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Jan 19, 2013 05:23 PM

Best restaurants to sit at the bar and eat?

Manhattan hounds, what are the best restaurants to sit at the bar and eat? Babbo was good, as was Minetta Tavern and Balthazar, but am looking for other places like that. Your help as always is appreciated.

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  1. In no particular order we love:
    Gramercy Tavern
    Union Square Cafe
    Blue Smoke

    The all have great food and exceptional, personable bar staff.

    1. In the non-sushi category, I nominate The Modern or Gordon Ramsay. Lots of good eye candy.

      1. I assume you want somewhere that you can just drop in and dine sans reservation?

        What about more upscale fine dining restaurants, are you willing to consider those (assuming you brought a jacket with you -- I see your profile says you are from the LA area)?

        Very few restaurants do not serve any food at their bar/waiting areas -- the NoMad, Bouley, La Grenouille, Le Cirque, Four Seasons, there may be a few more I'm missing. But it's not that long a list. Momofuku Ko, Blanca, and Brooklyn Fare don't take walk ins, but they are the exception, not the rule...

        So essentially, all of the city is in play... unless you have other criteria? Babbo, Minetta, and Balthazar are all great, and I love them, but what about other non-French, non-Italian cuisines? If so, my top picks for you would be Momofuku Ssam Bar, The Breslin, and Txikito. You might also look into Acme, not sure if there is any New Nordic cooking where you are. And while you have fine Mexican and Chinese food in LA, you might want to look into Empellon Cocina (totally non-traditional take by Alex Stupak, formerly of Alinea) or Mission Chinese (esp if you don't get out to SF often).

        If you do want to go upscale and get the absolute "best" restaurants (NYT 4 star sort of thing):

        Le Bernardin serves the full prix fixe and tasting at their bar but not the lounge tables.

        Daniel also serves the full prix fixe and tasting in their lounge. You can reserve on OpenTable.

        Del Posto serves the prix fixe menu but not the tasting menu at the bar last I heard. I think they also offer a la carte at the bar.

        EMP and Per Se only serve a la carte at their respective bars and salons, not the tasting.

        Jean Georges does not really have a bar; the bar is inside of Nougatine. I've been told you can get the JG menu at Nougatine but I haven't tested this myself.

        Jackets are required for dinner at Per Se, Jean Georges (but not Nougatine), Le Bernardin, and Daniel. Jackets are preferred at Del Posto and Eleven Madison Park.

        Some bar areas, like the Nougatine at Jean Georges, Bar Room at the Modern, and Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern, have a different menu than their respective formal dining rooms. I had a great meal a few months ago at the Bar Room at the Modern, and it would be a nice break atmosphere wise from where you've already been.

        Also the bar at WD-50 is also the only place you can order a la carte. Bar diners can order either of the tasting menus or any two courses for $25; additional courses can be added at $15 per course from either menu.

        Nearly all of Mario Batali's restaurants have bar dining and walk in tables. Since you've already been to Babbo, you may not want to do a different one, however, Casa Mono is fairly different (being Spanish raciones).

        You can also dine solo at the bar at Scarpetta, Osteria Morini, or Locanda Verde.

        April Bloomfield's restaurants are typically bar dining friendly (Spotted Pig, Breslin, John Dory Oyster Bar, and the newest--Salvation Taco), if you're willing to wait for a seat to open up. Bloomfield's typically spots don't take reservations for small parties at all.

        Danny Meyer's restaurants also are walk in friendly. Bar Room at the Modern (mentioned above) or Maialino's front room, the bar and lounge area.

        Same for Gabe Stulman's places: Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey's Grocery, Fedora (Au Pied de Cochon alum, whose cooking I think is a bit underrated), Chez Sardine (despite the name it is an untraditional Japanese izakaya), and Perla (ex-Babbo chef).

        A lot of the places on this Where to Eat Right Now heatmap by Eater would work as well. The Marrow (Top Chef Harold Dieterle's new restaurant), Salvation Taco, Hanjan (new spot from the Danji chef), Mighty Quinn's, Louro (Dave Santos)...


        9 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          You can get the full prix fixe and tasting menus at the lounge tables at Le Bernardin.

          1. re: deprofundis

            That's right.

            Lincoln serves the full menu at the bar but not the bar tables.

            At Nougatine, you can also get the full Jean-Georges menu at the bar.

            Ma Peche serves a limited bar menu but not the full dining room menu.

            Some other restaurants that serve the full menu at the bar:

            Boulud Sud
            Bar Boulud
            Il Buco Aiimentari e Vineria
            Momofuku Ssam Bar

            1. re: H Manning

              Can you really get the full Jean Georges dining room menu at the Nougatine bar? Even at lunch?

              1. re: deepfry7

                Yes you can. You can even get the J-G tasting menu (including canapes) at the Nougatine bar at lunch. You just need to specify to the bartender that you would like to see the J-G and not the Nougatine menu, and they're always happy to accommodate.

            2. re: deprofundis

              and also, at the lounge and bar, jacket is not required, but prefered at bernardin

            3. re: kathryn

              Wow Kathryn, you sure do eat well.

              I thought Salumeria Rossi was pretty fun when in a casual mood.

              1. re: kathryn

                Thanks Kathryn! I've seen Kathryn's posts over the past 4-5 years and she's a very well informed chowhound poster. Did someone say that Per Se had a la carte at their bar? if so is it good for solo? Any idea of the ballpark cost? I'm not really in for the full tasting menu, but would love to try it.

                1. re: OC Mutt

                  The salon at Per Se is more like a lounge than a bar. The menu is posted online:

                  Scroll to the last page for the Salon menu.

                  More discussion here:

                  1. re: OC Mutt

                    The Salon is about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the tasting menu, for 3-4 courses. It's a la carte, but you will probably want 2-3 dishes plus 1 dessert. So the 9 course dinner is just barely a smidge better value, at 295.

                    The 5-course lunch menu on weekends is also slightly pricier, per course—5 courses for 185. But that menu always looks really interesting.

                    And the other main advantage of eating at the Salon is you don't need undergo the psychological pain of trying to secure a reservation.

                    1. re: plf515

                      We love Maialino and wanted to recommend it, but it is the only Danny Meyer restaurant where we had indifferent service at the bar. Plus, the bar stools were quite uncomfortable.

                      1. re: plf515

                        Thanks to all of the NYC hounds for their kind generous advice. I'm going to hit Ess-A-Bagel this morning as is my ritual when I get to the city, and will report back on the remaining dining choices. Again, your council, as always is much appreciated!