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Eating at the bar in Manhattan?


CSASphinx
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Perhaps my site searching abilities are inept, but I'm looking for information about good places to go plop myself at the bar and have a great meal with friendly bartenders and other like minded food hounds to chat with at either elbow.

Price is (mostly) not an issue. I'm staying in Murray Hill, but will gladly hop a cab for the right place. So have at it folks, or if I've missed a similar thread that I haven't yet found, please feel free to post it.

Thanks,

Chris

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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Go to Zagat's New York guide, advanced search, and select "Dining at the Bar." Some 697 restaurants are returned. Sort them by food rating, and the top choices are:

Daniel

Babbo

Veritas

Danube

Oceana

Union Square Cafe

Picholine

I also read that Felidia has recently introduced dining at the bar.

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I would suggest the following:

Babbo

Ouest

The Red Cat

All have very comfortable bars with excellent bartenders and very good food. They also serve the full menu at the bar, which some restaurants do not.

I have also heard great things about eating at the bar at either Gramercy Tavern or the Union Square cafe. I can't speak to either. Perhaps someone else can?

FYI, if these things matter to you (i.e. you are hoping to catch Game 2 of the NBA finals or something along those lines) Ouest is the only one with a TV. And Babbo has the weakest lighting (if you are planning on reading at the bar).

Enjoy!

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Otto, on 8th street near 5th Ave, is my favorite place to eat alone at the bar. I think they have a pretty good list of wines by the quartino (1/3 bottle) and a nice selection of anti-pasti, meats and cheeses. The bartenders have always gone out of their way to treat me well and to make good recommendations. There are usually other singles at the bar, and I often chat either with other patrons or the bartenders. I'd say its best to go early in the week when the place is less crowded, but even at crowed times I have been able to squeeze into the corner (although the service is pretty rough at the insane times) and hang out for a couple of hours.

I'd love to hear a report back on wherever you decide to go!

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Thanks. Oh and one more thing. I know that some places are first-come when it comes to bar dining, but are there any that acutally require a reservation to eat at the bar.

Interestingly, a couple of the more popular restaurants here in Portland, ME actually want you to make a reservation.

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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Go to Zagat's New York guide, advanced search, and select "Dining at the Bar." Some 697 restaurants are returned. Sort them by food rating, and the top choices are:

Daniel

Babbo

Veritas

Danube

Oceana

Union Square Cafe

Picholine

I also read that Felidia has recently introduced dining at the bar.

I'm rather suprised to see Daniel Boulud's most luxurious restaurant at the top of the list and ahead of his Café Boulud and db Bistro. The other two strike me as far more relaxed and suitable for dining alone at the bar. I believe Daniel has a bar menu that is served in the lounge area with comfortable chairs and coffee tables. Does it also serve food at the actual bar. I suppose it might but I'd recommend Café Boulud where I know people who have enjoyed dinner at the bar and db Bistro which has a bar height common table with stools. That's also been recommended to me. I'd avoid pretheater at db Bistro as it's near the theater district and likely to be both crowded and rushed before 8.

I'm surprised Gramercy Tavern is not on the list. Wait, this is Zagat's survey. Nothing surprises me about other people's tastes.

Robert Buxbaum

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I don't mean to be a total Batali-whore, but I'm a big fan of dinners at the bar at both Otto and Babbo. Both tend toward very convivial bar-scenes and a fair amount of noise (Otto in particular can get LOUD) -- I tend to prefer to go way late, when things have calmed down a bit. While I like (but don't love) the pizzas at Otto, I really like making a meal out of their appetizers; a bowl of the swordfish-with-caramelized onion or a plate of the gorgeous testa, with some bread, maybe some broccoli rabe on the side, and a quartino of wine is some good eating. I don't find either place good for reading, though -- they're too noisy, and the bar scenes are just too friendly; I've never eaten at either place (and I've eaten at both bars several times) without getting involved in at least one interesting conversation.

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gramercy tavern has a lovely bar and serves the full tavern menu..

lupa has a great, more casual, bar and serves the restaurant's full menu.. it's a lot tighter than gramercy though.. same deal with babbo..

gotham bar and grill has a great bar menu and is in the same line as gramercy in that it's dressier/much less casual than lupa..

any sushi place will have a sushi bar that should make a single diner comfortable..

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I'm surprised Gramercy Tavern is not on the list. Wait, this is Zagat's survey. Nothing surprises me about other people's tastes.

Zagat doesn't do a separate survey of the "bar dining" experience. Rather, they note whether a restaurant has certain attributes. You can search on those attributes, then sort the list by food rating.

GT actually has an extremely high Zagat food rating of 27, but for some reason it doesn't have the "bar dining" attribute, so it doesn't come up when you search that way.

Any database is bound to have some errors, but this search feature is actually pretty damned useful.

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I dine solo quite a bit in NYC, and Veritas is probably my favorite. It has great food, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and is much quieter and less crazy than a place like Babbo (which can be fun, but be prepared to to be crammed in amidst waiting guests and frantic waitstaff squeezing through to the front tables). Veritas also has some interesting wines by the glass and half bottle, which I like as a solo diner. Finally, it's not too far from Murray Hill. Daniel is another good, albeit more expensive and formal, choice for high-end bar dining. Gramercy Tavern and Gotham Bar and Grill are also choices I'd heartily second. My problem with many bar dining experiences in NYC is that they become jam-packed staging areas for angry diners waiting on tables/reservations that weren't available on time. This means one must constantly fight for space and rub elbows with disgruntled and often obnoxious customers.

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Thanks Felonius,

While I love the idea of going to Babbo and sitting at the bar, I have seen how crowded that area can become, so your thoughts are more than welcome.

Above all else I want a relaxed bar experience and good food. Veritas is a good idea, mostly because my wife and I have never been there on our annual food pilgrimage and I could be the advance scouting party.

From memory, Gramercy Tavern also has a good space tha wouldn't have my personal space violated (and I'd be hard pressed to say no to a meal there under any conditions).

Thanks to all, but feel free, anyone, to keep adding.

Chris

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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If you run out of high-end places and want to hit some medium-priced places, check out Il Bagatto, which has a good wine list and good mojitos, but arrive by 7 P.M. or so on a weekday to beat the crowds. Another nice bar scene is at Pylos, where the bar is really a communal table wine bar, at a usual table height, with a friendly vibe. Both are very good restaurants. Pylos is more relaxed, but both are probably best avoided on weekends.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I can vouch the bar at Otto. If you don't want to be social, don't go there. Almost every time I have eaten there, I have ended up sharing food or wine with my neighbor. All of the menu items provoke discussion and are conducive to sharing. They sell many of wines by the quartino, but they tend to be on the pricier side. I have started to buy a bottle of wine and leave some behind rather than buying three quartinos of wine. There are a huge number of bottles, and it ends up being cheaper. As an added bonus, it is easier to make friends with people at the bar when you share wine.

The other Batali/Bastianich venues are pretty good for eating at the bar as well. There is Casa Mono (tapas), the Spotted Pig (English), and Esca (Italian Seafood). Casa Mono is quite good and has a large bar; you can see the chefs cooking in front of you. The Spotted Pig serves very good food, but can get very crowded. (Disclaimer: I know one of the managers at The Spotted Pig.) I have heard the bar at Esca is very nice, but I have never eaten there. Esca is quite a bit more expensive than the other restaurants, but it is really good.

There are any number of French bistros in the city that serve good food at the bar. My personal favorite is Les Halles on Park and 28th. The bar is tiny, and it can get crowded during a rush, but the bartender is always very friendly and the food is well prepared and comes quickly. There is a good number of wines by the glass. I have heard that Les Halles Downtown has a bigger bar, but I have never been there.

I've only eaten at the bar at Veritas once, but I've eaten in the dining room a few times. All of my experiences there have been great. The bar was very friendly, and the bartender warned my brother away from a wine that was no good.

I think the bar at Blue Ribbon deserves special mention because it serves good food with large portions until 4 AM. The oysters kick ass. Unfortunately, the bar in Manhattan is extra tiny and the restaurant can get crowded. The bar in the Brooklyn Blue Ribbon is huge, and it is well worth eating there.

There are a couple of places in my neighborhood in Park Slope, Brooklyn where I go quite a bit, but that might be a bit too far for you. Two bars I like in Park Slope are at 12th Street and Cafe Stienhof. Even though convenience is a big reason why I like these restaurants, the food is pretty darn good as well.

In Manhattan, I tend to go to Otto regularly. I have also gone to Les Halles less frequently, but frequent enough so that I know the bartenders and some wait staff. It is a bit easier to get a seat at the bar at Otto, and there tend to be more cute women there. What can I say; I'm single. :-)

There are so many worthwhile places in NYC that encourage eating at the bar. As I write this, I keep thinking of more (Savoy, Le Zinc, Grace, Artisanal). I can't imagine many places in NYC that require a reservation at the bar. I recommend making a list of places you would like to eat in general. Then call those restaurants to see who allows eating at the bar. If you get there and decide it looks unfriendly, just go to the next restaurant on your list. Getting around NYC is so easy that there is no reason to stay a bar that you don't like. You could even consider bar hopping: appetizer at one bar, entree at the next bar, and dessert at the last bar.

Have fun!

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Just wanted to add that I really like the option of eating at the bar. First, it lets me experience a number of restaurants where reservations in the dining room can be a real pain to come by. And second, if I don't have someone who wants to share the meal with me, I can usually choose to either read or chat, which makes it more comfortable than a dinner alone in the dining room might be.

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greenfield,

I like your bar hopping idea. Of course I would probabaly choose to go appetizer, appetizer, appetizer, appetizer, appetizer....But that's just me.

This would probably work better downtown.

Thanks for the recommendation of Les Halles as that is within walking distance (more or less) of my hotel.

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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Gotham Bar & Grill really seems to have pioneered the modern concept of bar dining, where you have a true fine-dining experience at the bar. They created special wooden trays, shaped to fit the bar, that extend the edge of the bar so you don't need to lean in to eat. The chairs are exceptionally comfortable. And the bartenders are oriented towards food service. I think the food at Gotham Bar & Grill remains excellent, and to me it somehow tastes better at that wonderful bar.

Another place I would heartily recommend for bar dining is Picholine. You can even get cheese-cart service at the bar. It is a particularly enjoyable setting for lunch, because the bar is so low-traffic at that time. And of course the food is terrific.

Good bar at Nougatine.

Bread bar at Tabla, of course.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Add Craft to your list. They have the full menu available at the bar, and they even serve you the free petits-fours at the end of your meal. The bar itself is deeper than most, so you don't have to balance your dish on a 12-inch deep bar rail. The bar stools have chair backs, so you can sit properly instead of perching atop a regular bar stool. And the bartenders are pleasant and will chat if you want company -- or will diplomatically let you alone if you crave a little peace and quiet.

Address is either 19th or 20th street, I forget which, between Park & Broadway.

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Gotham Bar and Grill, I have eaten there several times alone, great servers at the bar,,,, Jefferson Restaurant,, i used to work there, but still, they are super nice and theres a fun crowd

I did eat alone at Danube once and it was great too.

I ate at the now Defuct Tonic ( now Amuse) but that was in the dining room.

Have fun

"Is there anything here that wasn't brutally slaughtered" Lisa Simpson at a BBQ

"I think that the veal might have died from lonliness"

Homer

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I"ll second that Gotham, Union Square, Babbo and Jefferson are all great for solo dining at the bar. I've been rudely greeted by the hosts at Gotham, but the staff inside have always been terrific. Never had a problem of any kind at the others.

Didn't like Gramercy (poor service/limited menu) and both Landmarc and Spice Market were huge disapointments on all levels.

Pastis, Balthazar and Shiller's are fun for brunch or late night as there is always a good buzz.

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1. Otto ( Always good service, knowledgeable about wine and always willing to grab me a seat if they're busy.

2. Gotham Bar & Grill. The trays at the bar are perfect so you don't have to lean over. Mark, the bartender always makes you feel wanted. He also snags me a seat if he sees me in the distance.

3. Veritas. They have won't let you have the prix-fixe which pisses me off but an assortments of apps & a main course split works well as does the strong wine by the glass program.

4. Craftbar. Once again, a large assortment of apps but wine by the glass isn't as good as it was a few years ago when I first tried Craftbar. Still rates high because of the food.

5. Gramarcy Tavern. Service, food and wine program would put them on top especially with the tavern menu but I can't get a seat at the bar if I'm there after 5:30.

I'd love to put Esca on this list beacuse the food is very good but the chairs are so uncomfortable.

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  • 3 months later...
You were already there. Gotham B& G is great for solo dining.

I second this, as far as Babbo is concerned. My partner and I enjoyed a wonderful meal with a very educated and attentive bartender/server back in August. We were lucky enough to walk in around 9:30 on a Sunday night and grab the two seats on the end. I actually enjoyed this much more than when were there for our anniversary the December prior and ate in the upstairs dining room.

"I can resist everything except temptation." Oscar Wilde

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