NB: The Project Neon giveaway winner will be announced soon!
Holy cow, you guys! Circo’s Pastry Shop’s recently restored neon is BEAUTIFUL. I emailed them ages ago to ask if they had any plans to relight their long-dark neon signs, and received a friendly reply that gave me some home that some day, maybe, it might just happen. But I know how these things go, and the chances of a large-scale neon restoration seem vanishingly small these days. But then, lo and behold, earlier this summer New York Neon blog reported the great news that super neon-bender Robbie Ingui of Artistic Neon had completed the restoration of the main signs. (I recommend reading that post for a wonderful behind-the-scenes report.)
With one thing and another I hadn’t made it out there until last night. The long, dark winter nights mean it’s now prime neon-viewing season, so I jumped on the L train and headed out to the far side of Bushwick — nearly to Ridgewood, Queens — to have a look for myself. (I was too cold to continue on to Queens Tavern née Caskys, but picking up some anisette biscotti and bringing them to the tavern for beer dunking sounds like a great neon double-feature for another time.)
There’s a bold neon-red “BAKERY” on one side of the corner storefront, and a classic pink and green “CIRCO’S pastry shop” on the other. The capital letters have slab-serifs, and “pastry shop” is in one of the most appealing neon scripts I’ve seen yet. I’m seriously in love with this neon and glad I hauled myself out in the cold to visit.
You should go, too. You should really, really go. It’s a fabulous Italian bakery, full of traditional Italian treats like biscotti di San Marino (only available in the fall near his feast day, November 11) and new-fangled confections, like custom-made cakes.
An aside about San Marino: he’s the patron saint of wine-makers (a fall activity), and legend says that San Marino cut his cloak to give half to a beggar for warmth, so an unseasonably late warmth, near his feast day (what we call an Indian summer) is known in Italy (and France) as a St. Marino’s summer (estate di san marino). I’m going to start using that. His feast is celebrated by eating biscotti di San Marino, and dunking them in new wine.
I settled on some anisette biscotti (I’m currently trying to corral the crumbs away from my keyboard), and marveled at the shop’s classic details, like the name in terrazzo on the front step. According to the writeup over on New York Neon, the window neon is currently being repaired — can’t wait to see that. And maybe, just maybe, the fantastic vertical “Dolceria” sign will come later. I hope so! If buying more biscotti will help, I’ll certainly be back soon. (Especially since I’m not 100% pleased with my photos — apologies for the weird color shift!)
Circo’s, you’re the best, and a new Project Neon favorite. Thanks for restoring your sign, and thanks to Artistic Neon for doing such a beautiful job.
(In Red Hook on Conover Street btwn Reed & Beard Streets)
I’ve written about Sunny’s before, but I’m here now to tell you that Sunny’s needs your help. This wonderful bar is in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and as many of you know, Red Hook was hit hard by the storm. Sunny’s did not escape damage.
Head on over to Kickstarter to help reopen Sunny’s, or head to Hamilton Gallery Theater on Saturday for another fundraiser. Their Kickstarter project has some really great rewards, including a miniature version of their awesome neon sign. Help out if you can!
Eddie’s Sweet Shop
(On Metropolitan Avenue at 72nd Road in Forest Hills, Queens)
Why are we not hanging out at Eddie’s ALL THE TIME? Seriously, it is the best. It’s a lovely old-fashioned soda fountain, with house-made ice cream and lots of other delicious stuff. When I stopped in on Tuesday, it was empty except the two (very nice) kids behind the counter, one couple, and me. Of course it was dinner time, but who doesn’t want ice cream for dinner?
I opted for a root-beer float with coffee ice cream — a tricky thing to eat while walking since you need to wield both straw and spoon, but that’s what I wanted so that’s what I got. I should have stayed and eaten it there, but I had miles to go before the night was over (I’ll show you the rest of the photos from that night soon) so I didn’t. Next time, though, I’ll stay — the inside is one of the most charming spaces in New York.
I can’t really judge the quality of the ice cream since mine was deliciously immersed in root-beer, but it seemed quite good if not world-beater quality. I make my own ice cream pretty regularly, so I’m more interested in an ice cream place with an array of great toppings, a wonderful atmosphere, and yes — neon! The soda jerks (I love that term…) inside were friendly and even undercharged me according to the prices posted. Seriously you guys — we need to go here all the time.
It’s a 15 or 20 minute walk from the subway (or the LIRR if you prefer), but the walk is largely through a weirdly magical fairy land of faux-Tudor fancy homes, which more than made up for the lack of commercial life, and next time I need to remember that the Q54 bus goes right there. The Ice Cream Express! Well, OK, more like the Ice Cream Local, but still. The shop itself is on a corner of Metropolitan Avenue, and the sign is a simple but classic pink SODA wrapping around the shiny stainless corner above the corner entrance.
I’ve known about Eddie’s for a long time, but never took the time to make the trek. I’m really glad Project Neon made me finally do it. And now we all need to hang out here all the time… and eat all the ice cream.
Old Town Bar
(In the Flatiron District north of Union Square on East 18th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South)
I am on felony grand jury duty this week and next, and it is exhausting—there are a lot of things that happen in the County of Kings that I would rather not have to hear about. At the end of the day I need to get out and see some good things to rebalance my view of the world. I also need a drink. So yesterday I brought my camera with me (though I had to check it in with the wardens—no cameras allowed in the courtrooms) and as soon as we were released for the day I headed out on a neon expedition.
I had to spend over an hour, though, waiting for the sun to set. Damn these longer days, and most especially damn the early start of Daylight Savings Time. Speaking as someone who grew up in Alaska I know that’s a strong statement, possibly bordering on crazy, but I’m disconsolate about all the early-closing neon-adorned shops that I can no longer photograph properly. For the first time ever I am already looking forward to fall before spring is even really here.
After I paced the Brooklyn Promenade impatiently waiting for the sun to set, I photographed a few of the neon signs on my to do list (I apologize for being way behind on the Google Map, but as always you can see all the photos over on Flickr), then headed up to Old Town Bar to sit a spell and have a drink. The bar stool gods were smiling upon me, and I managed to get a seat at the beautiful old mahogany bar (you can see a picture of it on their website) and the photo above is the view from my seat through the leaded glass window. A small order of fries and a beer, together with the pleasant chatter of bar patrons on either side of me were a balm to my troubled soul.
I’ve taken pictures of the sign itself more than once (Old Town is an old favorite.) It’s a simple, classic neon sign on enamel with a great shape—I love those cutouts around “Bar.” I also love the small flourish at the bottom center you can just make out at night, the simple fonts, the classic curved “A” of Bar, and the pink and green neon glow.
Old Town has aged gracefully inside and out. It’s been on 18th Street above Union Square since 1892, but is no fuddy-duddy oldster. Everything about Old Town is worn but tidy, from the massive wood bar to the also massive porcelain urinals (which were recently feted with a 100th birthday party.) It’s comfortable rather than creaky, and the mix of patrons makes it feel lively and welcoming. Friday and Saturday nights usually find it a bit more crowded than I’m up for, but otherwise there are few places on earth I’d rather be.
(On 5th Avenue between 85th & 86th Streets in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)
I have pinkeye. This is a little ironic because I’m not really a big fan of the color pink in general—I guess I’m not much of a girly girl. Pink is warm and flattering and sweet, but it’s just not me. I find, however, that I do love pink neon signs. I even love red and pink neon together (I mean, look at the Project Neon logo!), which is a pretty much abhorrent color combination in most other contexts. Possibly all other contexts.
I mention the pinkeye not just as an excuse to discuss color in general or the colors of neon in particular (though I will happily do either all day), but to explain why I’m cheating a bit here. I am not really up to venturing out into the sleet right now to visit any neon, so I’m going to tell you the story of a recent visit to Hinsch’s instead. Consider this a warm-up post, OK?
Hinsch’s Confectionary is mostly a diner, though they do have ice cream and home-made candy. I feel I must warn you that the food is not really worth the pilgrimage, especially if you, like me, go when the R train isn’t running. It’s way the hell out there in Bay Ridge. But it does have a couple of fantastic neon signs which are worth the trek.
The best sign you can see above—it just says, “Hinsch” in classic pink neon. No possessive, just the name in beautiful script with extra strokes to fill in the wider spots, immense and glowing. The “Luncheon” and “Hand Made Candy” in the window seem like mere afterthoughts, lost in the glow of Hinch, though they are nice, too. I find neon is never as impressive in windows like that as it is when it has a dark background to show off the glow.
The vertical sign up above the storefront would also be fantastic, but more than half of it is burned out. Man, I hope they fix it. The whole thing up and running must be a sight to see.
Since I travelled so far, I stopped in for French fries and a coffee milkshake. There weren’t a lot of people there, but it was a very chatty spot. First a guy on his way out admired my Alaska curling sweater at length (it is pretty cool) and then the fellow behind the counter who made my milkshake asked me if I like to take pictures, why on earth I would take pictures of their neon sign, and explained that he also likes to take pictures. All of this took a lot of gesticulating as my Spanish is pretty limited and his English was, too, but it was nice to chat with a fellow photogropile. An excellent visit to a classic New York spot with a classic neon sign.