Father's Day is almost upon us, so it's up to you to sport the old man to a nice drink and maybe even some dinner. But some places are more right than others for fathers, and these are some of them.
Generally when you hear that someplace is "old school," it generally connotes an antiquarian bent -- framed pictures of Teddy Roosevelt, mounted animal heads on the walls -- but Raoul's is far cooler than that. Yes, it hasn't changed since the 70s, but even then it seemed timeless, intimate, sexy, and great at what it does -- namely steak au poirve and red wine.
Immense, archetypal, and of matchless New York cred (this was after all the site of the famous Paul Castellano hit that made John Gotti) Sparks is the steakhouse of choice for native New Yorkers with a sense of history. The beef is prime but not dry-aged, which is more than OK with me.
Keens is so impossibly authentic that it's easy to overlook how beautifully art-directed it is -- a homage and, really, an improvement of the genre. Yes, it's been around a million years and yes, it sells a signature item that nobody has liked in forty years, but Keens benefits from hindsight. That, and a matchless collection of Scotch whiskies.
Reviewing 21 is like reviewing Mount Rushmore; it doesn't matter what you say, because it's a national monument. The last and greatest of the great speakeasies of the 1920s, it morphed into one of the supreme power scenes of midcentury New York and still has much of its old power. The food is much better than you might expect, and if you want a definitive martini, this is the place to have it.
A sister to Smith & Wollensky's, this similarly overstyled steakhouse serves mammoth portions of pretty-good meat; the difference being this place's signature pork shank, the size of which beggars description.
Maybe the defining mid-century New York restaurant, The Four Seasons continues to be a gathering place for the most powerful and wealthy of Manhattan grandees. The food, as always, is an afterthought, but there is no better place than the Grill Room bar to have a martini.
The Brandy Library is practically a shrine to brown spirits: they line the walls and fill whole catalogs. The place shines with a golden glow, and soft seats support the nether parts of drinkers deep in study.
When asked, as I often am, for my opinion on the best steakhouse in New York, I often hem and haw. The meat may be better at Minetta Tavern, the sides at BLT Prime, the atmosphere (and nothing else) at Peter Luger. But for the overall package of flawless service, great meat, and by far the loveliest and most relaxing room of any steakhouse I know, the answer is surely Porterhouse New York. Here's a tip: go have a steak sandwich and an Old Fashioned at the bar, during the day. It's a great NYC experience.
If I had to think of the consummate, classic New York neighborhood restaurant, it might well be Knickerbocker, a low-key, under the radar bar and restaurant where Greenwich Village grandees have been eating steak, drinking martinis, and listening to live piano music for decades.
Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone modernized the flavors of Italian-American food at their acclaimed restaurant, Torrisi; at Carbone, they pay homage to those flavors in their most unreconstructed form, recreating an opulent mid-century red sauce joint with all the skill and ambition they can muster.