Open since late December, National Underground, the new Lower East Side bar/performance space owned and operated by musician Gavin DeGraw (“I Don’t Want to Be”) and his brother/fellow musician Joey, brings the Bleecker Street drinking experience to the LES. The dimly lit bar, illuminated mostly by candlelight and strings of red Christmas bulbs, has a cozy, lived-in feel, thanks to the exposed brick and assorted knickknacks behind the bar (including some Texas bullhorns and an autographed Ramones box set).
If you’re a music fan and lean toward the Americana/acoustic/folk scene, you’re in luck: There are performers every night, both upstairs and (mainly on weekends) at the larger downstairs space. Like the nearby Sidewalk Cafe, the upstairs bar strikes an awkward middle ground between hangout and performance area. And when the front bar is nearly empty, conversation becomes a tricky affair of choosing the right volume to be heard…and not interrupting that guy crooning “If You Could Read My Mind.”
Nothing will differentiate NU from any other bar in the area—beer is in the $5 to $6 range, cocktails go a little higher, and ordering DiSaronno on the rocks will probably get you a funny look (food is coming soon, we hear).