FOOD AND DRINK
8 Midtown Manhattan Bars That Aren't Terrible
Many of the bars between, say, Central Park and 22nd Street are dismal and touristy. Grab a drink at one of these joints and you might end up next to an actual New York resident
There’s no shortage of bars in midtown Manhattan.
Almost half of them, though, are flat-out terrible tourist traps – chain-operated sports bars, so-called Irish bars or ersatz saloons. After that, you’re left with creepy pick-up joints, suit bars and overpriced martini bars specializing in vodka and sadness.
Yet despite all this, there are options. Several, in fact. So, keep these hidden gems in your back pocket for the next time you work up a powerful thirst at MOMA or finish up a meeting in midtown and just can’t face rush-hour cross-town traffic.
Although the tradition of unpretentious, reliably good Irish-American bars is fading, one joint is trying to keep the spirit alive, and that joint is Hudson Malone. The second-floor area is charming, the burger is great and the bartenders make a totally solid cocktail. More importantly, though, is the service, which pays respect to the classic New York bartender – never showy and always hospitable, the approach is professionalism embodied.
218 East 53rd St., 212-355-6607
If you can manage to get a seat at this small, modern-casual bar, you’ll be rewarded with a really nice glass of wine, selected by knowledgeable bartenders from the small, but eclectic cellar. Fair warning: Ardesia’s bar area is popular with the locals and can turn into quite a scene after dinner.
510 West 52nd St., 212-247-9191
Number one dive bar tell? Every inch of wall covered with memorabilia, dollar bills and crooked pictures. But a closer look at the photos reveals a fascinating story: owner Jimmy Glenn’s 30-year career as a professional trainer in the boxing ring, working the corner with all the greats, Muhammad Ali included. As if that weren’t enough, Jimmy’s Corner has got a great juke box, drinks are cheap, and you can duck in right off Times Square – which is bound to drive you to drink.
140 West 44th St., 212-221-9510
Wash down a quick bite of pork belly or tempura tofu with some Soba beer at the bar at Sakagura – a basement-level izakaya with a friendly vibe near Grand Central Station. It’s lively at cocktail hour, when sake lovers come to sample from a world-class selection.
211 East 43rd St., 212-953-7253
Modern speakeasy bars, with their hidden entrances and secret passwords, are almost never found in spaces that used to house Prohibition-era bars. But 21 Club is an exception to that rule and, as such, offers a chance to drink in a space that was actually an illegal gin joint in the late 1920s. When booze became legal again, the bar went legit and became a hangout for jet setters like Joan Crawford, Sophia Loren and Ol’ Blue Eyes, to name a few. And, of course, Hemingway drank there. [But where didn’t he? – ed.]
21 West 52nd St., 212-582-7200
Dwarfed by glass bank towers, P.J. Clarke’s is almost as famous for being a neighbourhood hold-out as it is for the parade of stars who practically lived in this classic bar in the 1950s. Although the name and aesthetic have been franchised out to a half-dozen pale imitations, the original is still a good place to grab a quick one and contemplate Old New York.
915 Third Ave., 212-317-1616
La Birreria at Eataly
It’s got a view, great food and some of the city’s best beer – three basic pre-conditions to happiness. Located on the rooftop at the original U.S. Eataly location, this brilliant Madison Square Park patio bar offers a choice between house-brewed beer and an impressive list of craft brews from around the world. And, as you would expect, great food to boot.
200 Fifth Ave., 212-937-8910
Adam McDowell / Billy
The Rum House
Given its proximity to Times Square, we can’t guarantee this off-Broadway bar will be free from tourists. But, given the stylish wood décor, solid classic rum cocktail list and better-than-decent musical entertainment, you could do a lot worse in this neighbourhood. That’s especially true if you plan to be day-drinking, given the bar’s happy hour specials, which span six full hours (from noon to 6 p.m.) and include $10 pisco sours.
228 West 47th St., 646-490-6924
The Rum House