Classic restaurants revisited

While some iconic New York eateries have been lost to history, others have reinvented themselves to meet the city's ever-changing dining landscape. We checked out five survivors where the second act is worth the price of admission.

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  • Photograph: Courtesy '21' Club

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Courtesy '21' Club

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Courtesy '21' Club

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    '21' Club

    '21' Club

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ahi Tuna Cones

    Ahi Tuna Cones at '21' Club

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Mini Burgers

    Mini Burgers at '21' Club

Photograph: Courtesy '21' Club

'21' Club

'21' Club


 

'21' Club
The city's cocktail boom has turned Prohibition-era tippling—or some idealized version of it, at least—into a pervasive nightlife trope. But while apostles of the neospeakeasy can mix a mean Negroni, they don't have anything on the historical bona fides of this New York institution, which began life in 1922 as a Greenwich Village gin mill before moving in 1929 to its current home in midtown. Over the years, the spot became the de facto clubhouse for the town's power players, as well as a must for visiting notables—indeed, with the exception of Dubya and Obama, '21' Club has hosted every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The revamp: While the elegant upstairs dining room and more clubby Bar Room remain untouched, a brand-new ten-seat, black-granite bar that greets patrons when they enter helps to boost the venue's casual appeal (casual being relative here—jackets are still required for men). To match the new digs, chef John Greeley has launched a menu of bar snacks, while an updated beverage program now includes beers on tap—a first in the venue's 81-year history.

The verdict: The changes don't really update '21' Club's country-club vibe, but they do make it easier to experience its anachronistic charms without committing to a pricey meal. The chummy bar scrum spills into a plush lounge, swabbed in dark tones of antique pine and leather, and hung with 15 original Remingtons depicting scenes of the Old West. It's a rarefied pleasure to sit here, sipping a rye Manhattan ($15)—mighty fine, even without Kold-Draft ice cubes or artisanal bitters—and soaking up the moneyed mise en scne. You can even sample scaled-down riffs on '21' Club classics, including excellent mini burgers ($18)—loosely packed and nicely charred on the grill, with an interior like steak tartare—that put most of the nouveau sliders in town to shame. 21 W 52nd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-582-7200)


Nom Wah Tea Parlor | Le Bernardin | The Monkey Bar
The Leopard at des Artistes | '21' Club


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