LANTERN’S KEEP

49 W. 44th St btw 5th and 6th ave, Midtown West

The Place: A small, serious cocktail bar in the back of the Iroquois Hotel. Random, I know.

The Time: Tuesday June 7, 6pm. I bought myself a ticket to see The Humans on Broadway, because I know when it wins the Tony for Best Play, I won’t be able to get one. I picked up my new headshots (weeeeee!) and had a sec to drop in somewhere for a drink. Because I hate everywhere in this area, I checked Yelp for cocktail bars. Miraculously, Lantern’s Keep popped up, and it was only a few blocks from the theater! Solid.

The Vibe: I’ve never been to the Iroquois Hotel before, because why would I, but the doormen point me to the back of the hotel when I ask where Lantern’s Keep is. It’s one small room, with a cozy and intimate feel save for the light flooding in from the gaudy lobby. There’s a sign right in front of the entrance saying “please wait to be seated” that I chose to ignore. Everyone else (aka every white man between the ages of 40 and 60 wearing a suit and thick rimmed eyeglasses) gets puzzled by this and idles awkwardly, peering in, seeing who will seat him. The one server, a woman with ombre hair  wearing a dark plaid shirt, gives no fucks about this, calling out to them from wherever she is and showing him where to sit by pointing. This bar must be a big after-work spot, because there are only men on business meetings or whatever sitting at the tables. I’m alone at the actual bar. 20 minutes in, and I am the only woman in the place, except the server. JK, not the only woman, because there are two large faux Degas ballerina paintings. One is mostly just her chest. The other is just of her tutu. Another woman walks in at one point, but she was the manager because she handed the bartender a check. 40 minutes in, and it was still just me, the server and the ballerinas’ body parts representing women.

The Drank: They have a good looking cocktail menu, but I wanted a negroni variation in honor of Negroni Week. The bar wasn’t doing anything special, but I asked the bartender, and he made me a Right Hand cocktail, a riff on a boulevardier with bourbon, campari and chocolate bitters. It’s delicious. For such a small bar, and seemingly one station, they have 11 shakers. That’s a stupid amount of shakers. They’ve got all the right stuff–a whole tray of amaros (amari?), a juicer to press citrus to order, big ice, frosted mixing glasses. WTF is this bar doing in the back of this no-nothing hotel? At one point, I overhear a guy ask for vodka, and the server tells him this is a vodka-less bar! WHOA. I look at the bottles and, it’s true! There’s no vodka in sight. I wonder how many businessmen have been pissed off by this.

The Bartender: A tall guy with glasses, tattoos and a khaki baseball cap named Fiaco. He was quick to whip me up something when I asked for a negroni-style cocktail, but before he did, he asked me if there are any spirits I didn’t like. Good man, Fiaco. He also works at Featherweight, one of my local haunts, so I’ll be seeing him again soon, I’m sure.

Was I Hit On? Surprisingly no, considering I was actually the only woman my entire time there. As I was ready to leave, the bar had filled up; the 3 other stools were occupied by lone men fitting the same description as the other guys. Maybe if I had stayed longer, one of them would’ve said something to me, but maybe not. I can’t say.

Should You Drink Here Alone? I guess so. A bar of this quality is rare in the theater district, so it serves that purpose. If you’re around and hankering for a good cocktail, by all means. But otherwise, leave that bar stool for the next businessman who walks through the door. He’ll fit right in.

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THE PENNSY

2 Pennsylvania Plaza, which is a pretentious way of saying 33rd and 7th, Midtown West

the pennsy

The Place: A brand new food hall next to Penn Station, clearly built in an attempt to make the area I like to call the Armpit of New York a bit more attractive.

The Time: Friday May 6, 3:15pm. I have no idea what I’m doing here. Well, that’s not entirely true–I actually came here for a sandwich from The Cinnamon Snail, an incredible vegan food truck-turned-vendor that’s exclusively at The Pennsy, and whenever I’m hungry and in this area, I get one of their amazing sandwiches. But there’s a bar here and it’s open so I’m like, ok. I have some time to kill before leaving for the Catskills with the wondrous One Year Lease Theater Company, so I figured, why not have a drink before a 3 hour van ride?

The Vibe: The Pennsy is massive, and I get why there’s a bar but there really shouldn’t be; it’s a glorified food court. It is so bright inside, no matter the weather outside. The bar wraps around an entire section of the huge space, with plenty of beer taps and teal bar stools. There’s a DJ playing raging club music, which makes zero to no sense. But hey, it’s TGIF for the bridge and tunnel crowd, exactly the clientele occupying this bar right now. Plenty of older dudes in suits too, who may or may not fall into the B+T category. The suits next to me kept looking over at me, probably wondering what my deal was. They also spent a lot of time commenting on the DJ: “what do DJs do now that they don’t spin records?” “Kinda sounds the same though.” I then look up and notice a giant flatscreen projecting an infomercial for the world’s biggest netty pot. The suits notice it too, and they both scoff in disgust and horror. One of them says, “is that a blender???” Even if you slap a fresh coat of paint on it, this neighborhood will always be the Armpit of New York.

The Drank: A glass of riesling at $10. Big pour. Big glass. Everything seems bigger at The Pennsy. They even have a sign on the wall boasting that their pint glass is 1.5oz bigger than the average pint glass (even daring to say, “Don’t believe us? Bet your bartender!” and you know some of these arrogant old-timers must take the bait). Their cocktail menu looks decent, but I just don’t trust it. Maybe it’s my prejudice about the cocktails I think a Penn Station bar would serve. They have a pretty good selection of spirits and the wine is good, but I don’t have the time or money to spend on a cocktail my gut and biases are saying would be average.

The Bartender: All women it seems, dressed in gingham button downs and red suspenders. They were not v. chatty, but neither was I in that moment. Except for one time when the music surged, and I must’ve made a face because the bartender was like, “I know right? I feel like it should be more laid back right now, it’s not even 4 o’clock!” Never has a truer word been spoken.

Was I Hit On? The suits next to me seemed to leave once I started eating my massive Cinnamon Snail sandwich (that’s a plus about The Pennsy–you can drink and eat anywhere). But they were immediately replaced by 2 guys in suits that looked and sounded exactly the same as the other guys. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. The suit closest to me turned, pointed to my sandwich and said, “That looks great, where’d you get it?” Through a very full mouth, I managed to eek out “Cmmamon Smail.” He didn’t talk to me again because I was obviously more invested in the sandwich than I would ever be in a conversation with him.

Should You Drink Here Alone? There’s nothing wrong with The Pennsy. But frankly, the best thing it’s got going for it is the food, not the bar, so next time, I’m just gonna get my yummy vegan sandwich and peace out.