Alas, Lit is closing, but could Mr. Fong’s keep hope alive for the downtown set? Lucas Moran, who just opened the neighborhood bar in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, wants his new place to be “like the way Max Fish used to be when I was a kid, but with better cocktails.”
You’ll find the place tucked away on the corner of Market and Madison Streets, amidst Asian grocery stores and Chinese takeout joints (and right next to where Fun used to be). Moran and his partners Aisa Shelley and Adam Moonves are still applying the finishing touches, but for the past week they’ve been quietly welcoming those in the know.
Moran, an artist, has bartended since the ’90s at places like The Fat Radish and Fatty ‘Cue, where he also contributed a mural. He wants Mr. Fong’s to be “like a real New York bar like the kinds of places we grew up with, like it’s been there for 10 years.” For that reason, beers are no more than $7, wines are $9 and cocktails, though made with top-notch ingredients, are $9. “New York doesn’t have a place like that. Now when you go out and drink cocktailing has become this big thing. You’ve got to get educated about it at first. It got a little overwhelming, a little pretentious.”
Moran originally planned to serve Chinese dishes, but when he spoke with 200 locals while acquiring signatures for the community board, “everybody looked at me like I was an idiot for wanting to serve Chinese food at my bar,” he explained.
The result is bar food like a Chinese-style charcuterie plate, a bacon slider that’s “essentially a pool bun on a Martin’s potato roll,” and a mix created after Moran walked around the local stores and picked up various Asian snacks that worked well together.
“Right now the theme is you drop an Italian guy in Chinatown and see what he does,” said Moran with a laugh. The neighborhood’s Asian flavor has carried onto the cocktail menu, which is still coming together. The salty-plum old fashioned contains bourbon infused with plum, and the vodka tonic is infused with Chinese celery.
With a jukebox as well as DJs, it’s easy to stay here longer than you probably should on weekday, since it’s open daily from 5 pm to 4 am. Those who go into work with hangovers, unite!
Mr. Fong’s, 40 Market St., at Madison St., Lower East Side