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Classic Retro Cocktail Bars

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. 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.

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    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. 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.

      http://www.raineslawroom.com/
      http://www.templebarnyc.com/

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      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

        Seconding Raines Law Room.

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

        1. re: gort

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

          1. re: taboo

            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

              kathryn,

              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.

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

              1. re: ml77

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

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

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

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

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

          Silver Lining
          75 Murray St, New York, NY 10007

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

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

            Minetta Tavern
            113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn

              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...

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

            2. 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).

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              Cienfuegos
              95 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

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

              1 Reply
              1. re: asgaynor

                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.

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

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

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

                1. pegu club fits the bill

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

                    1. 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.

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                      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

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

                      2. 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

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

                        2. 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.

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