When I moved back to New York City in early 2006, I moonlighted as a contributing writer for PAPER magazine. I reviewed bars and boutiques for multiple magazine issues.

September 2006 Issue

Sophia Eugene Boutique

If you saw the recent photos of Paris Hilton’s arrest where she’s wearing a red belt over a white top, then you are already familiar with Sophia Eugene. The label is the brainchild of Christopher Crawford, who wanted to create a new line of clothing appealing to a slightly younger and cooler gal. A chance meeting in the street led to an iced tea with co-founder and designer LaShunda Hamner: The end result is this little jewel-box of a store in the West Village, which stocks mod-inspired clothing in a mostly neutral palette. I fell in love with the Celine dress in gold-painted lamé with bluebell-shaped sleeves ($298) and the Stella jacket, a cross between a bolero jacket and short cape, in a cream teddy-bear fur ($398). Also worth mentioning is the Sienna dress, a ’60s space-age number in a crinkled almost-looks-like-snakeskin gold ($298). If you look closely enough, you will also find cameo rings and other costume jewelry treasures hanging on the wall, as well as That Belt ($77) in white, gold and assorted prints.

Mehanata Bar

Mehanata looks like it’s been transplanted from the middle of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, although the journey its new-and-improved venue made was local to NYC, having lost its lease to a Ramada hotel. The bars on both floors have a good selection of reasonably-priced drinks (from $7 for mixed drinks, and beer and wine, some imported from Bulgaria). If you’re feeling bold, have a shot of potent rakia, the national liquor enjoyed by most, which tastes like evil roses. If you’re lucky, you might find that Alex whips out his chemistry set to make you a home brew on the spot! Alex, the Bulgarian-born owner, quietly takes delight in his bar which has a couple of eccentric touches. His explanation for the washing line of colorful underwear strung up by the chandelier was “a few girls throw [their underwear] so we decided to use them. You like it? You can throw your bra over there…” You’ll find yourself kicking up your heels to a passionate, eclectic mix of music—brass bands, DJ Hutz or gypsy music, to name a few. Coming up September 29th – October 8th is their Music Festival, with the World Music Institute. Whether you want the decadence of the musical Sofia nightlife without the hefty plane fare, or just are up for a wild night out, Mehanata is the place. Nasdrave!

August 2006 Issue

Armoire Boutique

Even if I were taken back to Armoire blindfolded, I’d know where I was just by touching the clothes: Owner Melissa Ray has quite a knack for sniffing out fabrics with textural interest. Upon entering, I immediately fell in love with a coat by Mint, whose cream wool imitated the look and feel of raw silk. Ray has an eye for up-and-coming designers and also a talent for choosing clothes that suit her loyal Williamsburg customers. A knee-length, plum-colored Wyeth dress conjured up all the fun of the roaring 1920s (how did she know that I’ve secretly been longing to be a flapper?). Slinky dresses, fine knits and all the store’s great denim would look great with a pair of Jacqueline Schnabel boots (Ray’s favorites are the two-inch-heeled, slouchy green-suede ones) and the Mercer clutch from Hayden Harnett in soft mustard-yellow leather with brass hardware. Taking pride of place is the eponymous armoire, a handsome antique Ray picked up on Bedford Avenue, bursting with treasures such as corduroy sweaters, floral baby-doll dresses from Cassguy, tailored sweatshirts from Mike & Chris and ultrasoft cotton T’s and lacy dresses from Woo. Ray’s hope was that Armoire would have the feel of “everyone’s big closet.” Indeed, stepping in is like finding yourself in an older — and much cooler — sister’s walk-in wardrobe: your style, but way better.

May 2006 Issue

K&M Bar

There once was a pierogi place called Krystyna and Margaret, which was itself probably once a 1920s Williamsburg barbershop. Now it’s a bar named K&M (a nod to the former owners) with an aluminum ceiling rusty from decades of boiling pierogi. Six months, two tetanus shots and sixteen stitches later, K&M has emerged as a muted 1950s local rock ‘n’ roll hangout, complete with retro bar stools and an antique red exit sign above the door. Andrea, the bartender, bubbles with enthusiasm for K&M and its emerging clientele, which so far is a cross section of local artists, curious dogs and the usual evening beer swillers. With 10 countries represented in the beer selection, this place specializes in the stuff- -whether you’re looking for a domestic brew, something more exotic (Lindeman’s Framboise, Belgium, $10) or a downright quaint draught (Greene King Abbot Ale, U.K., $5)- -although there’s a full bar, too. DJs spin Monday through Wednesday and pop hits are banned, but anything else goes, except regarding the decor: A warning on a favorite postcard, “No fuckheads of any type”, is probably directed at the thieves who stole one of the chairs.

April 2006 Issue

Clandestino Bar

Fresh-faced Parisian Laure Travers says her intention with the two-month old Clandestino was not to open a French joint but a neighborhood hangout. Despite her intentions, she’s succeeded at both, and we’re all the luckier for it. The minimalist shabby-chic bar is nestled among other Euro-New York institutions like Les Enfants Terribles and the Swedish Good World Bar & Grill. Clandestino has a downtempo vibe — a combination of the best of downtown New York (exposed brick and full bar) and Paris (muted nicotine-colored walls, brass handrails and a short but varied French wine list). If you’re feeling peckish, you can snack on a deliciously simple combination of poilâne — a rustic whole-wheat bread that Travers has FedExed in from Paris — and French cheeses and pâté. Wash it down with a good selection of draft beers, imported or otherwise: Hoegaarden, Guinness, Bass, Pilsner Urquell, Red Hook, Sixpoint Sweet Action Ale ($5-$6) or a cocktail ($6-$11). Travers has lived in the area for 10 years and is pleased that Clandestino draws a local crowd as well as new faces. It’s evident from the decor and the menus that she’s passionate about what she does. “It’s kind of like organizing a little party every day,” she says.

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