Usually on my travels, I’m keen on exploring the local cafe culture. When in New York however, I’m all about the bars.
I realized that my thing in this city is to knock back on expensive cocktails in fancy bars. Why? For one, Manhattan is so crazy that sometimes caffeine is not enough. And while we have decent bars in Toronto, they’re not nearly as extravagant or as old school as the ones here.
I’m sure every local has their neighbourhood favourite, and good bars are everywhere in this city. I’ve only included three on this list, the very, very special ones. Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have places like these in Toronto since I’d probably be drinking a lot more.
45 W 27th St
I’m assuming the owners of this bar really love Oscar Wilde. How do I know? Just a hunch.
A bronze statue of the flamboyant Irish playwrightsÂ sits on a bench outside and another is inside leaning against the bar, holding a pint of Guinness. Search and you’ll find his witty quotes inscribed on tables and counters. The furniture and the decor are from Wilde’s era, looking as if several antique shops have exploded in here.
This place is really nuts. The attention to detail is crazy impressive. Even visiting the washroom is an adventure. What keeps this bar from feeling cheesy and gaudy is that almost everything is authentic from Victorian times, shipped in from Europe. There is something to marvel at everywhere you turn, which normalizes the extravagance, sort of.
My friends and I were trying to guess how much the owners invested in this place. I estimated at least 2 million. Later, I Googled this and learned it’s 4 million. You can treat this bar like a museum when it’s midday and empty, but when the crowds come, the vibe here is chilled out and fun, which is what Oscar would have wanted.
The cocktail to try is “Oscar Wildeâ€™s Potent Elixir.”
228 W 47th St
This is the first bar in New York I really fell in love with. We don’t have these old school piano bars in Toronto, and after coming here, I wish we did. If you’re a first-time visitor staying in or around touristy Times Square, this is a small, dark and intimate hidden gem where you’ll actually find locals. With no cover charge, live piano and jazz music is performed here nightly, and the cocktails are loaded with alcohol.
I always have a good time when I come here. No food here, except for some bar snacks. I usually get a “Dark and Stormy” but I don’t think you can go wrong with their cocktails.
28 West 53rd Street
This bar is something out of a magazine. Literally, as I first learned about this place when I saw it in a magazine used as the backdrop in a fashion spread.
Baccarat is an old French company making luxury crystal glassware. Their first hotel in New York is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Apparently, everything from the crystal champagne flutes to the crystal chandeliers are for sale.
For such an upscale hotel and bar, the vibe is somehow not slick and pretentious. Everyone who works here seems really nice. It’s my kind of fancy.
The hotel is right across the street from MoMA. Sure, a cocktail here will cost more than your average dinner, but it’s worth it to take in the decadent view. I’d love to come back to the hotel for lunch or afternoon tea.
Other bars I visited on my last trip in September are The Crosby Bar, a cute hotel bar in SoHo, and The Skylark, a cocktail lounge in Midtown that did feel slick but had stunning views of the city, being thirty stories high.
Photos by AZ except when credited.
What’s your favourite bar in NYC? Let me know in the comments below.