A Night on a Jeopardy-themed Bar Crawl

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Lizzie: Do they call it a bar crawl because by the end of it you’ll be crawling? Or is it because if you attend one in February, you’ll be crawling out of your apartment wondering why the host, generally understood to be a party genius, decided to throw a bar crawl in the East Village on the coldest weekend of the year?

Our friend Andrew (the brain behind last year’s Watergate party) was hosting this bar crawl. It was Jeopardy-themed, meaning that the required attire was “If you were a contestant on Jeopardy, what would you wear?” and each crawl venue would be revealed to us in the form of an answer to a trivia question. The invite provided the clue for the first bar: “This bar was named after an American gambler best known for his role in the events leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”  

Later, we were provided with additional attire instructions sourced by Andrew from Reddit:

Wardrobe: please be dressed and “camera ready” when you arrive at the studio. Also, bring with you two changes of clothing for a total of three outfits. Please avoid solid white (unless under a jacket) or anything with pinstripes, busy patterns or prints, including ties. Your outfits should be seasonally appropriate for the air dates. Dressy casual. Suit, sport coat, sweater, shirt and tie. Dress, skirt & blouse, blazer, pantsuit. Any of these looks are fine. If in doubt, bring something extra to see what looks best on camera.

Because temps had been hovering in the single digits, dressing for Jeopardy took a backseat to dressing for warmth, but I tried to stay on theme. I put on all the HeatTech I own, leather pants, a turtleneck, and a sweater, even though turtlenecks tend to make me feel like the hand of God is slowly tightening its grip around my neck all night, waiting for the light to drain from my eyes.

Kaitlyn: A game of Jeopardy … more like our lives are in jeopardy! Right?

Whenever I complain about the cold, people remind me that I’m from Rochester. Thanks. They’re like, “Isn’t there snow up there?” Sure, but you drive past it in a car. Then you go inside a building probably less than 20 feet from wherever you parked your car. Also, I shouldn’t get into this again, but people who live in New York City have some kind of unexplained psychological need to believe that all of western New York is Buffalo and that Buffalo is basically the North Pole. Listen, I’ve had plenty of green Christmases, and I hurt just like the rest of you when it’s 10 degrees and winds are gusting. I’m human too!

As Lizzie mentioned, it was hard to dress for Jeopardy under these conditions. I wanted to go full business casual so as to be on theme, but those fabrics simply aren’t hardy enough. Instead, I wore gym leggings under a pair of black pants, which I paired with a black turtleneck, a black jacket, black boots, and a second black jacket. Yes, Lizzie and I looked nearly identical. For good luck, I added a beaded bracelet I’d made that says Pete Alonso.

We were pretty confident that the first location we were headed to was Doc Holliday’s, on Avenue A. “What happens if we get the bar wrong?” I texted Andrew while I was getting ready. “You lose!” he said.

Lizzie: Around 6 p.m., I sauntered (waddled) over to Kaitlyn’s for a pre-bar-crawl cocktail and some pizza. Stephanie was there, having just brought over some freshly baked cookies. Nathan made me a boulevardier, and Kaitlyn said, “We got you garlic knots.” Imagine leaving a place like this, at a time like this—heading back out into the dark and frigid unknowns of the night. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take some willpower not to let the object at rest (my body) remain at rest (on the couch). We watched Survivor for 20 minutes, until it was time to leave.

Kaitlyn: Yes! Nathan and I have become real Survivor people recently—Lizzie and Matt got us hooked. The show’s appeal is obvious, but it has a little extra intrigue for me because my mom didn’t like us to watch it. She thought it would be bad for our moral development if we spent too much time seeing people betray one another for money. Now I’m wolfing it down, even though it infuriates me. The men they cast on this show are obsessed with referring to women as “cancer,” and I can never tell when anybody is lying.

It was so hard to bundle up and head out. Nathan was wearing a Carhartt hat, and I was like, “You better take that off. They don’t let you wear logos on TV.” But he couldn’t take it off, because who knows, his ears might have come off along with it.

A dirty paper sign on the door of a bar, reading
Does this mean us? (Courtesy of Lizzie Plaugic)

Lizzie: The first thing you notice when you get to Doc Holliday’s, if you’re there specifically for a bar crawl, is all the signs taped to the front door that say No Bar Crawls. Assuming they really meant something along the lines of “No SantaCon Attendees,” and not “No Jeopardy-Themed Bar Crawls Beginning at This Location,” we went inside anyway.

The second thing you notice at Doc Holliday’s is that they really do love a sign, in general. There were signs everywhere; it was like being at an Airbnb where the host has stuck Post-it notes over everything you’re not allowed to touch. Garbage disposal is broken. Keep heat at 63 degrees. Here it was: No lemons, no limes, Cash is king. Sometimes the signs had conflicting messages: Get the fuck off your Millennial machine and Tag us on Instagram. I ordered some kind of disgusting pilsner, taking care not to look at my phone or request a piece of citrus, and sat down with Kaitlyn and Nathan at the table that Andrew and Allegra had secured.

Kaitlyn: The signs were so mean! There was also one that said Please take your sense of entitlement elsewhere. It made me wonder if ordering a beer was an expression of feeling entitled. But we let it roll off our backs. I bought Stellas for me and Nathan (with cash) without incident.

It was easy to pick Andrew out of the crowd, because he was wearing a bright-orange sweater with a rotisserie chicken on it. (Would they let him wear that on Jeopardy?) We hadn’t been sure what to expect from the Jeopardy crawl, because it seems like the kind of thing that could easily devolve into just staying in one place. But Andrew is usually pretty serious about his parties, and this time was no different. As soon as we’d finished our beers, he put a clue down on the table and then left us to figure it out. We would meet him at the next place—or maybe, if our knowledge of the East Village’s many bars failed us, we wouldn’t.

Luckily, the clue was “This bar honors a filmmaker, with notable works Ed Wood and Planet of the Apes.” Of course, Lizzie and I knew instantly that this referred to the Tim Burton–themed bar Beetle House, which we wrote about the month it opened in 2016. It’s a weird and objectively ugly place, but it’s important to us. We talk about it all the time. I can’t say why.

Lizzie: I was excited to go to Beetle House, not only because of its place in our friendship history, but because I honestly thought it would be empty. Who would go to a Beetlejuice-themed bar on a Saturday night?, I thought, as we walked towards the Beetlejuice-themed bar. The answer turned out to be actually a lot of people, because Beetle House apparently hosts a popular karaoke night on Saturdays. We didn’t even make it inside.

Our next location was “the oldest Irish bar in New York.” What is … McSorley’s? Upon our arrival there, we were greeted by a group of men singing “American Pie.” A Don McLean chorus is never a good sign, but I thought optimistically that perhaps we had just walked onto a film set—some movie where prep-school kids finally learn about the power of good ol’ rock and roll from their history teacher, who, goddamn, can’t help but care a little too much.

We agreed that drinking at McSorley’s felt like drinking at Disney World. Two-mice-operating-a-railroad-handcar vibes, if you know what I mean. The table next to us was composed of 10 silent men, one of whom was wearing a light-up headband and staring at his Lyft app for almost the entire time we were there.

In the bathroom, a girl pointed at the floor and asked me, “Is this sawdust?” because there was sawdust all over the floor. Then she pointed at her coat, which had been on the bathroom floor, and asked me, “Is this sawdust?” “I guess so,” I said. She was acting like I was a wood scientist whose only purpose in the bathroom was to take samples of the stuff on the floor. If it’s not a Jeopardy clue, I don’t have the answer.

An old wooden table with glass mugs of beer on it.
Some "light" ale and some "dark" ale. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Tiffany)

Kaitlyn: Prior to this bar crawl, I had only ever been to McSorley’s once. I went with my parents during daylight hours, which was a strange experience because it’s loosely a cop bar and we accidentally went there on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Anyway, the whole thing at this bar is that they serve only two kinds of beer: “light” and “dark.” And when you order one beer, they give it to you in two small glasses. I guess being really old means the place can get away with pointless affectations like this. I bought a light beer and gave one half of it (one of two glasses) to Lizzie. Because the theme of the night was trivia, I then read aloud whatever tidbits I could find on the McSorley’s Wikipedia page. Turns out it was “one of the last of the ‘Men Only’ pubs,” and started allowing women in only “after legally being forced to do so in 1970.” This explains its former motto, “Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies.”

The place was packed, so Lizzie, Nathan, and I volunteered to shove our way out and go ahead to the next location. Answer: “Press A to jump in this coin-operated bar.” Question: “What is the Barcade on St. Mark’s Place?” (Oh my God.) Well. We did walk around the corner and take a peek in the window. Then we turned around and headed back to McSorley’s and asked Andrew for a different answer and a different question. It’s great that he’s such a gracious host and that he likes having us around even when we’re behaving like this.

New answer: “This fort-looking bar is named after a bodily function—but don’t do it too loud here.” Question: “What is Burp Castle?”

Lizzie: Obviously for the Jeopardy theme to work, the bars that Andrew chose needed to have some characteristic that could be used as a clue in a trivia scenario. In practice, this meant that many of the bars on our crawl had some kind of a novelty vibe, whether it was “angry dive bar,” “sawdust frat lab,” or “silent beer temple.”

I had heard of Burp Castle before. You can’t talk above a whisper, is what I’d heard. This is what Burp Castle sounds like when you walk in: Pssssstpssstpssst ppsssst psst psst. Just unintelligible whispering noises, like everyone there is an extra in a community-theater play and they’re gossiping over the latest talk of the town. Every now and then, as the noise level climbed, a patrolmen-type group would shush us all.

At one point, a guy wearing Patagonia came up to me, Kait, and Nathan, and asked in a definite non-whisper, “Are you guys here for the Craigslist meetup?” We must have looked confused, so he explained that he was kidding—he was actually here for an event coordinated on Meetup.com, which he seemed to view as a website in higher social standing than Craigslist.

Kaitlyn: Psych! He got us!

I thought he was great. He was like, “It’s so funny to have to whisper,” and I was like, “But you’re not whispering.” He was like, “Haha, I know!” Then someone shushed him.

We learned a lot about this guy. Or mostly just that he works at a law firm. “Any cases of yours we might have heard of?” Liz asked, probably not expecting much of an answer. Actually, his firm had just represented Elon Musk—successfully—in a lawsuit filed against him by Tesla shareholders. This was the firm’s second time winning on Musk’s behalf; the first was when he was sued for libel after calling someone a “pedo guy.” Mr. Meetup didn’t know how they’d pulled that one off, he told us. When he’d looked at the case himself, his reaction had been “Bro, this shit is straight defamation.” Shush!

He seemed embarrassed by all of this and said he wished that he could be like us—clean of conscience. “Oh, my conscience isn’t clean,” Lizzie said. I wondered if she was alluding to the fact that we were definitely going to write down what this guy told us about his job in our email newsletter. I stared silently at a mural of a monk being eaten by a shark. Then it was time to get out of there.

Lizzie: On the ride home, I did an impression of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises where he talks about being born in the dark. I think he sounds like a haunted doll, but Kaitlyn and Nathan agreed my impression was, like, six octaves too high. I’ve never seen the movie, but as you might know from my ongoing “bit” doing Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (“All I have are dark thoughts”), I’m obsessed with the comedy of a man in a costume tortured by darkness.

Who would’ve thought we’d find the light at a place called Burp Castle?

Kaitlyn: I love Lizzie’s impressions, and she has a great repertoire—the Jimmy Stewart she did in the car was pretty good, as was her Jacob Marley—but the Bane is just not there yet. I think it would benefit, probably, from Lizzie watching the movie he’s in at least one time.

Anyway, when we hugged Andrew goodbye, I noticed that he was wearing a recording device on his lapel. I mentioned this to Liz and Nathan in the car, but I can’t remember if we were concerned about it. I loved Burp Castle, and I’m happy we went. There should be way more bars where the idea is not to yell. I have one more thing to say about it, which is that traditionally it has been known as a bar where the bartenders dress like monks. The bartender we saw was just wearing a brownish hoodie with the hood up, but I think the overall effect was still convincing. On my way [airplane emoji] to write a glowing Yelp review!

After we left, the rest of the crew went on to two more bars: “What you say to someone who you tell a secret to,” and “This bar shares the name with a sitcom star. The show first aired in 1951.”

Lizzie: Andrew said his next bar crawl will be cross-borough, but thankfully he’s saving that one for summer.

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