A meal here feels a little like walking into the set of The Godfather; the place is complete with tuxedoed waiters, white tablecloths, low-lit chandeliers and a decidedly old-school Brooklyn-Italian crowd. The food's not as fancy as some of Williamsburg's newer, hipper Italian eateries, but the classic pasta dishes are more than serviceable; try the homemade ravioli or rich fettucini alfredo, and you'll stay full for days.
There's no real menu here; just ask the waiter for a few suggestions based on your tastes, and expect him to bring a few overflowing plates of basic Italian dishes like veal parmigiana, spaghetti and meatballs or spinach manicotti. And don't expect an intimate meal, here, either, since if you're with a small party, you'll end up being seated at a big table with strangers. It doesn't matter, you're all ordering the same thing, you're family now! A la famiglia!
In 1947, Ludwig Bemelmans—illustrator of the beloved Madeline books—painted murals of New York on the walls of the bar at the Carlyle in exchange for room and board at the hotel. His work is a delight to behold. Stick to classic drinks such as Champagne and, of course, Manhattans here.
Thousands of clay pipes—smoked by luminaries such as Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, and Albert Einstein—line the ceiling. Once upon a time, a “pipe warden” would fetch your pipe and bring it to you so you could smoke as you tucked into mutton chops. Nowadays, regulars come for fiercely delicious steaks and a stop in the bar for pints, wine, and whiskey, neat.
Thank goodness for the Old Town Bar, which has been serving since 1892, and became a speakeasy during prohibition. Featuring beautiful tiled floors, 16-foot-high ceilings, what it claims are “New York’s oldest active dumbwaiters,” and a plethora of sassy regulars, it’s a wonderful happy hour stop for beer and bar food.
This legendary neighborhood bar is ideal for a pint of Guinness on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Brooklyn Inn is gorgeous to look at, with high ceilings, huge windows, and long, dark oak bar that dates to the 1870s. Cocktails here aren’t fancy, but the neighborhood gossip is great. It’s a fine place to feel like a local over a copy of the newspaper or kick around over a game of pool in the back room.
With its vaulted, tiled ceilings, fresh seafood, and multiple little bars—including one behind swinging saloon doors—it’s a delight. You might see suited men at one bar kicking back whiskey before hopping on the Westchester trains, letting their wives’ calls go straight to voicemail. At another, locals and tourists sit shoulder-to-shoulder over icy plates of super-fresh clams and oysters. This place is straight out of Mad Men—in the very best way.
Manhattan’s Nom Wah, though—the oldest dim sum parlor in the city—is beloved by Ruth Reichl, among others, for its dumplings, pork rolls, almond cookies, and extensive menu. It’s approaching its centennial, which is remarkable given the changes its neighborhood has experienced over the years.