Go Up Stairs, a Hidden Door, It’s a Secret Club, Angel’s Share

On the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Ninth Street:

Through a glass door and up a dingy flight of concrete stairs and you’re at Village Yokocho, a hidden Japanese restaurant. Red paper lanterns hang from a blue cloudy ceiling. Long lines of patrons trail down the stairs-those in the know will walk directly past the line to a door in the corner that’s hardly marked except for a sheet of paper pasted to the door: “No more than four people (in a group), No standing, No screaming, No shouting.”

Open the door and you enter Angel’s Share.

A 20’s speakeasy with James Bond polish, very small and very sequestered. Subtle sconces light the dark wood paneling of two adjoining rooms. Opulent curtains hang over huge storybook windows. Two musicians play soft jazz on electric guitars.

Dignified calm exudes from the Angel’s Share wait staff. It takes a while to get a table, but once you have one, they’re pleased to have you sit there all night. I sit against the wall, sipping a precisely mixed Moscow Mule. A couple at a small table right next to mine has never met before-they’ve communicated only through an online dating service.

“So how many people have you met?” he asks.

“Two in person,” she says. “The second one was unrealistic. He wanted our first meeting to be at his house for the weekend. He acted like it was strange that I wasn’t O.K. with that.”

He chimes in, “Well, I had a stalker. Nothing dangerous or violent. But she keeps appearing at events ….

“Have you seen Silence of the Lambs ? You know he completely analyzes her personality based on her shoes and handbag. Well, I can do that-except I can tell everything about you by the underwear you choose and the kind you like on men …. “

The musicians take a break. Now it’s John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell from the speakers. One of the waiters slides in and out of the secret door behind the bar. Back to the couple:

“You’re thinking Creed,” he says, “but it’s not. I’m probably one of 10 people in New York who wears this fragrance. It’s made by Shiseido and it’s only available in Japan. Without being too negative, I’m a little bit of a label whore. I like upscale knowledge.”

She says: “I like Shiseido.”

He nods. “We like them-the royal ‘we.’ I was expecting to smell something on you, but I don’t.”

“Because it’s an oil. It’s buttery crème brûlée.”

A mural spans the wall behind the bar. A group of angels surround a baby angel in the middle with devilish horns-pasted on, not part of the painting. One angel is passed out-the one who had the “angel’s share” of the whiskey.

Angel’s Share opened 10 years ago, but one source says that for the first four years, only one person worked here and the owner was the only customer.

Daniel Stiepelman, who is wearing a fedora that belonged to his great-uncle Phil, said he’s been frequenting Angel’s Share for a year and a half. Mr. Stiepelman said that Angel’s Share has a wide range of Scotch, makers like Glenfiddich. He said he’s joining the Peace Corps and will be leaving soon, possibly for the Fiji Islands.

Out the door, to your left: St. Mark’s Bookshop. “We were always afraid that Ted Berrigan would come in the bookstore, because he chain-smoked. We were afraid he was going to start a fire; we had to sort of follow him around,” said Robert Contant, co-owner, who founded the store with four partners 26 years ago. “William Burroughs-always looked like a banker, and he bought science-fiction books. On one occasion Gregory Corso stole books from here, and Ginsberg chased him down the street.”

On the southwest corner of Third Avenue and Ninth Street:

A junior enrolled at Cooper Union’s art school, on her way to class at the Albert Nerken School of Engineering, said she takes issue with the school’s student fees- $1,250 per student. The school is having a budget crisis. Last week, Cooper Union announced that architect Thom Mayne has been chosen to design a new academic building-part of the school’s plan to develop real estate and generate income. Cooper Union plans to construct two other buildings: One will replace the existing Albert Nerken School of Engineering, and Cooper Union will lease the other site to a developer.

“The president tells us that we should be grateful,” said the junior, compared to the situation of students at N.Y.U. “I can see both sides of the issue,” she added. “The terms that the school was founded on was free education, and when they start to push on that ….”

On the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Ninth Street:

Freshman Luke Kim is hanging outside the N.Y.U. dorm where he lives, a large, plain brick building. His friend Arjun Roy approaches, bringing two cigarettes with him. “Only cool kids roll their own cigarettes,” he said self-deprecatingly. “Or kids who like their money enough.”

Angel’s Share Prices

Moscow Mule: $8

Sex on the Beach: $8

Mimosa: $10

Dim Sum: $7

Go Up Stairs, a Hidden Door, It’s a Secret Club, Angel’s Share