Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
tortilla flats

best bar in the world. corner of washington and west 12th street, new york. they have tequila and bingo. hula hoop on wednesdays. if i’m at a loose end i’ll wander down there late and usually end up in conversation until closing, sometimes with friends, sometimes not — mostly with people i’ve never met before.

let’s start with the assumption that everything here is conversation. no matter how heated or trivial, wise or stupid, it’s a mutual exchange — maybe opposition, maybe agreement, maybe a laugh or two, but never the need to step outside.

the first round is on me.

what do you want to talk about?

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON May.12.2004 BY graham
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

Didnt we try to take you to Flats for the Speak Up chatarama? Ah yes- too crowded. Walk on.

It is indeed an institution of good Faux-Mex times. Faux Mex. I just made that up. How bout that. Thanks Billy Crystal. Good times.

On May.12.2004 at 10:38 AM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

The Flats used to be my neighborhood hang. But I both grew up and moved to Chelsea, so my questions (like any New Yorker) are New York questions.

First, why Tortilla Flats? The house margaritas are made with lower-end tequilla; which disrupts your sleep and gives you a headache in the morning.

Then, I'd go into a reverie of 15 years ago — when they hired a, ahem, good chef and the food for one brief year was good. That chef went on to open El Teddy's with one of the co-owners of the Flats — and the food went back to it's original glutonous incarnation.

So Graham, what is it? The music? It certainly can't be the bridal parties, the birthday parties or the young Wall-Street-masters-of-the-universe.

On May.12.2004 at 10:44 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

lower-end tequilla; which disrupts your sleep and gives you a headache

heh. thats why people drink tequilla. Is not a timid, whiny New York quencher.

what is it?

I'll bet I can answer this one. Its the staff, Moderately priced menu/drinks, and the diverse, who knows atmosphere thats just a step above Hogs Pit BBQ (up the street, better food btw). For the best, its Mexican Mama on Hudson.

On May.12.2004 at 10:51 AM
graham’s comment is:

steve, one of the owners, is probably one of the biggest iggy pop fans on the planet. which has often led to a beautiful drunken elegy on how 'twist and shout' is the best punk song ever. which once led to me being introduced to someone who is a brilliant designer-not necessarily in the graphic sense-who couldn't understand why graphic designers don't just enjoy what they do and just ride the potential for loucheness that all the designerly arts offer. although, that night, i think i lost him somewhere around the point i had managed to change the world (of course in a noble act of self-sacrifice), we've remained friends and i love him down to his wood patterned thin plastic wall coverings. he also turned me on to a movie called 'the world's greatest sinner'. now that's worth a google.

On May.12.2004 at 11:45 AM
Patrick’s comment is:

>For the best, its Mexican Mama on Hudson.

Fresh margeritas, killer salsas and kick-ass food. Mmmm.

On May.12.2004 at 01:05 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:


On May.12.2004 at 01:23 PM
graham’s comment is:

i added the -ness, but;

louche: of questionable taste or morality; "a louche nightclub"; "a louche painting".

synonyms-disreputable, fishy, fly-by-night, funny, shady, queer, questionable, shaded, shadowed, shadowy, suspect, suspicious, umbrageous, untrustworthy, untrusty.

but in a good way.

On May.12.2004 at 02:03 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Is there a difference between the bars that designers choose to frequent, meaning, are there any traits in a certain bar that would attract designers… or come party time it doesn't really matter?

On May.12.2004 at 02:12 PM
graham’s comment is:

armin-new york bars. there's something about all of them. every one i've been to. maybe it's because i heart new york (i'd be living there now if i didn't have kids). actually. it definitely is. but-i'll tell you; friendly. more so than london, paris (obviously)-actually, as friendly as ireland-tokyo, seville, l.a., amsterdam, wherever . . . tortilla flats-at first, the music. then, the fact that the first night i went (10 years ago) we won 4 pitchers of margarita on music trivia-oh yeah, don't drink the pitchers. get it custom made, or just drink the negra modelo with a shot of patron-and probably the nicest people in there, staff and clientele. never any trouble. the no smoking screwed it all up though. actually-i've celebrated getting work in there, starting work, finishing jobs, drunk over when bad jobs go worse, sat in a daze when things have been completely pear-shaped; i've even shot a video in there. conversation with an ultimate fighter about mary poppins. giving away all the cds i had with me one night. a weird coincidence of designers (actually, could that be the collective noun?) one night. michael stipe singing along to glen campbell (missed that by one night, unfortunately). places like this can be life savers. literally.

On May.12.2004 at 02:34 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

michael stipe singing along to glen campbell

damn. now thats who knows kinda stuff. you wouldnt find that at Nobu.

gimme aheads up next time you privy the flats.

and remove that blush youre scaring the kids!

On May.12.2004 at 02:53 PM
mitch’s comment is:

whats funny is there is a Tortilla Flats up here in Providence, too. (not the same owners as the one in NYC) i'm sure you missed it last time you guys were here, but next time you are in town we are going. if only for duality's sake.

On May.12.2004 at 03:21 PM
Paul’s comment is:

Armin, I'll bite on your "designer bars" question.

I can't speak for others, but I have a low tolerance for artifice when it comes to watering holes. Accidental ambience, layers of evident ownership, random mixtures of patrons, these are the things I seek. The homogeonous and trendy can be fun in VERY small doses, but when I want to truly unwind I prefer a place that at the very least FEELS, well, undesigned. Do I blashpeme? Perhaps, but while I'm at it, have the barkeep send a Modelo down to the loud limey at the far end of the bar. On me...

On May.12.2004 at 03:57 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

I prefer undesigned places as well. They tend to be designed better.

"Hey bartender, buy a drink for Donkey, that guy at the end of the bar."

Bartender to Donkey: "Here ya go, on Tom. Tell me, why does he call you Donkey?"

"Oh, HeeeHawwlways calls me that!"

On May.12.2004 at 04:05 PM
the bartender’s comment is:

that's it, pal. you've had enough.

On May.12.2004 at 04:09 PM
Petter Ringbom’s comment is:

Is there a difference between the bars that designers choose to frequent, meaning, are there any traits in a certain bar that would attract designers… or come party time it doesn't really matter?

I really hope there's not a designer bar preference. If there is, I don't want to go there.

On May.12.2004 at 05:50 PM
Helen’s comment is:

I'm heading to New York in a couple of weeks for a holiday, so thanks for the bar/eatery tips.

*takes notes*

Mexican Mama sounds like a must-visit. There's pretty much no good Mexican food in Australia at all. Oh quesadilla, how I've missed you!

On May.12.2004 at 07:32 PM
pk’s comment is:

I really hope there's not a designer bar preference.

i've noticed they have either amazing or unspeakably shitty taste in bars. nowhere in between. by "shitty," i mean "overstyled, overpriced, and a place in which to be seen." in chicago, that would be sonique, crobar, or transit. and by "amazing," i mean "corner dives that nobody can package and franchise." and in chicago, that means small bar (i'm told, it's a half-block from my house and i have yet to go), artful dodger, annex 3 (which is my favorite gay bar...seventy-year-old drag queens and a slimy drunk bartender with a moustache who actually winks at you, makes kissyface and tickles your palm when giving you change. heaven, i tell you).

On May.13.2004 at 11:23 AM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

Is there a difference between the bars that designers choose to frequent...

My only requirement is a good mix of people, friendly atmosphere. The only places I tend to have an active nightlife in are NYC and in New Paltz (...tangent...lately known as GAY MARRIAGE capital of the world - - it hasn't been as exciting as we'd thought or as the papers have portrayed it to be - - it is life as usual here - no biggie!).

I agree with Graham with the New York Bars comment (always good, always full of life/energy/something - but New York clubs -- that is another story and a love/hate relationship with me.

Here in good ole' New Paltz - - we have the typical art-college town bars - -which do me just fine. Actually, they have allowed me to learn a lot - - and become more open-minded!! (SOME of the things I have seen with a 4am closing hour!)

They all tend to have a great variety of music, live and in the jukebox - - and display rotating local art - - always interesting!!

On May.13.2004 at 03:48 PM
ugh’s comment is:

worst-discussion-ever. this place gets more and more like aol every day.

On May.13.2004 at 06:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Yeah, it hasn't been the best discussion ever Mr. Ugh. But I doubt that was the intention. A few flops here and there keep us on our toes. Thank you for the insightful criticism.

(I was going to delete the comment, since anonymous comments are as useless, ridiculous and irrelevant as it gets but just today because it is awfully rainy up here I'll leave it be).

On May.13.2004 at 06:54 PM
ps’s comment is:

hand me a strong drink. i'm about ready to kill a client. how frustrating it can be when you get a brief, stick to it, deliver a perfectly good solution only to find out that the brief really did mean shit. and they can't even tell you in person. they send an eMail.... "oh... we really like it, just a couple suggestions... the suggestion basically telling you that they want something completely different than they ask for. sure we get paid for our time... grrr.

hit me again.

On May.14.2004 at 01:22 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

Some friends of mine designed and built this bar interior.

Note the people "in uniform" in the photos. Excellent.

On May.14.2004 at 01:36 PM
kevinhopp’s comment is:


Is this a site for designers who live in NYC to rub themselves with, or.....

Please explain, because I've submitted critical thoughts in the past, and wasn't posted. And then I find stuff like this showing up....

If this is a chat for designers solely living in NYC, can you start a site up for us that live in the Motor City, so we can rub each other too? We really like to make face in Mexican town, and do tequilla slammers, and look cool and other things Babylonians do....

bizarre entry Armin, bizarre

On May.14.2004 at 01:40 PM
Armin’s comment is:

bizarre entry Armin, bizarre

It's been a bizarre month…

> Please explain, because I've submitted critical thoughts in the past, and wasn't posted.

Just FYI, I have close to 80 suggested topics in queue. Some will get posted, some will not. Some have been delegated to other authors, some have not.

Every author here has autonomy to post what they like. Sometimes I don't agree — of these times, I sometimes ask them to rewrite or to remove. Sometimes, I just let it be, because there is something interesting that can come up.

So, it's all about sometimes.

I probably should have asked graham to remove, clarify or exemplify. The good thing is that there are ten other great discussions going on.

On May.14.2004 at 02:29 PM
Zoelle’s comment is:

Armin - It's a good thing you didn't post my "mullet photos" suggestion. ;-)

On May.14.2004 at 02:38 PM
graham’s comment is:

i can clarify: i wanted to try something unclear (although i've got to say i thought "what do you want to talk about?" wasn't all that ambiguous).

something to do with tone rather than subject. something open, loose, light, without the weight of essaying or . . . 'issues' (here's a tissue). a conversation . . . not necessarily about bars.

maybe something that could take on the digressions that can sometimes derail other threads. or something where kevinhopp for example could post his critical thoughts and see what happens, where it goes . . .

anyway-not everything works. c'est la vie.

next . . .

On May.14.2004 at 02:59 PM
Paul’s comment is:

Sometimes being non-critical, goofy, and off-topic is, um , gosh, what is that word....?

oh yeah. FUN.

i appreciated the effort, graham, for whatever that is worth. had no idea what you were going for, but whatever, man. went with the flow for the sake of entertainment.

Ephemera forever!

On May.14.2004 at 04:36 PM
graham’s comment is:

thats right.

i like a laugh.

On May.14.2004 at 05:01 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

I like to be able to talk in-depth about absolutely nothing at all sometimes - - I liked this discussion.

Being random sometimes gives me my best original ideas!!!!

On May.14.2004 at 11:59 PM
Steven’s comment is:

And on the subject of bar ambience, it is notable that many of us prefer divy "venacular" influenced environments, over the stylishly slick "branded" environments.

On May.15.2004 at 02:16 AM
lynnsterr’s comment is:

Actually I liked this topic too... although it just made me wish that I didn't live in LA... or that I had cool designerly friends here that would shoot back tequila with me. So many folks I know are too busy being self absorbed nowadays to have time for fun. Too bad...

Now old memories of wasted nights in the William Randolph Hearst booth at the HMS Bounty are flooding back to my mind. Hee. Anybody reading this from LA & feel like shootin' some pool? Man, that sounds so fun...

On May.15.2004 at 06:53 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

oh yeah somehow you always leave this place with one eye open, really cool and the people who hang there make it one of the best spots around.

On May.24.2004 at 12:19 PM