Sunday, September 5, 2010

Barfly's Beat: Hotel Bars of West 44th Street

Senator heading into The Algonquin on W 44th Street
For over a decade, New York Loungers have been making the two block stretch of West 44th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue a cocktail destination. The midtown hotel row is home to  iconic hotels like the Algonquin Hotel, which gained fame as the weekly meeting place for the literary clique known as the Algonquin Round Table  (aka the "Vicious Circle") from 1919 to 1929. Notable journalists, writers, actors such as Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley held court. In that vein, the Dorothy Parker Society's annual Parkerfest (recently held during the last week of August) features an Algonquin Round Table walking tour that ends with Friday happy hour at the hotel to honor the late poet and satirist. Loungers and Roaring Twenties aficionados dress in their finest attire and drink period cocktails.

West 44th Street has been the site of many hotel bar crawls. In November 2007,  a crew of loungers began the night at the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel on East 55th Street. After a seasonal cocktails, we made our way down to the Iroquois and finally the Algonquin Hotel's Round Table Room.  The Senator seized the opportunity and understanding of the venue's history by issuing the now infamous Lounge Doctrine. Toasts were made with a round of eponymous Algonquin Cocktails (Rye, Noilly Prat dry vermouth, pineapple juice, cherry).

Blue Bar and the Round Table Room
at the Algonquin Hotel
59 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036-6638

On Wednesday nights, the Emmy winning trombonist J.Walter Hawkes and his jazz trio perform at M Bar in the Mansfield Hotel.  The mixology at the M bar requires customer guidance and drinks are a bit pricey. However, the half-moon shaped bar and library like setting make it a wonderful place to enjoy a drink, especially in the winter. M Bar's intimate setting spawns many conversations and perfect evenings while J Walter Hawkes and surprise guest musicians provide the soundtrack..

M Bar
at The Mansfield Hotel
12 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

The Quality Cocktail Returns to Hotel Row

Tradition and classic hotel bar elegance aside, the cocktails served on West 44th Street are poor quality compared to the ridiculously high prices charged. Typically, we resort to drinking beer, wine, or a single spirit neat (bourbon, scotch, etc). Well friends, I have momentous news to report: The fine art of mixing drinks has returned to West 44th Street thanks to a new breed of Hotel bar.

Lambs Club (photo courtesy of Zagat Blog)
The Bar at the Lambs Club just opened at the boutique Chatwal Hotel. What is old is new again, the Lambs Club was America's first theatrical club. The original private society was located at 130 West 44th Street  moved to further north to 51st Street in 1974. The Chatwal Hotel's  restaurant bar is at the same location and hence the name Lambs Club to honor the initial tenants. In this incarnation, the club has a distinct mid-century theme with red leather deco booths, a blazing fireplace, and bartenders in white jackets. Why are we excited about this new bar? Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey is behind the cocktail menu.

The initial menu is short, sweet, but troppo caro ($18). The drinks include the Goldrush (bourbon, lemon juice, honey), The Southside (gin, lime, sugar, mint), The Old Fashioned (Rye, sugar, bitters, orange peel), Cherry Fix (Vodka or Rum, fresh cherries, lemon, crushed ice) and the St Hilaire (cava and St. Germain). It will be expanding to two dozen drinks in the coming weeks.

The Lambs Club
at The Chatwal Hotel
130 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036

(Currently open for breakfast and lunch, full dinner to be added in mid-September)

In late September, the return of the classic cocktail parade will continue at the Forty Four at the Royalton Hotel. According to Grubstreet, the management behind Brassierie 44 are renovating the space and brought in a veritable All-Star team of mixology talent to come up with the cocktail program to fit the vintage theme. Among the heavy hitters , our friend Richard Boccato (Painkiller - NY), Eric Alperin (The Varnish - LA), Misty Kalkofen (Drink-Boston), John Lemayer (Florida Room - Miami), Willy Shine (Contemporary Cocktails), and Simon Ford (Beefeater/Pernod Ricard). The artisinal cocktails are sure to run the range from classic to creative with an emphasis on quality ingredients. We know going in that cocktails are expensive at any hotel bar, now at least one will get what they pay for.

Forty Four
at The Royalton Hotel
44 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

Other worthy landmarks and destinations on the street - City Club Hotel (55 W 44th St) - home of DB Bistro Moderne and the Iroquois Hotel.

So, as the chill returns to the air, the days get shorter, and autumn leaves fall from the heavens, make sure to take a trip to West 44th Street to warm your soul. See you there!


  1. The Lambs, Inc., is America's oldest professional theatrical club, established in London in 1868 and in Manhattan in 1874. During our 140+ year history The Lambs has had many homes and, in 1905, erected its own clubhouse at 130 West 44th Street in Manhattan, designed by famed architect Stanford White; now the recently opened as Chatwal Hotel.

    The Lambs Club restaurant is NOT The Lambs, Inc.

    At its clubhouse The Lambs ® (often referred to as The Lambs Club, or The Lambs Theater) flourished producing many plays and programs rising into prominence within American Theater history. Lerner and Loewe first met at The Lambs; Stalag 17 and Mark Twain Tonight were first produced in The Lambs' theater.

    The Lambs® is a registered trademark of The Lambs, Inc.

    The Lambs, Inc. has not been purchased by another entity and is proud if its 140+ years of uninterrupted existence serving its membership, which was recognized by Mayor Bloomberg on May 9, 2007, marking the 130th anniversary of our incorporation in 1877. The Lambs has never gone out of business, nor licensed or franchised its name, nor been affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene or other religious organization, nor operated as "The Lamb's Theater" nor as the Friends of The Lamb's, nor is it a restaurant.

    Our organization resides on West 51st Street, as it has for the past 35 years. and, continues its legacy as a private club for professionals of the entertainment industry. The Lambs has no affiliation with the Chatwal Hotel or its restaurant/bar, other than they are located in the building originally erected by The Lambs in 1905, and was fully renovated by the hotel, retaining the historically protected facade.

    Marc Baron, Boy (VP)
    The Lambs, Inc.

  2. Mr. Baron,

    Nowhere in my post do I represent that the Lambs Club bar is the same as The Lambs, Inc. In fact I link to a site to let the reader to understand the historic significance of The Lambs, Inc.

    My post is only meant to highlight a new venue to enjoy classic cocktails on 44th Street. I apologize if there has been any misunderstanding.