This is the name of a very popular Lower East Side dive bar located at 178 Ludlow Street. By calling it a dive bar I am singing its praises (i.e. it’s not gentrified), but it’s really not all that dirty and grimy. It’s kitschy and unpretentious. There’s pool and pinball. The funky paint job is ever-changing. As EV Grieve reported, owner Ulli Rimkus opened Max Fish in 1989, initially as an art gallery, and has been welcoming musicians, skaters, and hipsters ever since. Attracting the likes of Iggy Pop and Bob Dylan, however, did not save this bar from almost shuttering in 2010 due to the gentrifying neighborhood’s rents. Ms. Rimkus, however, has been able to negotiate her lease ever since. And now, she has opened an outpost in Asbury Park, New Jersey, a mere 10 minute drive away from my Jersey Shore hometown (please no “Jersey Shore” comments- if I had a nickel for every time I got that I’d be so rich I would quit my job and write blog posts all day).
In the early 20th Century Asbury Park was the sister city to Coney Island, boasting a boardwalk with amusements, the smiling faced Tillie, a lively music scene, and shopping galore. The history of this city is fascinating, so I definitely suggest exploring it further. The Convention Hall was designed by famed architects Warren & Wetmore, the same architects who designed Grand Central. Asbury is also notable for launching the career of Bruce Springsteen (Stone Pony anyone?). Toward the end of the century, due to various factors, Asbury fell into decay. Growing up I remember it as a run down, dilapidated city known for its high crime. You just did not go there. Within the past decade, however, the city has seen a huge resurgence in the downtown commercial strip and the boardwalk. It’s now an amazing place to go for an eclectic dinner, a vintage shopping stroll, and to catch a concert. Anyway, I could go on and on about my love for Asbury Park and its commitment to culture and preservation.
Now, let’s get back to Max Fish. When asked about her bar’s outpost down the shore (called Max Fish: The Beach Bar), Ulli said, “I’ve been coming here for years with my daughter and it’s beautiful. It’s really easy to get here — you can take New Jersey Transit or drive. I’m hoping my friends will come out because it’s going to be really, really great.” Her friends would be stupid not to make the trip. The spot she secured for the bar is on the southern patio of Convention Hall, jutting out onto the beach. The view could not be more picturesque.
Ulli said that the physical appearance of the Asbury Max Fish is made to “look like Max Fish but beachy, with blues, greens and clouds.” This description is correct- see the below photos. ALSO, according to Paper Magazine, there are going to be some awesome additions- the Beach Bar will have Skee-Ball machines, a pinball machine, shaved ice “snowball” drinks (!!) and a food truck parked outside. DJs and occasional sets by NYC bands are also in the works, and Rimkus says she hopes to have a party bus that runs once a month to shuttle people from the Lower East Side location to Asbury Park and back in the same day.
What I find interesting is the feeling of possession I had when seeing this new place. I went to high school with a lot of ignorant idiots. For a while they were too ignorant to venture in Asbury. Recently, though, it’s become the “cool” place to hang out….not because of all the great aforementioned facts I listed about the city, but because it’s a scene. Just how I felt that Asbury was a place away from the yuppie shore brats, is how I feel about the East Village/Lower East Side. So, by exposing these people to Max Fish, not only are they being let into my love of Asbury, but my love for the LES too. But when we’re all at Max Fish this summer you will be able to tell me from them- because I’ll be better dressed and won’t be worrying about getting shot on my way home.