NYC: The Best Bars to Entertain Holiday Visitors

The holiday season means higher-than-usual tourist density in New York City, and naturally, that spike in traffic is due in no small part to your own eager friends and family, who descend on the city for an authentic, fairy-lighted experience of the Big Apple in winter. But after a day at Macy’s, an evening at Rockefeller Center, and a dinner somewhere “New York-y,” as per their request, where do you, their trusty tour guide by default, take them for a night on the town? Here are a few crowd-pleasers that will still earn you some street cred, whether that crowd involves your boyfriend’s distant Uncle Larry, Mom and Dad, long-lost friends who’ve emerged from the woodwork, hard-to-impress rubberneckers, or your old high school mates. A comprehensive list of the best yuletide boîtes to celebrate the new year – and the best of NYC.

Bars with Games Good For: Who doesn’t like to indulge in the nostalgia of old-school games, especially this time of year? Whether you’re with a raucous bunch of old friends, have a score to settle with your Mom over ping pong, or need to take the focus off a conversation with relatives you barely know, these bars offer distractions and can make for a festive time. Bar 675: Basement rec room goes for casual chic with Jenga, cards, and board games. Earn extra points from sceney friends, who will be thrilled to tell the folks back home that they hung out in the Meatpacking. The Diamond: Brooklyn bound? Beer makes shuffleboard so much more fun at this Greenpoint joint. SPiN: Table tennis for mom, and the fact that it’s owned by Susan Sarandon will appease cousin Name Drop as well. Barcade: Are your friends from the Midwest looking for “authentic Brooklyn?” Watch their wide-eyed wonder as they take in skinny-jean gangs playing thumb-cramping faves like Frogger and Tetris for an authentic 25¢ a pop. Ace Bar: Skee-Ball bar pleases the kiddies and anyone else who likes bare-bones décor sprinkled with bits of pop-trinket nostalgia from your childhood. V Bar: Siding with the gaming snobs of the world, this spot is best for your Princeton-alum brother (who happens to be a chess genius). Café and wine bar stocked with NYU grad students, chess and Scrabble battles, and a nice selection of beer and wine.

Next: Cozy Fireplaces

Cozy Fireplaces Good For: Catch up time with people who came to really enjoy holiday spirit in the city. Rose Bar: Have friends or family more interested in being around artists than actual art? For example: I once took someone here who fawned over what he thought was a Warhol (he read about it in a city guide) loud enough so that he was sure Neve Campbell, seated a table away, could hear. It was a Haring. Rubber-necking friends aside, the velvety banquettes and giant fireplace are a cozy departure from the winter weather courtesy of Ian Schrager and Julian Schnabel. The Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel: Wood paneling, stuffed animal trophies, and twin oils of hunting hounds give off an English-manor-library vibe. Can be a headache to get a good spot, which are usually reserved for “hotel guests,” monied travelers, and pretty hipsters. Try eating at Gemma first and brown nose your server for a spot by the fireplace. The Back Room: Semi-secret spot for those wishing it was still Prohibition. They’ll get a kick out of drinking their $11 cocktail from a mug. Employees Only: High-class weirdness, with a gypsy psychic at the door and stellar mixologists to determine your fate. The smell of the fireplace and the sight of all the handle bar mustaches will really transport your visitors. Highlands: Décor is pub-meets-hunter’s-lodge, with stuffed deer on brick walls and salvaged woods. Cozy, and it exacerbates that whole “New York Melting Pot” idea. Savoy: A townhouse in the middle of Soho with a fireplace as the festive cherry on top. Shoolbred’s: Scottish pub parlor warmed by actual fireplace. Ten brews on tap. Scotch, natch. It’s Highlands for the East Side set, with a low key (NYU students) crowd.

Next: The Oldest Bars in New York

The Oldest Bars in New York Good For: Skip these precious spots if you’re with a crew that couldn’t care less about anywhere that doesn’t have a VIP list. Otherwise, impress friends and family with the storied, often quirky backgrounds of some of New York’s oldest watering holes. Bridge Café: Opened in 1794, old but not musty. Looks like the site of a nautical murder mystery and is rumored to be haunted by ghosts of sailors and whores, like your parents’ bedroom. Ear Inn: Classic New York-on-the-waterfront feel, minus Marlon Brando, but with plenty of coulda-been contenders. I’ve seen a Soprano in here. McSorley’s: Born in 1854, and perhaps the most renown bar amongst the younger members of the Historical Society, this beer-chugging joint sees tanked fratboys, the cirrhosis crowd, and, after a court order, a few ladies (in other words: no women were allowed until 1970). Sawdusted floors, dust-encrusted wishbones, and loads of cats make this a very special place, indeed. Delmonico’s: Quenching your bloodthirst since ’37 -1837, that is – your parents will appreciate the air of refinement this joint still exudes, not to mention the supposed hauntings. Mahogany wood dining room with glowing chandeliers is the ideal noir-glam setting for steakhouse staples and a bustling bar separate from the dining room.

Next: Mixology Bars

Mixology Bars Good For: The mixology trend is widely known across all towns and townships, so let your slightly underage cousin Timmy learn firsthand just how delightful muddling, zesting, and spicing can be. Just about anyone who doesn’t limit themselves to wine coolers will appreciate the craftsmanship and ambiance. Apotheke: For those who want the back alley as much as they want the absinthe, welcome to Albert Trumer’s quirky school of cocktail science – this former opium den has been transformed into a medieval apothecary by the Austrian mixologist. Bonus: it’s in Chinatown. The interior is antique-sexy, with warm lighting and super-friendly bartenders. PDT: Oh, this is good. Through a hot dog joint you’ll go, and then through a phone booth, where you’ll have to say some secret something-or-other (though they’ve grown lenient in their older age) before you take your dumbfounded guests back to a room with a diagonal slat ceiling, de rigueur taxidermy, and a glowing bar. Note: Make a reservation earlier to get a good seat and smooth entry. Little Branch: By far the most talked-about speakeasy, this West Village spot boasts no signage unless you count the line out the door during peak hours. Retro cocktails served with cool swizzle sticks by tall drinks of water. Go on the early side of a Sunday night to chat up the mixologists and catch some jazz. Mayahuel: The cocktail connoisseurs at Death & Co. built an agave altar. Intimate confessionals, stained glass, and communal pews evoke a Mexican mission. All tequila, all the time, with all the bells and whistles to render previous tequila blow-outs null and void. Death & Co: Dark and polished, this cocktail den packs in a lively crowd. Bartenders in suspenders and vests serve up expert cocktails, and clearly love what they do (they don’t take of their vests when they get home). Great spot for just about anyone who can appreciate such a scene. Cienfuegos: Cuban rum bar from Mayahuel/Death & Co vet seduces with pink couches and sugarcane.

Next: Impressive Hotel Bars

Impressive Hotel Bars Good For: If your guests really “wanna see stuff,” like mine usually do, guiding them to impressively-designed hotel bars around NYC—usually the crown jewels of the hotels themselves—will go over well. Here are a few that leave a lasting impression. Bemelmans Bar: It’s classic New Yawk! Located inside the Carlyle, this timeless upscale New York City bar near Central Park draws bold-faced names, many of whom your out-of-towners could care less about. They will enjoy the classic cocktails and gilded ambiance. Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel: If your guests approach things like rock music, sushi, and democrats with trepidation, this bar on acid may not be the place for them. Shrek-green lights illuminate the escalator, there’s a chandelier the size of a Volkswagen, the floors glow, the chairs seem to float—except for the tree stumps—and the whole thing makes you feel like you’re living in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s that cool. The Waldorf Astoria: Ah, the sprawling impressiveness of the Waldorf – the stuff salads are named after! Three bars, four restaurants, and Jazz Age overindulgence. A certain spirit abides, especially during the holidays. Jane Hotel and Ballroom: This place is for your visiting sorority sisters – leave the parents at home. Dual bar spaces decked out with Edwardian charm, as befits the hotel’s 1908 origins. Posh couches, leafy palms, tortoise shell ceilings, and an ancient disco bar all made better by the creatively-dressed PYTs. Plunge Rooftop Bar + Lounge at the Gansevoort Park: This hotel bar sort of looks like the New York in the Sex and the City movies. It’s slick and arty, with shinning angles and scrumptious views of the Empire State Building. Stoke your vertigo with windows in the terrace floors that look straight down on distant midtown traffic. Your guests will feel so very modern. The Standard Hotel: So this is the place with all the naked people? Depending who you’re with, I’d say a stroll around the grounds with a stop at the bar in the hotel’s Standard Grill will be enough. Unless you’ve got some young model/socialite family members, why waste family time on rubbernecking at Boom Boom? The Ace Hotel: It has a curious cheeky quality to it without being a tourist magnet. The Lobby Bar is reminiscent of an all-American library, with Ivy League reading-room tables, a bar serving up Old Fashioneds and the cult favorite Porkslap Pale Ale, a vintage-style photobooth, and a massive, tattered American flag on the wall. Bring people—not sheeple.

Next: Editor’s Picks

Editor’s Picks Our editors are often tasked with selecting the perfect place for their cousin Sarah’s college roommate’s mother, who’s coming to the city for the first time. Here’s where they like to bring their special holiday guests this time of year. Chris Mohney: Pegu Club. Great place to take any out-of-towner who likes a good drink. Still some of the finest cocktails in the city, and now that it’s been around a while, almost always chill enough to easily find a spot without worrying about crowds. Ben Barna: Fatty Cue. It’s good for anyone, really. Except maybe vegetarians. It’s got the kind of vibe you can only find in Brooklyn, and the kind of unique cuisine you’ll only find in New York. Also, it’s a restaurant meant for sharing, so that’s fun. And the drinks are as good as the food. I’d like to just bring my bros, but it’s expensive, so I take my parents as well. Megan Conway: The Good Fork in Red Hook. I’d like to take my parents to visit this historic, less-trodden waterfront neighborhood. This cozy restaurant offers inspired grub in one of the more unique pockets of the city. Nadeska Alexis: The Dove. It’s a well rounded place that’s chill enough for friends, and I’ve been there with adults and have not been embarrassed. Fun cocktails too. Victor Ozols: Rudy’s. It’s a really lasting, authentic experience that stays with someone. Cayte Grieve: Oyster Bar at Grand Central. For New York newbies and friends and family who haven’t spent a lot of time in the city, the Oyster Bar is one of those bars-slash-attractions that sort of kills two birds with one stone. Grand Central? Check. Getting Grandma drunk? Check. All done with old-style glamour.

Next: Around Rockefeller

Around Rockefeller Good For: Sometimes you just gotta give the people what they want: A Disney-fied version of the most wonderfully commercial time of the year! While your skating, shopping, and taking photos around The Tree, you might as well ease your sensory-overloaded nerves with some family vodka time. Rock Center Café: Tourist magnet, priced accordingly, and you will wait accordingly—yes, even the early birds. Perhaps it’s best to skip the food and opt for a toast instead. Perfect before, during, or after a spin around the rink. Watching wipe-outs with the fam never felt so corporate. The Modern: Danny Meyer’s unabashed flamboyance for air-kissing culture whores. It’s at the MoMa, kids, so take only those who desire such a scene. If you’ve got yourself a crew outfitted in suits and ties longing for a culture cocktail, here’s your promised land. 21 Club: It’s so famous! Free parking if you show up before 6:30pm, if that tells you something about the demographic, but only the locals and culture snobs will take note. Skip the steaks and head for the scotch with the people who’ve read about the place or heard about it in hip-hop songs. Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe: Here’s a cozy place to get warm after running with the masses around Rockefeller. Please remember that other people longing for a night cap will also be directed to this wine bar, which boasts over fifty well-chosen wines by the glass and 2,000 bottle choices on the menu.

Locavore’s NYC: Favorite Farm to Table Restaurants

Summer is officially over. Lush green foliage, weekend trips to greener pastures, and nautical stripes will be replaced by colder temps, tighter deadlines, and, in some cases, wider waistlines. But, like our inevitable Indian Summer, some things needn’t be phased out so quickly. Running along the river will still be nice until they begin to turn off the water fountains in November, and you can still enjoy fresh farm-to-table eating, as green markets are open year round. However, robust organic shoppers aside, most of us will prefer to get our fall gourmet fixes at cozy, heated restaurants—and as luck (or living in New York) would have it, you can continue your summery locavore habits at a multitude of restaurants around the city. Even better, you can enjoy fall’s ever-changing harvests with their daily seasonal offerings. These are some of my favorite restaurants that support healthy and sustainable eating—good for you and for the environment.

ABC Kitchen Locavoricious spread drops organic, pesticide-free versions of homemade ravioli, whole wheat pizza, roast pork with apple and Meyer lemon. Herbs and micro-greens imported from the rooftop garden. Green buzzwords also apply to chic rustic décor: reclaimed wood tables, handmade porcelain tableware, bread baskets by the Mapuche people of Patagonia. Makes living the zeitgeist as easy as A, B, C.

We’re only a few blocks from the Greenmarket and will create dishes based on whatever we find. Everything—vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meats, flowers—is sourced as locally as possible.” — Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Anella Seasonal American trattoria—so seasonal they source from Greenpoint’s Rooftop Farms and their own backyard. The green theme carries over to the petite bar, which is made of workbenches recycled from the Steinway factory. Menu boasts brick-oven pizza, bread baked in flower pots, Chatham cod with wine-braised fennel and olives.

Cookshop Comfort food for the organic set from the pros behind NoHo power luncher Five Points. Open kitchen, modern, subtle farmhouse vibe—though the dinner check would run an actual farm for a week. Extend your life with sustainable poultry, local fish, and grass-fed meat. Grilled Montauk squid and Catskill duck breast keep it close to home. Happy food makes for happy arteries. Cancer is for losers.

Mas Farmhouse The chef from Bouley employs classic French technique, but with local and seasonal American foods. Farm-raised pork belly and guinea hen, domestic cheeses, house-made sorbet. Honors seasonal vegetables as much as guests; both are beautifully attended and respectfully served. Perk: Chef Galen Zamarra changes his menu daily.

The Green Table Table heavy in local ingredients and country charm serves all-organic sustainable food and wine. Tender Manx Station grass-fed beef, slow-roasted Satur Farms baby heirloom beet salad, ever-changing vegan “farm plate” showcasing the best in seasonal fixings. Quaint kitchen surroundings and never-ending wine list enhance the feel-good experience.

Savoy Mediterranean-tinged traditional American like salt-crusted baked duck, which is just as decadent as it sounds, and a plumnose snapper as fun to eat as it is to say. Fresh green stuff straight from the farmer and homemade desserts. Manicured globe-trotting wine list touches down everywhere from Chile to Basque country.

Blue Hill BH is a staple in the locavore’s list of restaurants. Seasonal produce from the Hudson Valley, which we’ve heard is somewhere nearby. Foie gras with rhubarb and black pepper, poached duck and roast pork, among many spectacular achievements. Unparalleled commitment to freshness and ingenuity. Spare, elegant, unpretentious ex-speakeasy space. Seasonal tasting menus may result in embarrassing foodgasm a la Meg Ryan, but try to keep it down, as this is a classy place.

Main Photo Via Brooklyn Paper

These Restaurants Will Make You Thin

What are the thin people really eating? The British Journal of Nutrition just published a study this month saying that the trimmest people, those who weighed the lightest, flaunted the slimmest waists, and were proud owners of the smallest hip circumference, had the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids in their blood. After investigating the commonality, I found that these people were in fact not freebasing flaxseed oil. They were, however, loading up on foods that were rich in omega 3s — grass-fed beef, flaxseed, soy, salmon, etc. No one knows for sure what omega 3s do for the diet exactly … they may stimulate hormones that make you feel full, and they have been shown to improve circulation, which can also aid in weight loss and reducing inflammation. Whatever the case, you can get slim while you dine in New York this weekend; head to a few of these “healthy” joints to load up on the good stuff.

Salmon This cold-water oily fish is optimal for omega 3 intake, and these restaurants are extra careful on choosing their fish. If you’re worried about that whole mercury poisoning thing, take heed: Harvard’s School of Public Health reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the benefits of fish intake far outweigh the potential risks. Petrossian (Midtown West) – Perhaps the Carnegie Hall scene is a bit on the hoity-toity side, but the Guatemala shrimp & smoked salmon, salmon roe salad, and premier smoked salmon served with toast points, crème fraiche, and fresh dill are all delish and good for your waist, One If By Land Two If By Sea (West Village) – Feel great on your romantic date by imagining your ass is shrinking with every bite of your smoked salmon. Blue Ribbon Sushi (Soho) – Double your pleasure with a menu that’s heavy in salmon and soy — another omega 3 favorite. Sake tataki, salmon tartare, and that sake shiso salmon with shiso are some to sample. Lure Fishbar (Soho) – A great seafood hot spot, the salmon tartare and grilled salmon with spaetzle, peas, smoked onions, and herb vinaigrette make everything about the resto well-rounded, so your midsection won’t be.

Flaxseed Though is sounds like something health nuts go nutty for, flaxseed is six times richer than most fish oils in omega 3s. The Pump (Flatiron) – Get your flaxseed on with the Pro-Omega shake, a mixed fruit, apple juice, acai, flaxseed oil, and whey protein concoction that is not as scary as it sounds. Actually, I would venture to call it yummy. Organic Avenue (Lower East Side) – Organic health food emporium where you can add flaxseed to just about anything. Try the flax-full fiesta chips.

Grass-Fed Beef Beef fattened on grass is typically waayyyy healthier than all the other crap out there. Now that restaurants know that we now know this, they’ve upped their game. Here are a few restos that get it and get it right. Craftsteak (Chelsea )- Superchef Tom Colicchio’s flesh venture does meat right, and just because the beef is priced by fattiness doesn’t mean it will go straight to your hips. Savoy (Soho) – Their hamburger, made from divine grass fed beef and served with French fries and house ketchup, is pitch perfect. Blue Hill (Greenwich Village) – They have their own farm. You have to guess the Blue Hill Farm veal with broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes, and string beans is true to its name.

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Chomping at the Savoy: Frittata from Chef Ryan Tate

New York restaurateurs interested in consistency and longevity could take a few lessons from Soho’s Savoy. The place has been hanging in since 1990, although some nights there feel like a whole other century. The townhouse digs date back to Federal-era New York, and the rustic effect feels earned, not contrived. Atmosphere alone would make this a date-night staple, but the kitchen’s skill is what ices the two-decade run. The cuisine matches the rusticity of the rooms, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The preparations are sophisticated without tipping over into pretension. Savoy’s chef de cuisine Ryan Tate shares a sample with us: an asparagus and goat cheese frittata that’s well within the reach of an amateur home entertainer. Starting with good ingredients will take you a long way on this one. And don’t be intimidated by the dozen eggs — the dish serves four.

Savoy Chef Ryan Tate’s Asparagus & Goat Cheese Frittata ● 12 eggs ● ½ cup milk ● 1 bunch asparagus peeled, trimmed, and cut into ½-inch pieces ● ½ cup fresh goat cheese (preferably Catapano) ● ¼ cup fines herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon, and chervil), finely chopped ● 4 tbl butter ● 1 cup diced brioche ● 4 tbl butter ● Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste Pre-heat oven to 350°. Whisk eggs in large mixing bowl. Add milk, asparagus, and herbs, and season to taste. Melt two tablespoons butter in a 12-inch nonstick pan, add egg mixture and goat cheese, distributed evenly. Place pan in oven for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, over low heat melt remaining two tablespoons of butter in another 12-inch non-stick pan, then gently toast bread crumbs with the herbs, salt, and pepper until lightly golden. Set breadcrumbs aside. When eggs are almost set (around the 12-minute mark), sprinkle the herbed breadcrumb mixture on top and bake 3-5 minutes more, until eggs are just cooked through. Invert onto plate and cut into wedges. Serve with fresh greens tossed with tarragon vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serves four.

Toasty Times: Top NYC Bars & Restaurants with Fireplaces

Hey, look outside: snow! Or rather, melty puddles! New Yorkers found themselves with their first decent snow of the season on Tuesday, we’re expecting over six inches today, and no marker strikes us as better for some fireside drinking than some First Real Snows in the city. After the jump, a few picks on places to cozy up to a fireplace in Manhattan — yes, a functional one — and get your warm, insulated drink on.

1. Beekman Bar and Books and Hudson Bar and Books: These two posh, library-themed bars — Beekman on the way-East Side, Hudson in the West Village — both feature one incredible, rare, NYC staple of yore: legalized indoor smoking. Some wackadoo loophole in the law allows them to get away with this (bars in the East Village should get hip to it, like, yesterday) with both a cigar menu and a deep booze selection.

2. Savoy: SoHo standby for those who get pushed away from The Balth, Savoy’s skeeze New American before New American was New again — we don’t get it, either — but the room is the coziest thing you’re going to find in that neighborhood since Uniqlo’s cheap cashmere.

3. Lobster Box: Outer-borough action! One of three reasons to go to the Bronx (the other two: the zoo and Yankee Stadium. Some would argue they’re one and the same, to which we say “C.C. will melt your face.”). Lobster Box offers a beautiful view of the Long Island sound beyond it, and on a cold night, fireplace blazing, no dining destination in the Bronx is even remotely cooler. Though some have asserted that the prime product has diminished lately; bottom line is that it’s (relatively) cheap lobster, in the Bronx, and probably one of the only restaurants in the area you’ll need a reservation for. Take it for what you will.

4. Shoolbred’s: A big, dumb Scottish pub that doesn’t give a shit about you or your numb Yankee toes. Who needs warmth when you can have the Scottish delivering you the Manhattan Cold Shoulder in a kilt, with an under-poured pint to go with it? Exactly. This bar is awesome.

5. The Waverly Inn: Assuming you can get in — which, let’s face it, you probably can’t — you can enjoy celebrity sightings galore, along with the Waverly’s famed truffled mac n’ cheese and a healthy dose of feeling less-than-adequate in the face of far more famous, beautiful people. The upside: their self-immolation-friendly* fireplace, naturally! Toasty! (And now with angry mobs at no extra charge.)

* Unless you’re a Buddhist monk trying to make a meaningful statement — and even then, iffy grounds — BlackBook does not actually endorse the practice of self-immolation. We still don’t think you’re getting into the Waverly, though.