This place was opened in 1932 and was originally called Bar Central, prior to that it was a speakeasy. Then owners Jack and George took it over in 1972 and it quickly became a preppy mecca. Soon the parents of these prepsters started going too, on account of the bar’s quirky decor (everywhere you look there is a painting of a melon.) Then it got to the point that the Kennedys were coming and then, none other that Grace Kelly ended up kicking back a Heineken at the bar, while waiting an hour for a table. To this day, although less, celebrities like Seinfeld keep on coming for the famed burgers and Bloody Marys. So if you hear someone say “look at those melons” you can be sure it’s a preppy’s sad attempt to be funny.
Hours: Daily, 11:30am-2:30am
1291 Third Ave., at 74th St., NY 10021 212-744-0585
This wine bar-slash-restaurant and once aquarium is tucked away in the nether regions of Chinatown. Bacaro are what are known in Italy as workingman’s tapas or “cichetti” bars. The romantic and almost whimsical nooks and crannies in the low-lit bottom cellar are fun for wandering. You can even book their quasi secret and hidden private room. The look is very similar to Peasant’s cellar, a restaurant which is also owned by Bacaro’s owner/chef. The wine list, which is from Veneto and neighboring northern regions of Italy is a tad pricey. The “ombra” (the Venetian name for a tiny glass) start at $7 (nothing working-class about that).
Hours: Tue-Sun, 6pm-midnight; Mon, closed
136 Division St., nr. Ludlow St., NY 10002 212-941-5060
Named after the Minetta Brook, which ran southwest from 23rd Street to the Hudson River, this tavern was opened in 1937. It was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, E. E. Cummings, Dylan Thomas, and Joe Gould among other lesser known writers and poets as well as boxers. It has recently become a hot spot because it was bought and reopened by Keith McNally, Lee Hanson, and Riad Nasr, the masterminds behind other once must-be-seen-in restaurants: Balthazar, Pastis, the Odeon and Schiller’s. The burger is pretty good and inexpensive ($16) considering that this is THE hot restaurant of the moment. The problem isn’t the bill, but scoring a reservation between 7pm and 10pm. Good luck! May your efforts seem worth it!
Dinner: 5:30pm—12am (Mon—Sun)
Supper: 12am—2am (Mon—Sun)
113 MacDougal St., at Minetta Ln, NY 10012 212-475-3850
Gene’s opened in Greenwich Village in 1919 and, other than moving next door in the 1930’s, not much has changed since then. It is rumored that Gene´s was a speakeasy (most places that were opened before or during prohibition were) Danny the manger makes an effort to know his clientele, which is mostly local and long time patrons. You can enjoy good prix fixe dinner daily from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. for $29.95. You can also just sit at the bar and stop time for a while.
Hours: Daily, noon-11pm
73 W. 11th St. , nr. Sixth Ave, NY 10011 212-675-2048
In 1929 Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns purchased a house on West 52nd Street and opened the ’21’ Club. Soon afterward it becomes the epicenter of New York’s social life. So much so, that in 1930 Daily Mirror gossip columnist Walter Winchell (the inspiration for the “Sweet Smell of Success” character J.J. Hunsecker) is banned from ‘21’. As retribution, he runs a column noting that ‘21’ had never been raided by Prohibition agents. The next day, ’21’ is raided. Soon thereafter, Jack and Charlie hire architect Frank Buchanan to install a complex system to hide and destroy liquor in case of future raids, including the infamous ‘21’ Wine Cellar. 52nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is nicknamed “Swing Street” and is home to over 30 speakeasies. December 5, 1933: Prohibition is repealed. 1944: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall celebrate their first date at Table 30. They first work together in “To Have and Have Not”, written by another ’21’ regular, Ernest Hemingway (who was caught doing the nasty with gangster Legs Diamond’s girlfriend in the ’21’ kitchen in 1931). Notable writers frequenting ’21’ at the time include Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and Lillian Hellman. ’21’ becomes THE place to be seen. Hollywood and ’21’ fully engage in a mutualistic relationship, feeding off each other (literally). Scenes for the classic films “All About Eve” and “The Sweet Smell of Success” are filmed in the bar room and countless other films mention ’21’. In fact more movies mention ’21’ than any other restaurant en NYC. Every President since FDR has been a guest of ’21’ with one exception: George W. Bush (I’m liking this place more and more). In contrast, JFK dined at ’21’ on the eve of his inauguration. In 1980 ’21’ spawns the power lunch. Forbes says “more deals are done at ’21’ than on the stock market floor.” Part of the movie “Wall Street” is filmed in the restaurant.
As for the 2 decorative stand out features of the 21 club: the jockeys and the toys: Jockeys: 21′ was home to the affluent ‘horsy’ set as far back as the early 1930s. To impart their personal stamp, many breeders began donating jockeys as symbols of their private horse farms. Today, many of the brightly painted jockey figures represent the country’s most prominent stables. It all began with Delaware native Jay Van Urk, such a loyal patron that he had, in fact, his own private table and the distinction of having a ’21’ dessert named in his honor. as for the Toys that hang from the ceiling: Perhaps the most poignant item in the collection is a model of the PT-109, presented as a gift to ’21’ by John F. Kennedy. ’21’ has such a large collection of sporting souvenirs that the Bar Room is a virtual Hall of Fame. Diners can view the helmets of football legends Frank Gifford and John Riggins, rackets of tennis stars Chris Evert and John McEnroe, Katarina Witt’s figure skates, a golf club that once belonged to Jack Nicklaus, and baseball bats from fabled heroes Willie Mays and Joe Morgan.
That pretty much sums it up, but if you ask the very chatty bathroom attendant I am sure she would be happy to elaborate.
Its the ’21’ pricey? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely! (but you might want to wait to restaurant week when a pre fix dinner is $35 or just come for a drink at the bar)
Dress Code: Strictly no sneakers, shorts or jeans. Jackets are necessary for gentlemen, with ties preferred at dinner.
Hours Mon-Fri, 11:30am-10pm; Sat, 5pm-11pm; Sun, closed
21 W. 52nd St., nr. Fifth Ave., NY 10019 212-582-1400
Pete’s Tavern first opened its doors in 1864. From that date to today, it has remained open. While there are other bars in NYC that fight for the title of oldest bar in New York, Pete’s has legal claim to being “the longest continuously operating bar and restaurant in New York City”. Not even Prohibition forced Pete’s to close its doors: it remained open disguised as a flower shop. They even have their own brew named 1864 Ale. It was originally known as the Portman Hotel then it became Healy’s Café when it was purchased by the Healy brothers, John and Tom in 1899, which they ran until 1921. It was renamed “Pete’s” when Pete Belle purchased it in 1932.”The bar has hardly changed since it opened and the crowd is mostly local and totally mellow.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11:30am-3am; Sat-Sun, 11am-3am
129 E. 18th St., at Irving Pl., NY 10003 212-473-7676
I was drawn to the space at first sight. (It really is just a nice looking pricey restaurant with a bar) Then later I found out why this place seemed to exude so much character; it had a past. It was originally a speakeasy named Blue Mill Tavern, which stayed opened for 5o years, then it was named Grange Hall, a beloved neighborhood hangout. Now it´s just Commerce (as in selling pricey pasta to a trendy crowd) yet you actually can come and enjoy a drink at the bar. The service is amicable and the the crowd is surprisingly relaxed.
Hours: Mon-Thu, 5:30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30pm-11:30pm; Sun, 1pm-9:30pm
50 Commerce St., nr. Bedford St, NY 10014 212-524-2301