With so many new restaurants in New York, I decided to spend a day enjoying “Classic New York”. I wanted to revisit the places that I had been to over many years that are true New York destinations that should not be missed. Starting with lunch, then afternoon tea, followed by cocktails, dinner and a concert or cabaret show, New York is perfect for a great “classic” experience. Here are my recommendations from that day as well as from my othere recent trips:
Sardi’s: Located in New York’s Theater District, Sardi’s has been an institution for over 90 years. The warm atmosphere is highlighted by colorful caricatures of show-business celebs. It has a traditional menu and is opened for lunch and pre-theater, dinner and post-theater dining. 234 W. 44th St.
Russian Tea Room: This New York institution for over 87 years. It has been the place “where actors, writers, politicians, and executives plan their next deals and celebrate their friends’ latest Carnegie Hall performances.” Its elegant, modernist Russian style was recently renovated and a perfect location for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a pre-theater and post-theater dinner. 250 E. 57th near Carnegie Hall.
Make sure to visit Keene’s Steakhouse at 72 W. 36th St. This is an historic steakhouse and restaurant with a classic interior that opened in 1885 in the Herald Square Theater District. Today it is the only survivor of this historic district. It has a large menu of steaks, seafood and items from its raw bar. The meat portions are huge! They also have a more casual pub menu. I enjoyed the pan-seared artic char before heading an evening performance of a Broadway play. I highly recommend the experience. It is very popular, so make sure make a reservation online prior to your visit. 72 W. 36th St.
Another great option for afternoon tea is The Palm Court. A famous tradition at the Plaza Hotel since 1907, this is the place for the famous afternoon tea. Breakfast and lunch are also served. Fifth Avenue and Central Park South.
King Cole Bar & Salon: St. Regis Hotel at 2 East 55th. A New York classic since the hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV in 1904. Stop in for a drink before dinner at the newly refurbished King Cole Bar & Salon, and see the famous mural painted by Maxfield Parrish depicting Old King Cole and sleek decor. Legend has it that it depicts the King after he has passed gas, which is the reason for the many varied reactions of the people surrounding him. The bar has been frequented by Salvador Dali, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.
Not to be missed is making sure that you attend a Broadway play or musical, a concert at the famed Carnegie Hall, a peformance at Lincoln Center, one of the Spectaculars at Radio City Music Hall or head to the Upper East Side to see a cabaret performance at Cafe Carlyle.
I have wonderful memories of seeing Bobby Short at the Cafe Carlyle who played there for many years. They are closed for the Summer Season, so make sure to check the calendar to book your visit. They feature some of the best entertainment in town. The Carlyle Hotel, a Rosewood property, is one of the classic New York hotels. You can also have afternoon tea, a drink in the bar or dinner in one of their restaurants. 35 E. 76 St. at Madison.
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant: Located in New York’s Grand Central Station, this has been an institution since 1913. It is known for its fresh oysters and seafood.
Tavern on the Green: After many years, I made a visit to Tavern on the Green. Located at Central Park West and 67th St. It opened in 1937 and became an NYC institution. It was known for its Tiffany stained glass and Baccarat chandeliers and for being featured in many movies over the years. It fell on hard times was closed for five years. It was remodeled and reopened in 2013. Today it has a an attractive Bar Room with the original ceiling, a bright Central Park Room featuring an outside patio and more formal South Wing. I found it a great spot for a weekend brunch overlooking the park. The food and service were very good.
Barbetta, 321 W. 46th: Opened in 1906, this is NYC’s oldest restaurant still owned by its founding family. It serves Northern Italian specialties in a formal, historic dining room. The interior is landmarked and can’t be changed in anyway. They also have a formal garden for outdoor seating in the warmer months.
Balthazar Restaurant & Oyster Bar: I went to Balthazar for the first time on a recent trip to NYC. It is considered to be the best French bistro in town. It is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. It has a classic French decor with great food and service; I highly recommend it.
“I’ll have what she’s having” is one of the best movie lines ever from the film When Harry Met Sally. The scene was filmed with the couple eating at the famous Katz’s Delicatessen at 205 E. Houston St. Since 1888, they are famous for their corned beef, pastrami and brisket. It is huge and has a fun atmosphere. It is well worth the visit for a great NYC experience.
Russ & Daughters: The original store, since 1914, is at 179 E Houston St. They carry caviar, herring, appetizers, smoked fish, canned goods, bagels and wonderful sweets including chocolates and cookies. I tried two tasty macaroons. They also have a new cafe at 127 Orchard St. which comes highly recommended by locals. Their newest cafe opened in July, 2023 in Hudson Yards at 502 W. 34th St.
At one time, there were 40 Horn & Hardart automats in New York City alone. The last one closed in 1991. I have a fond memory of going to one with my parents for lunch. There was a wall of doors, which were vending machines, where you put in your coins and took out the food. It was a classic institution in NYC.