Nike Blazers, Dunks, and Air Force 1s as well as many Adidas, Puma, Converse, Vans, Reebok, and others. Basically, if you're a sneakerhead, then Flight Club on Green St. is a must hit.

Highest Possible Recommendation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Bathing Ape (BAPE)

A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, is an ultra-hot premium lifestyle brand based out of Tokyo, Japan founded by a designer, DJ, and music producer known as "Nigo". BAPE is popular with many hip hop artists like Kanye West, Pharrell, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and Kid Cudi.

Exclusivity is the word with BAPE, as their products are notoriously difficult to find. They only operate five stores outside of Japan, located in Hong Kong, London, Taipei, Los Angeles, and New York. Other than their company-run shops, your best bet to getting BAPE apparel is from their website. BAPE shoes are, thankfully, more universally available at a variety of boutique sneaker shops.

The exclusivity doesn't come cheap; their popular Bapesta shoes typically run from $180 to $225, shirts range from $73 to $175, jackets and hoodies from $275 to $500. In certain cases, some extremely limited apparel items are rumored to run well over $1000.

The BAPE store was one of the very finest merchandised shops I saw in NYC--feels more like an art gallery than a store. Apparel and accessories are downstairs, sneakers upstairs. The place is incredibly well designed; it's straight up hot shit, y'all.

I had my eye on a Baby Milo t-shirt that I'd seen online some time ago, and I got lucky that they had one left--and in my size, too. Of course, that's if you think paying $73 for a t-shirt is "lucky". I keep telling myself that it cost so much because it's imported from Japan. Ha-ha!

Highly recommended, even if you just wanna windowshop.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Adidas Originals - SoHo

The Adidas Originals store in the SoHo shopping district of NYC is much like any other Adidas Originals store--they carry nearly the same product as the one here in Dallas, although they seem to have much more product in stock. Perhaps that's just my perception though, since the store is merchandised so differently than the Dallas store, which strangely seems more cosmopolitan with its gallery-like design than the SoHo location.

One unique difference of the SoHo store is the pair of barber-style chairs connected to Internet kiosks that allow you to design your own customized Adidas sneakers via the "Adidas Mi" program. Yes, you can do this from your own computer on the Adidas website, but the advantage of doing it in the store is that you have access to actual samples of all the available materials and colors as well as a wall of other Mi sneaker examples to look at. Plus, it's just kinda cool to be able to sit in the store to design your own sneakers--it's just not quite the same doing it at home.

One more note: we went to the store twice, the second time during the city-wide Fashion's Night Out event kicking off the NYC Fashion Week. Adidas went all out for the event, clearing a large space in the middle of the store for an old school B-Boy group to showcase their breakdancing skills, and an artist on-site to custom paint sneakers for you. On top of all that, they were giving out a one-time only limited edition Adidas t-shirt that was only available during the Fashion's Night Out event. My wife picked up a pair of baseball-inspired Adidas Superstar PTs celebrating the 60th anniversary of Addidas and copped the t-shirt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Premium Laces

Premium Laces is a highly regarded sneaker and apparel shop in the SoHo shopping district of New York. It's actually a fairly simple looking store compared to the rest of the typical high end boutiques in SoHo, so much that it almost seems a bit out of place for the district. If it wasn't for the cool art on the walls, it'd be completely devoid of decoration. That's actually cool tho; you know the focus here is on the product--and they ain't playin!

There's a stellar selection of Nike sneakers along the left side of the shop, as well as other brands like Puma, Reebok, Vans, New Balance, and Alife, but it's obvious their forte is Nike. If you like Blazers, Dunks, SBs, Air Max, Air Force 1, and of course Jordans, you'll like this shop. There's also a very nice selection of shirts, jackets, hoodies, and caps on the opposite wall. They have a particularly nice selection of LRG brand clothing. It seems most things are priced at MSRP, but there's plenty of sale items scattered about for those seeking a good deal on some kicks.

One of the best things about Premium Laces is the location relative to the subway; you pop up out of the 6 line directly in front of their front door.

It's not the fanciest sneaker store in NYC, but it's well worth the trip.

EDIT - October 5th
Pete from Premium Laces recently posted on their blog that the shop got a little renovation. The plain white walls are gone, replaced with a wicked purple paint job. Big improvement, good looks Pete.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ray's Pizza

If you've ever been to New York, odds are you've seen a Ray's Pizza. As the New York Times reported way back in 1991, there are well over 30 different pizzerias using some form of the name Ray's: Famous Ray's, World Famous Ray's, Original Ray's, Famous Original Ray's, Ray Bari's, Real Ray's or One and Only Famous Ray's. I've eaten at several of these, but until now I'd never been to the oldest one, Ray's Pizza on Prince Street in Little Italy.

The Prince Street Ray's, which opened in 1959, is actually split into two parts, an Italian restaurant on the left and a tiny pizzeria on the right. They serve half a dozen different types of slices in a tiny space about the size of my dining room at home. Needless to say, the slices are typical New York style thin crust pizza with generous portions of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, fresh tomatoes, basil, spinach, beef, and of course pepperoni--and they are all delicious.

Famous Original Ray's, one of the other competing Ray's pizzerias I've been to, is also quite old, founded in 1964, but I didn't think the Pizza was anywhere near as good as the older Prince Street Ray's. So be warned, just because a pizzeria in New York is called "Ray's" doesn't mean it's worth a damn.

But the 50-year old Prince Street Ray's is well worth the trip. Recommended.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NYC vinyl purchases

While in NYC last week, I hit a whole slew of record shops and bought quite a bit of vinyl. Most of it was cheap 50¢ and $1 records for sampling, but I bought a few things just for my own listening pleasure:
  • Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988; reissue)
  • De La Soul - is Dead (1991; reissue)
  • De La Soul - Art Official Intelligence 2: Bionix (2001)
  • Common - Resurrection (1994; reissue)
  • El Michels Affair - Enter the 37th Chamber (2009)
  • Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab (2007)
  • Blu & Mainframe are - Johnson & Johnson (2008)
  • Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement (2009)
  • Mayer Hawthorne - Maybe So, Maybe no 12" single (2009)
Except for De La's AOI:Bionix (top right), all these were brand-new, shrinkwrapped virgin vinyl. I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure of slicing open vinyl shrinkwrap with a pocket knife, but there's just something about it that makes me so much happier than fudging with a CD jewel case and a bunch of dumbass security/ barcode stickers.

And then whew, playing that fresh virgin vinyl? It sounds so sweet, ain't nuthin like it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NYC Vacation

Okay, since so many friends have asked "how was your New York vacation?" I figured I'd post up about it here. So basically, my wife and I spent a week in NYC on vacation, mainly to do some shopping, go to a few little events, and just chill. Here's a recap of the trip.

We stayed at the Hotel East Houston because it is affordable, modern, in the right location (Lower East Side) relative to our planned shopping, and because it has a kickass outdoor rooftop terrace that we could drink and smoke cigars on. The rooms are small, like most others in the city, but it was very nice with a damn comfortable king size bed. I heard some of the smaller rooms have chintsy bathrooms, but ours was great with a huge shower, much bigger than the one I got at home. I highly recommend this hotel, especially considering the rooftop terrace and awesome location.

The hotel is right in the middle of the areas we were planning on checking out: Lower East Side, East Village, Little Italy, SoHo, NoHo, and Greenwich Village--which are basically the areas where most of the big time vinyl record stores and sneaker/streetwear shops are located. We pretty much spent Monday through Wednesday just shopping. I'll be blogging about those places over the next few weeks, so keep reading this blog to check them out.

Also in the area around the hotel are several famous old timey restaurants and pubs. In fact, right before we left, I caught the Anthony Bourdain's “Disappearing Manhattan” episode of No Reservations, and two of the places are just a couple of blocks east of the hotel. Also, Little Italy is only three blocks to the west, so there is plenty of food around.

Speaking of Little Italy, every September the streets transform into the famous Feast of San Gennaro where you can eat yourself to friggin' death on Italian food. We've been before on past NY trips, so we knew to plan this trip to coincide with the event. The "Holy Cannoli" gelato from Cha Cha's alone is worth the trip.

The SoHo shopping and fashion district is just two blocks west of Little Italy, and the Fashion's Night Out event was taking place on Thursday night, kicking off New York Fashion Week. The streets fill up with taxis and a bunch of really tall, skinny women drinking champaign and shopping their asses off til 11pm. It's a complete zoo, for real, really neat to see in person.

Speaking of taxis, we spent a week in the city and never took one! Instead, we bought week-long MTA passes at LaGuardia airport and got around exclusively via subway trains and city buses--even back and forth to the airport. By the end of the week, we had a firm grasp of how the subway works, and I gotta say, big ups to the MTA for making that shit easy to ride. I don't think we ever walked more than 6 or 7 blocks at a time; anything more than that and we just hopped on a train. The iPhone subway maps make it real easy to figure it all out.

The best ride we took was probably the B train out to Crown Heights in Brooklyn to hit a specific sneaker shop. It was a totally different experience than the touristy shopping in Manhattan--and the coolest part is that the train goes over the river on the Manhattan Bridge, a really scenic (if somewhat seedy) little trip.

Another subway trip we made was on Friday, September 11th, down to the World Trade Center site. The place is mostly a giant construction site right now, but being there on the anniversary of 9/11 was pretty surreal and somber.

Friday evening, we rode the subway up to midtown to visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which was having Target Free Fridays. It's a real tourist trap, way too damn many people to properly enjoy the art I suppose, but hey, it's hard to bitch when it's free.

Finally, a music related comment. On Tuesday, two significant new NY-based albums came out: Raekwon's long awaited Only Built For Cuban Links II and Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3. For real, it seemed like every single record and sneaker shop we hit all week was playing one of those two albums. Everywhere we went in the city, those albums was playing. New York was most definitely representing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NYC sneaker purchases

I just spent a week in New York, and naturally I hit up as many sneaker, streetwear, and record shops as I could fit in the trip. I'll be posting about those places for the next few weeks or so, but I thought I'd start off by showing the sneakers we picked up on the trip, plus a couple I got right before the trip that I haven't posted about yet.

A few notes notes:
  • The Jordan XX3 and Adidas Superstar PT 60ths are my wife's sneakers.
  • The A.R.C. x Nike Dunks are an exclusive collaboration by the famous Alife Rivington Club.
  • The Air Jordan Vs came out of the 2008 18/5 Countdown Pack.
  • The Big Nike with the Japanese text is actually my second colorway; I've already got the orange/white pair.
  • The Reebok Club DGK Pump is made out of rubber basketball material--crazy kicks!
  • The Adidas ZX 600s are ugly as sin, but I picked them up because they were only $5 bucks.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Adidas + Def Jam T-shirt

Seriously y'all, this might be the Holy Grail of T-shirts for me. It combines so many of the things I love: Adidas sneakers, vinyl records, Hip Hop, and of course T-shirts.

So now you might be asking yourself, "what's the deal here, how's all this connected?" so lemme tell you the story: back in the day, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons founded Def Jam, which turned out some of the most important Hip Hop of the 80's and early 90's, including RUN-DMC, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Slick Rick, 3rd Bass, and EPMD. Now at the time, music singles destined for radio airplay came out on 12" vinyl in relatively simple sleeves--as opposed to the more expensive photographic album covers found in retail--and Def Jam had a great iconic logo incorporating a large "DJ" and a turntable tone arm on the sleeve; they was basically screaming, "hey DJ, put me on!"

In 1986, Def Jam artists RUN-DMC put out a song called "My Adidas" extolling the greatness of the Adidas Superstar "shell toe" sneakers--which I've got a closet full of--and thus began a deep connection between Adidas sneakers and hip hop.

This summer, Adidas celebrates their 60th anniversary in collaboration with Def Jam's 25th anniversary, and when they announced the product line I just knew I had to cop this shirt. The 12" single vinyl record design is classic, and then they topped it off with shiny reflective silver ink, silver thread shoulder stitching, and a nice crown logo on the back.

I'm lovin' this shirt.

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