The Concept: Inwood Tavern has been around for 46 years, with a reputation as one of the dive-iest spots in town. The kind of place where serious drinking was done, salty bartenders were the norm, and which uppity folks avoided. New owners Lisa and Tom Elia Georgalis decided it was time to freshen up the Inwood Road mainstay. Some of the "charm" is gone — like the warped shuffleboard table and the ratty sofas in the back room — but the updates are well-considered. The patio has been expanded and greatly improved (the temporary tent with Christmas lights and no ventilation is out, and fans, flowers, and a pergola are in). Where once sat boxes overflowing with ancient tax receipts, a new floor and better lighting tie the living room together. It's still the kind of place you'd tell your grandfather you went to, and he can still be proud ... or confused since he didn't see you there.
Who's There: The old-time regulars (especially during the day, according to long-time bartender John), but the new look has brought a younger crowd with it. The age range is still in the mid 30s to 40s. Everyone is casually dressed and ready to throw back a few.
What They're Drinking: Beer, shots, and mixed drinks in red plastic Solo cups. "It's a regulars' thing," John says. "People don't come in for 20 years, and they come back and ask for a red cup." Ostensibly the cup is used to take drinks from inside to outside, but in the old days taking your libations to-go was probably a frequent occurrence. Does anyone have a lid and some Scotch tape?
What's Playing: The digital jukebox has everything from Radiohead to Widespread Panic to Robert Palmer. On weekends, live music is drawing crowds. John told us sales were up 170% on Fridays and Saturdays.
When You Enter, Make a Beeline For: The bar. Get a drink, then mingle. Stay long enough and you will be entertained.
When the Crowd Arrives: The scene really gets going on weekend nights around 8. Overspill from the swanky restaurants nearby will bring people looking for a good time after dinner, a drink right before they eat, or a crowd of rowdies ready to burn the place down.
Be Sure to Check Out: The back room. Yes, it's been redone, and new leather couches replace the old stained ones. But things haven't changed that much. On a recent happy hour visit, we went looking for a place to sit only to find a couple making out heavily.
Another tip: There's pretty much no food sold here, but you can get delivery from Fireside Pies or Campisi's. Occasionally those restaurants will stop in selling pizza by the slice.
Overheard: "If you don't put some music on the jukebox I'm putting you in time out."
Bottom Line: The Tavern has retained its divey charm, but it feels just a bit nicer. Whether the crowds at night are a blessing or a curse remains to be seen. The Lovers and Inwood corner has seen many a new storefront in recent years, but its roots with the old guard remain strong.
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