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article — Stand By Your Man

The brains behind the outlaw website ilovekarlrove.com offers advice for wives of the soon to be indicted.

by Virginia Wade

Y'all can keep your hard-teated Hollywood pretty boys - the Brads, the Matts, the various Culkins. One might make for tasty arm candy while you're strutting the red carpet at this month's Mauve Ribbons for Uvula Disease gala benefit, but it's even money that Angelina Jolie's newest adoptee is gonna be calling him "Daddy" before your evening's Brazilian gets a chance to stubble up.

Nope - a sensible li'l filly prefers herself a big ol' solid slab of GOP politico prime rib. He may be sporting a fish-belly "Capitol Hill tan" or not have gotten around to shedding the Junior Senator 15, but after a day of wrangling bills and roping torts, your average family values bronco is just bucking for a roquefort steak at the Foggy Bottom Prime Rib and a sweaty bout of git-along-little-doggie until it's time to watch Sean Hannity. Your red-state Romeo may like it well-done on the Senate floor, but it's raw back at the split-level, and there ain't no Paris Hiltons slinking in to poach him in the dead of night.

Problem is, a special prosecutor probably will.

Sad but true, the Beltway good ole boys are being cuffed, stuffed, and indicted at a NASCARian pace, and we, their devoted pit crew, can do little but Vaseline our teeth and wave to the cameras as if we were still Miss Omaha Pit Beef 1988.

It just cracks my fragile heart to imagine what Mrs. DeLay is going through at home, her once-full toolbox now without its hefty Hammer. Sure, he's been released from the state's hospitality pending trial for campaign money-laundering, but freedom has its price. Ten thousand dollars bail is still a Texas-size chunk of change, even if you're, oh, say, a former Senate majority leader's wife and daughter who have reportedly earned half a million dollars working for a political organization somewhat (ahem) close to home.

And keep in mind all the long, hard, prison-widowed nights in front of the Home Shopping Network that are looming overhead, all Damoclesian. Hubby Tom might be snoozing comfily in the Barcalounger right now, but should justice's hammer not swing his way come trial time, quite likely the hand gently cradling his family assets will not be his own, nor so very gentle. And that's a heck of a load to expect one's godly ex-cheer-squad wife to have to swallow!

Still, appearances must be kept up, pantsuits pressed, coifs Aqua-Netted, and mood-stabilizers popped. In this age of unnervingly instant access, every bloggerista with a cable modem and a camera phone thinks he's Edward R. Gosh-Darned Murrow, and he's sure to broadcast every last split acrylic end and stray courthouse-steps divorce threat for the schadenfreude of the whole lumpen cyberverse. Not to mention that with the advent of print-on-demand services like Cafepress, tomorrow evening's medicinal toddy will likely be sipped from a mug emblazoned with this afternoon's mug shot.

It's surely enough to send a girl tumbling into the Valley of the Kitty Dukakis, but before you hoist that fistful of Vicodin, honey, know that you are not alone. As long as there has been an America to govern, there have been political wives with one supportive hand on their husbands' shoulder and the other on speed dial to her divorce attorney.

Are you listening, Mrs. Frist? Seeing as majority leaders seem to be in the prosecutorial crosshairs at the moment, it would only make sense that you and Mrs. DeLay grab a corner table and a couple of Pumpkin Spice Lattes at the Capitol Hill Starbucks and start comparing notes. Heck, pull up a chair for Scooter Libby's spouse Harriet Grant and get scheming!

How 'bout a joint Dr. Phil appearance? Perhaps a wink-wink guest cameo on Desperate Housewives, or an airbrushed Us Weekly "Forgiveness" cover? Middle-American hausfraus eat that crap up with an ice cream scoop. And while you're at it, don't go all Scroogey with your prescriber's after-hours digits. Though your congressional cutie might have to undergo the full-cavity plunder at some point post-prosecution, mama sure don't need to go through this one stone-cold unmedicated.

Y'all might also want to check the possibility of preemptively calling bunkmate dibs should sentences coincide. 'Cause even if your boys aren't pally enough to share adjoining squash lockers at the Hill gym, tender nether quarters are likelier to come home unsullied without a ruffian cellmate sent to the pokey for one of those common-people crimes, like shoplifting or music piracy. Savages, I tell you. Savages!

Why, you ask, are my sympathies for this cause so very raw and pungent? No, my passion for my particular political animal has not been endorsed by holy matrimony (or the Secret Service), and for that reason (the Secret Service one), I dare not (and I have the restraining order to prove it) speak his name. But I can tell you this much: It rhymes with Burd Tlossom, and I love him like Dennis Hastert loves Two-for-One Half-Smoke Night at Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street.

For lo these many years, I've watched silently and sweatily from the shadows as Burd's party penetration deepened and, in the face of adversity, he kept working the polls and working the pols until his base solidified and everything came together for him¡Xfor all of us¡Xin a mighty gush of democracy. He may look hard and crusty as melba toast while he's working, but I assure you he's Pillsbury soft and luscious once he kicks off his cordovan Florsheims.

At least, so far as I'm allowed to see from the hedges.

Damned if I'm going to let my man be thrust headlong into the penal system without a solid slathering of loving protection. So I say this loud, and I say this proud: I'll be waiting for you on the outside, Burd. I'll be waiting.

Virginia Wade is the public face of www.ilovekarlrove.com. Her true identity is known only to the Secret Service and to New York webmistress Kat Kinsman.

(originally published in Radar Magazine)

article — Superbly Stacked

The Ultrabra Airotic British brasmiths Gossard racked up top honors at this year's Lingerie Awards with their pneumatic new Ultrabra Airotic. Advertisements for the Cleavage Enhancement category winner promise "the most revolutionary cleavage ever", thanks to an internal air pump system which allows the undeveloped to up their cups by two full sizes. While pals and co-workers might be taken aback by Flatsy Patsy's suddenly cavernous cleavage, no doubt will her cup runneth over with attentive gentlemen hoping to storm her Bastille. Viva la revolucion!

The Superbra Ladies looking to pack a little extra bada-bang into their bada-bing are invited to strap on this Bad Boy. Bringing a whole new meaning to the term "bullet bra", Quigley's bolstering holster contains easily accessible compartments for a .38 caliber handgun and a can of pepper spray. The ultra-functional design is much more kill than thrill, with little in the way of feminine trimmings and as the bra currently offers no storage of extra ammo, women wishing for a bit more friendly fire will just have to hold out hope that Quigley designs a matching thong.

The Techno Bra Safety-conscious lingerie devotees are now a heartbeat away from a very personal security system. High-tech hardware meets time-tested software in Kursty Falconer's "Techno Bra", which incorporates a built-in heart monitor, cell phone and GPS into a thin gel layer nestled into otherwise ordinary undergarments. Police are instantly notified of unexpected spikes in the wearer's heart rate. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to determine whether the bust burst was caused by a life-threatening situation or because the wearer stumbled across one of Harvey Keitel's horrifying nude scenes.

(originally published in FHM Magazine)

article — Reward Your Bottomless Pit

You think you can suck down more fried nanners than Elvis and could out-chow Brando at Cap'n Slappy's Clam 'n Waffle Hut, but have you ever thought about putting your mouth where the money is? Compete with the top gustatory gladiators in the nation's most gut-busting eating challenges...

The 6lb Challenge If perhaps your New Year's resolution involved swearing off colon health, the 6lb Steak Challenge is at your service. Polish off the preemie-sized slab of beef and a potato within a hour and 15 minutes and you won't have to reach around your monstrously swollen belly to fumble for your wallet. Losers on the other hand cough up $44.95 (among other things). Oh, and you have to eat a salad, too - Because, it's healthy.
Where: Frontier Steakhouse Cattle Co., Tampa, FL Phone: 813-621-3050

Rama Lama Ding Dong The Rama Lama Ding Dong sundae is a massive 10 scoops, garnished with a bevy of the usual trimmings and two toppings of your choice is. Finish the 3000 calories artery clogger in one sitting and it's free, along with the immortality of having your name engraved on a plaque by the entrance. Note: Make sure they get the spelling right-the undertaker's gonna need it.
Where: Ruttles 50's Grill, Ames, IA Phone: 515-233-1952

The Oyster Club First rule of Oyster Club-don't talk about Oyster Club. Well no, but chances are that you won't be able to utter much of anything after completing even the minimum requirements for joining this prestigious society. 15 dozen gulped in 4 hours gets you in, name on the wall, T-shirt and hat. Breaking the record, (currently 32 dozen) wins you all of the above, plus a voided dinner check and probably a stupid nickname like "The Shuckmeister".
Where: The Acme Oyster House Raw Oyster Eating Club, New Orleans, LA Phone: 504-282-9200

The Pointersaurus Sure, splitting a large pizza with a pal in under an hour sounds like a laughably easy way to earn $500, but that's because you're probably scant steps from instant restroom relief. Enter The Pizzasaurus. All bets are off when it's down to you, a 28" 2-topping pie, one hour and no potty breaks. The strict sequestering deters pocket pizza pilfering (and puking) and probably explains why the cash prize has only been awarded 5 times.
Where: Pointers Pizza, Saint Louis, MO Phone: 314-644-2000

The Pancake Challenge It doesn't matter if your aunt's's name is Jemima-you haven't met a pancake like these. Finish all 5 platter-sized inch thick flapjacks to earn your breakfast and a coveted Pancake Challenge ball cap. The restaurant is at an official stopover on the Pacific Crest Trail, making the Pancake Challenge popular with hikers and bikers who unlike you, Garbage Gut, will actually burn the carbs when they're done.
Where: Seiad Valley Restaurant, Seiad Valley, CA Phone: 530-496-3340

Kudzu Leaf Eating Contest Kudzu-it's not just for breakfast anymore (or lunch, or dinner for that matter). But that doesn't seem to deter the gaggle of iron-bellied Southerners who flock to Blythewood for the annual Kudzu Leaf Eating Competition. Despite the fact that kudzu is officially designated as a "noxious weed" by our government, top competitors still manage to pack down over ten pounds at a sitting.
Where: Blythewood Kudzu Festival, Blythewood, SC FAX: 520-244-2784

Ben's Annual Charity Matzo Ball Eating Contest Few things will put you off your feed more effectively than watching two sweaty-browed 325lb behemoths staggering in an effort to hold down the 13 king-sized matzoh balls they just crammed down their piehole. Get in on the action, but keep in mind that since last year's ban of the Roman Method (scarfing and barfing), spewing schmaltz will get you disqualified.
Where: Ben's Kosher Deli, New York, NY Phone: 212-398-2367

The Wing Bowl Abandon all propriety at the door, and wallow in awe at Women's Hot Sauce Wrestling and pre-breakfast beer. 2001 champion El Wingador overcame such worthy opponents as Gaseous Maximus and Lower GI Joe to set a new record of 137 wings in slightly over 30 minutes. Don't even bother entering, unless you're built like Brando, you don't have a chance.
Where: First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA Phone: 215-922-5000

World Jalapeno Pepper Eating Contest Perennial World Jalapeno eating Champion Jed Donahue has honed his pepper packing technique to perfection. The night before the competition, he stretches out his stomach by gobbling 5lbs of grapes. By contest time, his gut is sufficiently swollen to accommodate the 100-plus jalapenos it takes to win the title and top prize-a year's supply of Maalox.
Where: Jalapeno Festival, Laredo, TX Phone 210-726-6697

World Famous Onion Eating Contest One multi-year winner of the annual Vidalia Onion Eating Contest explained that the first prize of $50 was well worth five minutes of contest discomfort. Sounds reasonable, but after bolting down more than twenty onions, most of your prize money will have to be earmarked for a Breath Assure and Listerine.
Where: Annual Onion Festival, Vidalia, GA Phone: 912-537-1505

Cinco de Mayo Burrito Eating Contest Sure, you can pound beaucoup 7 layer burritos with your buds at Taco Hell, but can you handle the Grande? Jam down over one solid foot of beany, meaty goodness faster than the reigning champ, a local 22 year old girl who has held the title for the past 5 years, and you skate home with over $300 in prizes. And we do mean skate because, dude, you are NOT allowed in the car on the way home.
Where: OC Taco House, Surf City, CA Phone: 714-840-8226

Hard Boiled Egg Eating Contest Make like Cool Hand Luke and get your recommended monthly allowance of cholesterol in one handy shot. There's no scoring-just be the first one to gulp down a dozen eggs, or the most in two minutes. Guaranteed to make you seriously consider veganism-at least until dinner.
Where: Wayne Chicken Show, Wayne NE 402-375-2240

(originally published in FHM Magazine)

article — OPP

For most sane people, the idea of an entire town populated exclusively by mewling, furball-hacking, dander shedding cats is the stuff of B-movie nightmares. However, for the pet-deprived Japanese, this scenario sounds like a walk in the park. As miniscule apartments and increased working hours have effectively nixed the possibility of pet ownership, residents of Tokyo have been forced to search for their share of animal lovin' outside the home.

Suburban Tokyo's Nekotama "Cat's Park" offers 500,000 people a year the chance to get their kitty fix. For ¥700, visitors can make their way down a street lined with small houses featuring felines lounging about in various themed settings, and benches holding baskets of lashed-in cats.

The apex of petting pleasure can be found in the fenced area at the end of the park, where cats and customers are permitted to roam free and commingle to the strains of soothing music. As it's notoriously difficult to convince an unfamiliar pussy to allow someone to shower it with affection, Cat's Park attendants are on hand with cameras to capture these special moments for posterity.

Those with a yen to spend time with man's best friend (no, not Tiffani Thiessen) can mosey a bit further down the road to the infinitely more appealing (and slightly pricier) Inamuta "Dog's Town". While the town layout is similar, the atmosphere is much more upbeat, with less of an emphasis on leashes. Thus, customers are allowed an even greater opportunity to cuddle with that special bitch they've had their eye on.

Patrons who feel they're not clocking up quite enough quality weasel time can hike their scary selves on over to Tamaitachi-the land where ferrets run free. Highlights include ferret dressing contests, ferret yawning contests and, one would hope, free psychological counseling for anyone who shelled out ¥500 to be there.

(originally published in FHM Magazine)

article — Hot Dog! We Have a Wiener!

These guys aren't gluttons for punishment; they're gluttons for glory! Maxim Online sent our intrepid frank lover to cover the wildest wiener party outside of Ron Jeremy's house.

Independence Day is a time for celebration of national pride and elaborate displays of patriotism¡Zand nothing says "I love the good old US of A" quite like attempting to cram a couple of dozen hot dogs down your gaping cakehole in under twelve minutes. Every July 4th since the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest's inception in 1916, steely-stomached competitors line up behind a makeshift 32-foot table in the alley behind Nathan's flagship Coney Island Store, armed with nothing but an overwhelming lust for tube steak, and a disinclination to blow chow on international television.

Let's Get Fat!
Retired world champ and recently appointed commissioner of the sport's governing body (International Foundation of Competitive Eating), Mike "The Scholar" Devito trained regularly by scarfing down four or five lbs. of ribs and other heavy meats before competing. Up-and-comer Larry Butler of Arizona avows an intense program of daily vitamins, though he also admits that a pre-contest "trip to the greenroom" might also be an effective appetite stimulant. Teamster Syd "Mongo" Goldstein, and trencherman legend Ed "The Animal" Kratchie, each topping 300 lbs, claim to be born to the sport. On the other hand, last year's champ, the 6'5", 325 lb. Steve "The Hot Dog Terminator" Keiner claims to employ no special techniques except skipping breakfast on contest day and meditation ("I am one with the hot dog; The hot dog is one with Me").

Hungry Things Come in Small Packages
You'd think such mammoth Americans would clean up at these contests, right? Wrong! These gustatory gladiators are losing to mostly Asian guys a fraction of their size. There are many theories. They range from stomach expansion (the plus-sized gents can't expand as much due to their over-packed bodies), to ingestion of fish derived enzymes allowing for accelerated digestion beginning in the esophagus, to myths of freakish auxiliary stomachs. Whatever the secret methods, it does seem bizarre that the 5'5", 101 lbs. Kazutoyo "The Rabbit" Arai was able to slam down 25 1/8 dogs and buns in 12 minutes without spewing intestines from his nose.

Strategies for resisting the urge to purge are crucial. Since spontaneous spewing leads to disqualification, concentration becomes essential. In addition to being really unpleasant for both fellow contestants and onlookers, heaving-ho is always considered bad form. But, such noble intentions as soft swallowing and thinking happy thoughts don't always pan out, as this year saw NYC local hero Hungry Charles Hardy attempting to hold down the 19-and-a-half franks with just a hand clamped over his mouth.

Hungry, Hungry Hippos
The outrageous nature of the contest tends to draw contestants with personalities as large as their cholesterol counts. Food circuit perennial Krazy Kevin Lipsitz nearly met a hot dog related death in 1998. Lipsitz, an expert spelunker, was trapped in an underground cavern for hours by his enormously swollen belly. (He ended up abandon caving in favor of competitive gluttony.) "Las Vegas Lothario" Kid Cary DeGrosa is rarely seen without a bevy of his scantily clad "Bunnettes, " who give out tattoos and hot dog champ trading cards to onlookers.

The Feeding Frenzy!
The contest itself is a twelve-minute carnivorous orgy, with contestants allowed only the use of their hands and large cups of water to ease ingestion. Many competitors employ the "dunk and crunch" method of dipping the wiener and bun in the water. The "Tokyo Style" approach entails separating dog and bun and chain gobbling the meat while mushing the buns into a more easily ingestible wad.

Typically the final seconds of the match witness double-handed face cramming, and several amusing minutes of contestants struggling to keep from spilling as judges rack up the final tally. Take it from us: It ain't pretty.

Once the soggy crumbs are cleared, the triumphant gorger gets- well, not a hell of a lot. In fact, he gets nothing but some clogged arteries and a year's possession of the coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt. And, of course the undying gratitude of their countrymen- and that's something to relish. (Editor's note: We couldn't resist that last pun. Please shoot us.)

How To Talk With Your Mouth Full
"Suffering urges contrary to swallowing."- hurling
Tokyo style or Japanesing - separating hot dog and bun to consume separately
The Sleeper- abandoning a hot dog in the middle of the competition table
The Mule - placing a hot dog on the plate of a competitor
Wash-down - beverages
Roman Method - scarfing and barfing
IFOCE - the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the sport's governing body

(originally published at Maxim Online)

article — Yard Ale

Ninety degree days notwithstanding, in summer you just want to do everything outside, and that includes kicking back and relaxing with a six-pack- or, if you prefer, sipping Pernod under the stars. No matter what alcoholic ambience you're after, our guide to outside imbibing tells you where you can get your buzz and a tan at the same time.
Note- many outdoor venues close early so as not to invoke the wrath of nearby neighbors. Schedule your debauchery accordingly.

Urban Beer Gardens

Bohemian Hall and Park — 29-19 24th Ave, Astoria
Since 1910, the fine people of the Bohemian Citizens' Benevolent Society of America have been getting Astoria locals good and hammered on cheap pitchers of great beer in this impossibly large and wonderfully kempt park.
Drawing together a multitude of age and ethnic groups to share picnic tables and the occasional polka party, this urban oasis proudly bears its mantle as the last of the formerly 800 traditional beer gardens in New York.
If you're lucky enough to be in attendance on a night when the Kebab Cafe's Ali El Sayed is manning the kitchen, you've found heaven- but here's to finding your way to the N train after a couple of pitchers of Czech Rebel.

Hallo Berlin — 402 W. 51st St.
This 51st Street sidewalk bar interprets the word "garden" fairly loosely, but you're not here for the scraggly hanging plants- you're here to knock back some serious German brews and incredibly artful sausages.
Take a long people-watching lunch - if you focus intently enough on the boarded-up windows of the building across the street, you might even be able to convince yourself you're in Berlin, rather than on a New York sidewalk.
If not, who cares? You've got beer and sausage! Just make sure to down a few wursts to cover up that Weiss breath before you straggle back into the office.

d.b.a. — 41 First Ave.
Unless knocking elbows with single malt-swilling yuppies is your idea of a swell night out, restrict your visits to this East Village stalwart to daylight hours. That way, you can be assured of a seat with all the other blocked-up writers in the large, lovely patio-to-gravel-paved garden - one of the few places in this city that lets you forget where you are.
Enjoy this rare pleasure and let the gentle underfoot gravel crunch and murmur of conversation lull you off into a dreamland where rent doesn't eat up two-thirds of your take-home pay. Relax, pet the cat and enjoy one of the 150 bottled or 19 on-tap beers.

Basement Chic

Baraza — 133 Ave. C
Perhaps the same masochistic impulse that drove previous generations to turn phone booth- and V.W.-stuffing into national pastimes beckons denizens of Avenue C onto the postage stamp-sized patio of this funky Latin-tinged lounge.
Baraza's eclectically designed interior provides plenty of room to groove and sprawl - due in part to the occasional weekend measure of restricting access to all but card-carrying regulars. But there's precious little room outside for both you and your mojito.
Then again, who needs room? On sultry summer nights, bar-goers are packed into the high-walled space like rush-hour subway commuters - but they're twice as pretty and half as dressed. And as an added summertime touch, the friendly bartenders sometimes grill up hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers, free, with the purchase of a drink.

Good World — 3 Orchard St.
You won't need to slather on the SPF 15 if you're planning on whiling away a summer afternoon on Good World's back patio. Little more than a glorified, high-walled alley behind the otherwise charming Scandinavian bar, this dark, tabled area proves adequately as a cell-phone zone or as a momentary respite from the smoky crush inside.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Staten Island Ferry — South Ferry Plaza South and Whitehall Streets.
Why don't more people know about this? On some ferry runs, you can actually buy beer at the concession stands. While it might not be legally advisable to toss your next kegger on the Shaolin Shuttle, you don't need no shmancy high-priced Circle Line for your offshore alcohol any more. Isaac, Gopher, report to the Lido deck and don't forget the limbo stick!

Metro Grill Roof Garden — 45 W. 35th St.
Once you've taken the elevator, trekked the hallways past the penthouse suites, gym and ice machine and actually managed to find this rooftop hotel bar, you're really ready for a drink.
Don't expect much in the way of excitement from the flimsy portable bar or bland patio décor, though - that's not why you schlepped up here. The real payoff is the jaw-dropping view of a rare angle of midtown - including the almost embarrassingly priapic jut of the nearby Empire State Building.

A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine

Divine Bar — S244 E 51st St
If Bacchus chooses to smile down upon you, you may be able to snag one of the few marble-topped tables on the petite second-floor balcony of this midtown wine-tapas-cigar bar.
The cozy space lends trés romantique overtones, as do the French doors, elegantly shielding you and your paramour from the indoor miasma of cigar smoke and yuppie-on-the-make banter.
Gaze lovingly into each other's eyes over a flight of well-paired wines and a chocolate fondue while you bask in the pleasure of an outdoor bar rarity - padded seats.

M&R Bar — 264 Elizabeth St
At the back of this sweetly chic '50s-styled bar is one of the nicest treats in all of downtown. The intimate (read "wee") cafe garden boasts an equally scaled down fountain and some tasty bistro cuisine to go with your reverently prepared Sidecar.
While M&R is most likely trying for a European garden vibe, the close quarters, green tarp and perpetually burbling fountain are actually reminiscent of a back-corner display at the garden section of a large, outer-borough hardware store. That's actually kind of a selling point, though - just try and find a New Yorker who doesn't froth at the mouth at the prospect of a trip to Home Depot.
But be warned - the garden shuts down at 10pm sharp so as to avoid conflict with the neighbors. Just move your feast forward to the charming (if kitschy) front bar and recommence frolic.

St. Dymphna's — 118 St. Marks Place
Nothing goes better with a perfect pint of Guinness than some black-and-white pudding and a side of beans.
While this type of Irish delight might be a touch heavier than your standard cafe fare, somehow anything that happens in this high-walled, half-tented back garden seems, well, magically delicious.
Just try not to swallow too many of those little green things continually hailing down from the tree. And don't fake a brogue if you don't really have one. No one likes that.

Down on the Corner

Liquor Store Bar — 235 W. Broadway
Inside, this delightful liquor store-turned-neighborhood bar is slightly reminiscent of grandma and grandpa's house (albeit with a much better stocked liquor cabinet). Outside, corner sidewalk seating can be easily arranged to accommodate expanding groups, or just to optimally situate one's self for pointing and laughing at the trend slaves foaming to get into the Bubble Lounge across the street.
Here's your chance to make like a tourist in your own town. Just try not to gawk too obviously if Harvey Keitel walks by. If you're lucky, he'll have his pants on.

The Gate — 321 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
The eponymous gate of this genial Park Slope pub marks off a decently-sized cement patio where pre-IPO locals can comfortably get sloshed on a wide variety of microbrews without having to worry about catching a train home.
As with all al fresco venues, arrive early for optimum seating. On a clear day, you can sit back and watch the neighborhood gentrify around your ears. Just enjoy the fact that you're downing your Park Slope Ale scant blocks from its birthplace, and you're probably paying a couple of dollars less for it than you would in that other borough.

Garden Party

Excelsior — 390 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
What a concept - a garden bar that actually takes the "garden" part seriously! Several steps down from the sturdy suburban-style deck of this chic Park Slope neighborhood gay bar is one of the greenest and most carefully tended plots in all of drinkland.
Careful though - after a few of Excelsior's divinely mixed cocktails, the narrow pathways might be a bit more difficult to navigate. Bonus style points: The decorators took the trouble to find red lawn chairs to complement the bar's rose-colored interior.
Definitely a welcome change from the tacky insouciance of the white plastic chairs omnipresent in NYC outdoor bars. God truly is in the details - if you're lucky, a mulberry from the gargantuan tree might plop in and sweeten up your Stoli.

Sweet & Vicious — 5 Spring St.
Through some inexplicable inversion of physical space, the backyard garden at Sweet and Vicious generally proves more claustrophobia-inducing than the softly-lit medieval-minimalist interior bar.
Perpetually populated by other people's overlapping soirees, the garden and its maddening throng are often difficult to navigate through without tripping into someone else's birthday cake. Also, the utilitarian overhang at the far end of the garden gives a disconcerting sense of milling about in someone's tool shed.
Remember when Jennifer used to have those beer bashes on her patio when her parents were out of town? Guess what - you're still not invited. Forego the trip down memory lane and have another Club Raki at the roomy bar inside. It's OK; we know you're cool.

B-Bar (a.k.a. Bowery Bar) — 40 E. 4th St.
After you wend your way through the front bar's forest of Abercrombie models and the Jersey boys who love them, this spacious open back area provides a much-needed breath of fresh air. Just make sure to sit in the "no table service" area so that the pretty waiter doesn't have to demean himself by bringing you a drink.
In sharp contrast to the sleek front bar and potted-palm Denny's-in-Havana ambience of the main dining area, the décor of the walled-in backyard is decidedly down-market. With its striped awnings, cheap oilcloth tablecloths, umbrellas and institutional plastic chairs, B-Bar's vibe is more 19th hole than East 4th Street.

Barramundi — 147 Ludlow St.
Ludlow Street favorite Barramundi doesn't miss a trick. The nicely-sized and fairy-lit garden is a welcome respite from the hordes of Lower East Side trendseekers on the hunt for the next new thing.
A rarity in the outdoor drinking scene, the garden bar is actually a garden. Flower-filled and chock-a-block with tabled seating, this is the ideal spot for sipping summer punches, but stick to weeknight visits so you can actually grab a table and sit without knocking over someone else's caipirinha.
Also worth noting - the garden is bolted at 10pm sharp, so be prepared to move your debaucheries forward to the eclectically decorated interior bar.

(originally published at CitySearch)

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