Sip ‘n‘ Slide

Sip ‘n‘ Slide

Good places to drink usually give you something to set your eyes on—an interesting crowd or a view of the water. They also tend to privilege conversation—a quiet booth to catch up with an old friend, the comforting din of others doing the same. More romantically, they offer possibility, the potential for something unexpected.

There’s a place I like to have a drink that delivers all these things. Cover charge is around twenty bucks, but it’s BYOB. And when you walk out, you’re in Midtown Manhattan.

You can grab a Metro-North train from New Haven’s Union Station at almost any time of day, any day of the year. I prefer a late afternoon ride when the sun is at an especially expressive angle, all gold light and long shadows.

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Drinking alcohol is permitted, but since the elimination of ‘bar cars’ nearly a decade ago you have to supply it yourself. You can swing through the subterranean Sbarro for a tallboy or two before boarding, but I try to make the time to stop at a proper store, where I can pick up a beverage to match my mood. There’ve been great advances in the canned cocktail category over the past few years. Or maybe it’s a day for a glass of wine, though proper stemware is a problem. The workhorse in this situation, particularly if you’re traveling with a partner, is a 4-pack of beer.

I like seeing coastal forests, quaint New England towns and fugitive glimpses of the Sound at the speed of a commuter train and with something to sip. Yes, the track hews a bit too closely to I-95 at times, but there’s a lot of beauty to be experienced along the New Haven Line. I especially enjoy knocking one back while crossing the many rivers of western Connecticut. The bridges spanning the Housatonic, Saugatuck and Norwalk afford some of the prettiest views of the entire trip.

Unlike a bar, the ‘regulars’ are likely to be the least interesting characters you encounter on the train. Commuters are so practiced, they’re practically invisible. It’s the folks for whom a train journey is still a novelty who bring the energy—pre-gaming Mets fans halfway to Queens and blacking out, a bachelorette party in matching “Bad & Boozy” T-shirts. These good-time Charlies are some of the best entertainment you’ll find off Broadway.

The two hours from New Haven to New York City are a choose-your-own adventure. Crack a couple beers and take in the humanity, or spend some quality time with your partner over an ice-cold can of gin and soda. And if solitude is what you’re craving, put your headphones in, pour some wine and watch the world go by.

Written and photographed by Chris Renton.

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