What places make the “Old New York”? Are they the ones that have been around the longest? Below we explain where to find some of the best old New York bars in the city.
Well, not quite.
Bars and restaurants that are old New York capture that essential old-school vibe: an Art-Deco feel, customers in evening dresses and black ties, and Cole Porter’s music. If that kind of ambiance is right up your alleyway, check out our list of New York City’s fanciest “old” bars.
21 Club Midtown West
Plenty of bars in New York call themselves speakeasies, but 21 Club actually was one! Before it officially opened in 1930, the club has a disappearing bar and secret wine cellar to escape Prohibition – yes, the bar really disappeared! Through an ingenious lever system, 21 Club was able to avoid any trouble with the feds. It’s one of New York’s most famous bars, which given its history, makes total sense.
The Algonquin Hotel’s Blue Bar, Midtown West
At first blush, you might object to classifying this blue-hued bar as a classic Old New York one. But there’s more to this place than just its lighting! It’s situated in the Algonquin Hotel, which was the spot of choice for quite the famous literary bunch: Dorothy Parker, Geroge Kaufman, Harold Ross, Robert Benchley, and the rest of that gang.
These writers came to be called the Algonquin Round Table, as every day, they had lunch at the Algonquin. The Blue Bar replicates the vibe of those days pretty well, with its stiff Sidecars, tunes, and paintings by Al Hirschfeld on the walls.
The Campbell Apartment, Midtown East
You normally can’t drink your fill of vodka and tonic in the Grand Central Station. That’s unless you’re seated in the swanky Campbell Apartment. It’s not an old bar, but it used to be the office of John Campbell, a mogul in the twenties. To emulate the look of the time, it has twice been restored, the first time in 1991, and the second in 2006.
They kept the humongous leaded glass windows from Campbell’s era, and the lounge is lousy with opulent mahogany. It’s a pretty swanky place, so you can’t get in wearing a tee and baseball cap.
St. Regis Hotel’s King Cole Bar, Midtown East
The bar’s name comes from a huge mural of King Cole and his loyal subjects, and the picture sets the tone! Regal is the right word for this cocktail lounge, with its expensive champagnes and cognacs. According to the management, this place was where the Bloody Mary was invented, which is why they have six different versions of the drink.
Russian Tea Room Midtown West
If you really want to feel like a VIP, head over to the Russian Tea Room, which favored the establishment of many a fancy character on TV. Founded by Russian Imperial Ballet members 88 years ago, the place is filled with chandeliers and gold decorations. You’ll find some excellent afternoon tea here, as well as an extensive vodka menu (36 items!), along with a cocktail list featuring the Rasputin among other originals.
So if you’re in the mood for a fancy night out, hit up one of these classy joints!