The Empire Room
350 Fifth Ave., 212-643-5400, Midtown West, Manhattan
The sparkling new Empire Room on the ground floor of the Empire State Building is finally open. With its sleek art deco lines and ornamentation, The Empire Room provides a seamless transition from landmark viewing to swanky cocktailing, though the number of suits in the crowd attests to a non-tourist-friendly dress code. It's hard to believe the 3,500 square foot space once housed disgruntled postal workers, especially when you can now expect to be graciously served by hostesses in slinky kick-pleat dresses fingering jaunty strings of pearls and spit-shined bartenders shaking up a martini or two. Under the twinkle of chandeliers, with Sinatra crooning from the speakers, it just feels right. But the picture wouldn't be complete without the clinking of glasses, tinkle of ice, and an old school tipple in hand. Vintage offerings of note include the Bertha (tequila, grenadine, lime and grapefruit juices; $13.50), which lets the spirit shine through layers of tart and sweet, and the Clover Club ($13.50), which brings together gin and vermouth with raspberry liqueur, lime juice, and egg white. Small plates like truffled popcorn ($10) and rib-eye sliders ($19) are available, but we personally wouldn't waste our time or money. But the next time mom and pop are in town and ready to see the sights, the Empire State Building may just make it to the top of our list.
1 Little W. 12th St., 212-255-9717, Meatpacking District, Manhattan
The times they have changed, bigtime. YouTube is the new MTV, while Paper's own Julia Frakes, Tavi, and others of their ilk are giving Anna a run for her money. ICrave, the designers behind Meatpacking's newest hotspot, the Collective, have caught on with lightning speed, looking to artists on Etsy and Craigslist to realize their Frankendesign aesthetic. Headrests are fashioned out of teddy bears while blinking street signs form a chair (and a toasty warm one at that). Everything inside the new bar-restaurant is something that looks like it belongs on the Island of Misfit Toys, and it all deserves a closer look. Yes, those twist ties were painstakingly twisted and tied onto a column, and yes, that is a flock of license plate origami birds. The idea could have easily gone "funky cafe" wrong, but it'll sooner delight than disgust. Besides, you'll be too mind-boggled to judge, and did I mention the teddy bear headrests? The $14 cocktail menu gives a nod to another kind of mutant with the Credible Hulk (gin, lime, basil, and serrano chile), while the food offerings are a hodgepodge of various NYC-neighborhood-themed treats like the Chicken-n-Waffle combo (Harlem) and the short-rib stroganoff (Brighton Beach). We're guessing that those who aren't into the typical MePa thing are breathing a collective sigh of relief.
301 Ainslie St., 718-218-7646, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Matt Torrey's ears are burning. Opening a bar named after yourself (first and last—he doesn't mess around) will do that to you, especially when the buzz has it that Harefield Road and the Pencil Factory are close cousins. After a combined 12 years of tending bar at both neighborhood favorites, Torrey teamed up with owners John Bermingham and Sean O'Rourke for his own piece of the Brooklyn bar pie. On a strip of Bushwick Avenue otherwise known for its rolling tumbleweed problem, Matt Torrey's certainly fills a need, even with the proximity of Harefield Road, just around the corner. Like its brethren, MT's has a comfortably rustic vibe, meaning wood—lots of wood. The oak floors were reclaimed from a 100-plus-year-old Virginia farmhouse, and the bar and the columns behind it are a dark, lustrous ash. When the nights get warmer, the huge windows that run the entire length of one wall and half of another, will provide that al fresco feeling we all seem to enjoy when we have a drink in hand. Those who'd prefer that drink to be a beer and local at that, are in luck. Out of 20 taps, 18 come from NY state breweries like Butternuts, Defiant, Southern Tier and Lake Placid, with some local locals like Brooklyn and Sixpoint thrown in for good measure (Guinness and Blackthorn Cider are the two odd taps out). A month or so will bring toasted sandwiches and simple bar snacks, and all will be well with the world.
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