Saturday, June 01, 2019

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back on Chelsea’s 8th Avenue

It was four years ago today that I published "The Heyday of Chelsea's 8th Avenue," my most popular post (not featuring naked men) to date. Although it's only been four years, the once-bustling center of queer life in New York City has gone through dozens more changes. Despite spending less time on the avenue -- the mere fact that I now take the subway to work from Sixth instead of 8th has shifted my entire life to Seventh! -- I've posted now and then in the ensuing years. But a recent trip to my pharmacy on 8th was yet another eye-opener, in some good ways and bad.

 Perhaps the most depressing news was the demise of Intermezzo. In 2015, I singled it out as one of the avenue's oldest residents. Although I was never a regular, I was heartened to see that a new drag brunch had the place hopping on weekends, so it was a bit of a shock to see it gone with no fanfare.

The Bare Burger at 18th and 8th -- home of Damian's beloved bananas foster milkshake -- also closed abruptly. I must confess that I never got over the closing of Better Burger up the way, so always had a bit of a grudge against its younger and cuter replacement. Apparently I wasn't alone. 

I wasn't too surprised to see Chuck & Blade/Buns Bar close. To be honest, the building is cursed. It's been Trois Canards, La Belle Vie, Donatella, Provo Pizza and Heartwood before its latest failed incarnation. And to be honest, the place was run by famous restauranteurs’ children, who somehow didn't even know how to make a milkshake, so what did we expect?

The deli/smoke shop on 18th and 8th bombed ... but the sex shop above it is still in business. (Who buys anything in those???)

And you didn't need to be a psychic to see trouble was brewing here. Ikinari Steak opened two new shops in Chelsea (15th/8th and 19th/7th), both of which quickly closed. While other locations around the city seem to be doing OK, I'm not sure queens of a certain age have caught on to the "standing" phenomenon, for eating or drinking. 

The former home of Wrapido at 15th and 8th is still boarded up years later, with nothing threatening to move in ...

Was sad to see my Ricky's at 17th and 8th close. (The one on 23rd/8th has been gone for a while.) This storefront is another revolving door, but this seemed like the most logical retailer for the neighborhood since Blockbuster Video 20 years ago.

And it's still an empty storefront in the former home of Rocking Horse Cafe, which closed in November after an incredible 30-year run.

The old La Chinita turned 10 Thai places at 18th  is still vacant.

The Haru that was there for 10 minutes is looking sad and lonely at 19th. Sam Chinita and even Nisos seem like a dream to me now.

And the deli between 22nd and 23rd is no more.

On the upside ...

A new Aussie coffee place -- St. Hilda -- opened at 21st/8th, which is my ex-boyfriend's corner. Michael says he hasn't been in yet, but that it appears to be hopping. Need to check it out.

The former American Apparel is now a gigantic bike shop called Trek. Biking is not my thing, but it seems like a perfect fit the Chelsea.

And at 23rd and 8th -- in the former home of S.G.S. Donuts, Breadstix Cafe and then Chelsea Deli & Bakery -- a Mediterranean place called Fle-Fle Grill has finally moved in. (Haven't been -- it's next door to Lions, Tigers and Squares pizza so, you know.) 

And last but perhaps not least, Jungle Bird opened in the former home of El Cid. After a brief renaissance as Sugar & Spice Tapas Restaurant and Sangria Bar, the building underwent a huge renovation and now looks -- as my friend Tim so perfectly put it -- straight out of West Hollywood's Santa Monica Boulevard! Strangely, the outside is completely different yet the inside seems strangely untouched from my view from the sidewalk. (Maybe I'm wrong -- the photos online looks pretty cool.) Jungle Bird bills itself as a "retro cocktail bar," which sounds promising enough! 


barryearle said...

For the record, Trek is the name of a bicycle. I rode a Trek bike years ago in the California Aids Ride. Here in Albuquerque, there is a Trek store five minutes from my house. So, in case someone thinks that Trek refers generally to trekking on a bike, it's really the name of a specific brand of bicycle (although it can still refer to trekking, I suppose).

swine said...

Wow, this was your best post post lately, Kenny! Er, after ANYTHING about Aaron Schock, that is. Was really shocked to see Intermezzo closed. Passed by a few weeks ago & it looked busy. There was something in NY Post about them being sued by someone they ejected for having a service dog. Maybe that had to do with why they closed?

ribena said...

Jungle Bird seems to be a lovely place so far, nice crowd, nice drinks and nice bartenders. Hope it survives. My friend tells me ex-Nisos is due to become some French Bistro type place, not sure how he knows but - good luck to ‘em