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Classic Retro Cocktail Bars

Jetlagged Sep 2, 2011 09:07 AM

Just moved to NY (from SF) and am looking for some classic cocktail bars - something that calls up the 20's through 50's feeling. I've been to the Campbell Apartment and loved the room and decor but it was SRO and, I thought, overpriced for standing in a tiny spot on the floor being bumped by the waitstaff and commuters/tourists packed in. I've also found the Monkey Bar - great murals - but was turned off by the red & white checked tablecloths which looked like a diner. I was at the Oak Room at the Plaza years ago, too, and enjoyed the ambiance...don't know how it is now.

Any suggestions for something sophisticated, non-touristy, with background music low enough to have a conversation? In SF I was a fan of Original Joe's (before the fire), Tadich Grill, the Redwood Room at the Clift (before its modernization), and Bourbon and Branch. Thanks very much for your insights and suggestions.

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  1. Spiritchaser RE: Jetlagged Sep 2, 2011 09:49 AM

    Just FYI - the Oak Room Bar is currently closed due to some litigation. Don't know if they fit the bill but you can check out Death and Company, Employees Only, The Beagle, Bemelman's Bar.

    Employees Only
    510 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

    Death & Co.
    433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

    Oak Room
    10 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

    Bemelmans Bar
    35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021

    The Beagle
    162 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

    1. s
      small h RE: Jetlagged Sep 2, 2011 10:00 AM

      The Raines Law Room struck me as pretty retro. And you will not be bumped or jostled, since there's no standing allowed (or there wasn't when I was there last, anyway). I'm also a longtime and passionate fan of Temple Bar.


      Temple Bar
      332 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

      Raines Law Room
      48 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011

      5 Replies
      1. re: small h
        gort RE: small h Sep 2, 2011 12:23 PM

        Seconding Raines Law Room.

        Raines Law Room
        48 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011

        1. re: gort
          taboo RE: gort Sep 6, 2011 07:07 AM

          I also agree with Raines, but Pegu is really good and totally retro cocktails in Soho

          1. re: taboo
            kathryn RE: taboo Sep 6, 2011 07:11 AM

            Retro as in emulating a 1880s British Gentlemen's club in Burma though. It's a great place but don't try to go on weekends, when it's super loud and crowded.

            1. re: kathryn
              ml77 RE: kathryn Oct 2, 2011 09:23 AM


              I assume this comment is meant for Pegu, right? Because I've been to Raines Law Room on a Saturday night and they really limit the size of the crowd so that it's not loud or crowded. Just wanted to make clear for folks who might get confused.

              Raines Law Room
              48 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011

              1. re: ml77
                kathryn RE: ml77 Oct 2, 2011 03:22 PM

                Correct - Pegu Club is modeled after a British Gentlemen's club in Burma and gets loud and crowded on the weekends.

                Pegu Club
                77 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

      2. a
        ANin RE: Jetlagged Sep 2, 2011 10:10 AM

        Weatherup (Tribeca + the original in Brooklyn). Ward III. Little Branch. Milk & Honey. PDT.

        Little Branch
        22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014

        Please Don't Tell
        113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

        Milk and Honey
        134 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

        Ward III
        111 Reade St, New York, NY 10013

        Weather Up
        159 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

        1. m
          melo7 RE: Jetlagged Sep 2, 2011 10:11 AM

          Silver Lining, the new offering from the people that brought you Little Branch fits your needs.

          Little Branch
          22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014

          Silver Lining
          75 Murray St, New York, NY 10007

          1. k
            kathryn RE: Jetlagged Sep 2, 2011 11:31 AM

            Maybe fit in a drink at Minetta Tavern or a few fingers of scotch at Keens' bar?

            72 West 36th St., New York, NY 10018

            Minetta Tavern
            113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn
              penthouse pup RE: kathryn Sep 2, 2011 02:38 PM

              You can't hear yourself think at Minetta (now, the old place was reliably empty except for a few pro's at the bar...) Agree with Keene's and you should consider the 21 Club...and the bar at the Sheraton Russell Hotel on Park and 37th is quiet, calm, strangely removed from bustle of the area...

              21 Club
              21 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019

            2. a
              asgaynor RE: Jetlagged Sep 5, 2011 08:13 PM

              For great cocktails without as much shtick as the speakeasies, try Amor y Amargo on 6th St. near Avenue A (part of the Cienfuegos complex). My absolute favorite spot in the city for cocktails right now. They heavily emphasize the use of bitters (it's a co-venture with the owners of Bittermens bitters).

              95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

              Amor y Amargo
              443 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

              1 Reply
              1. re: asgaynor
                kathryn RE: asgaynor Sep 5, 2011 08:40 PM

                I really like Amor y Amargo (one of the best negroni's in town) but the decor is not the "20's through 50's feeling" the OP is looking for.

                Amor y Amargo
                443 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

              2. k
                kathryn RE: Jetlagged Sep 6, 2011 07:15 AM

                You may also want to look into the bar at The Lamb's Club. Drink list is by Sasha Petraske. Very expensive though.

                The Lambs Club
                132 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

                1. thew RE: Jetlagged Sep 6, 2011 07:35 AM

                  pegu club fits the bill

                  1. j
                    Jetlagged RE: Jetlagged Sep 9, 2011 06:27 AM

                    Thanks very much for all the great suggestions! I'll try not to hit them all in one night :)

                    1. o
                      orthorunner RE: Jetlagged Sep 9, 2011 09:52 AM

                      In addition to the speakeasies noted above, try out Bar Centrale in midtown. It has a jazz theme, with low music and black and white photographs hung on the walls. Only make classic cocktails, unlike some of the more creative places. I personally enjoy places like Death & Co more, but if you want to try a more straight-and-narrow classic place, it fits the bill.

                      Death & Co.
                      433 E 6th St, New York, NY 10009

                      Bar Centrale
                      324 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: orthorunner
                        Jetlagged RE: orthorunner Oct 1, 2011 07:06 AM

                        Thanks very much - will put these on the list as well.

                      2. GraydonCarter RE: Jetlagged Oct 5, 2011 10:49 AM

                        Watching Ken Burns’ PBS documentary “Prohibition,” I saw lots of details about New York’s important role in the 1920s bootlegging trade, and they described the more popular speakeasy bars.

                        There is a walking tour of the Bowery called “Satan’s Seat” from Big Onion Walking Tours.

                        “We’ll be stopping at John McGurk’s Bar on the Bowery for two reasons: One, it was the most notorious saloon in late 19th century and a temperance target; second, because in 1922 a fire broke out in building, which threatened the warehouse next door — where the federal government stored all of the liquor it seized.”

                        "Other saucy stops include the former speakeasy Chumley’s in the West Village and Bigelow’s Pharmacy, which once offered prescriptions for liquor."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: GraydonCarter
                          penthouse pup RE: GraydonCarter Oct 5, 2011 02:07 PM

                          Alas, Chumley's remains closed after the walls collapsed several years past.

                        2. u
                          ukitali RE: Jetlagged Oct 5, 2011 11:44 AM

                          Flatiron Lounge has a nice vibe. I've only been on a weekday but it was quiet, yet lively and we had some interesting cocktails.

                          Flatiron Lounge
                          37 W 19th St, New York, NY 10011

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