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Tavern 29 and Rooftop Biergarten

Tavern 29 and Rooftop Biergarten 1 American Bars Beer Bars Brunch Rooftop Bars Sports Bars Flatiron Nomad Rose Hill

Amid a sea of skyscrapers, this old townhouse has been made into a bar in three parts. The bottom floor sits amid darkly polished wood, sporting large TVs with the night’s games turned on. Above, a room of unfinished reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania sets a more rustic, rugged tone. And upstairs on the third floor, voila! A long-tabled, compact biergarten nestles between towering edifices to either side, creates a chasm in which to drink beer and be merry all year round. Opened in 2012, this bar is now playing a part in the transformation of the midtown area towards a more "hospitable atmosphere." As manager, Cara, told us, "With so many hotels in the district, we draw from a "super dynamic" crowd of people." In addition to the vast selection of beer, there is an excellent cocktail menu that changes by the season to stay up-to-date and fresh, and the American-style eats follow suit. A tale of three different worlds in one, it is a great place to come for a drink and to mingle.

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Tavern 29 and Rooftop Biergarten 1 American Bars Beer Bars Brunch Rooftop Bars Sports Bars Flatiron Nomad Rose Hill
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LB33

Middle Branch rebranded itself as LB33 in 2022. The concept behind Middle Branch is simply explained by manager, Lucinda Sterling. "It stems from drinks created before Prohibition while also utilizing the new ingredients on the market, " but Lucinda emphasized that they adhere to the classics as much as possible. Equally intriguing to me was Lucinda's own story and how she came to run this bar. Eight years ago, she set out on a whimsical cross-country road trip, looking for a "bigger destiny. " Stopping in Manhattan, and having a drink at the bar, Milk & Honey, she struck up a conversation with owner, Sasha Petraske. And as she says, "I never finished that road trip. " She went on to tell me how many inspiring people she has met on this journey and how she has learned to love and appreciate the craft of a good cocktail. "There is so much integrity in what we do here. " So when Sasha decided to open yet another bar, Lucinda was eager to stand behind him. Dimly lit, brooding, and brimming with mystery, Middle Branch is a sophisticated milieu to take a cocktail seriously, impress a date, or even to have a peaceful, uninterrupted evening with friends of all ages. Pineapple lights hang from the ceiling and cast their warm glow over the proceedings, while plush leather seats upstairs let customers sip in languorous comfort. Downstairs, where jazz is played on Tuesdays and bluegrass Wednesdays, standing tables encourage a more active approach to imbibing. We would not have been surprised to run into Voltaire and Montesquieu clinking glasses. But it is hardly all style, the substance is substantial. In addition to classic cocktails, a “bartender’s choice” option lets drinkers tell bartenders (do not make the mistake of calling them “mixologists”) what flavors they like, and then letting the pros perform their magic. Really, it is more poetry than prose. A “something new” section on the menu showcases recent drinks the bartenders have been working on... with wonderful results. There were quite a few of us drinking one Friday night, and we were appreciative of each of the recommendations. Did we like spicy, sweet, ginger, coconut??? Lots of questions until our waitress smiled and quietly walked away. Each time she came back with something unique and splendid. Some favorites were the Chin Chin (made with bourbon, apple cider and fresh ginger), the Cobble Hill (a cheeky spinoff of a Manhattan) and a drink that was yet to come out officially, the Pear Necessities. We were also pleased to have a constant bowl of handmade pretzels set before us as this along with mixed nuts are the only food options... and soon to be introduced, their secret blend of popcorn. Across the bottom of the menu, they score bonus points with pithy quotes from historical bon vivants. From Mark Twain: “never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink - under any circumstances. ” If all of our drinks were created at Middle Branch, I am quite sure that none of us would.

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American Bartender's School

Approaching almost fifty years, the American Bartender's School, owned by Joseph Bruno, has been teaching mixologists the ‘ology of mixing. Having moved in the ‘80s from their original location on Madison Avenue, the school offers forty-hour courses, with students leaving as certified bartenders with a license issued by the New York State Board of Education. Joseph contends that a bartender’s success is determined by conversation, “no matter how good the drink is. ” That being said, technical skill is far from lacking at this institution. Combining lectures and a “lab” portion, we witnessed students attentively toiling over drinks for phantom customers in a room designed to look like one giant bar. The difference, however, is that unlike a culinary school where one might sample their own creations, students do not imbibe here. In fact, there is no alcohol to be found at this bar. Everything is in the correct bottles and the colors all match their potent potable equivalent. What was explained to us is that everything is about measurements. Students are given a recipe to follow, and provided they do it correctly, they can rest assured that it will taste exactly right in the real world. After decades of experience bartending in and managing drinking establishments, Joseph has seen a new devotion to the craft of mixology. Up-and-coming bartenders have tested innovative flavors, homemade syrups, and the “farm-to-table” use of fresh ingredients. He has taken particular pleasure in the resurgence of drinks not popular since the Prohibition era. Perhaps it is a sign that we still have a chance to relive some of the best aspects of the Roaring Twenties.

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The Mason Jar

In the race among Manhattan restaurants to attract customers, simplicity is sometimes lost. But not so in the Mason Jar, a restaurant and bar that keeps it old school with good vibes and great tastes. The southern, barbecue-heavy menu and extensive list of craft beers and bourbons speak for themselves, complete with suggested pairings. Each month, a new craft beer is featured in an effort to support small breweries. If these beers attract a following, they are added to the full-time roster. While visiting with some Sideways members, I had a lively conversation with chef about the different styles of barbecue - our North Carolinian team member swears by vinegar sauce and appreciated Mason Jar’s variety. The food is fresh and not overdone, but at the same time the Chef  “puts love into it. ” The high quality meat is treated seriously - specialty ribs are coated with a dry rub, smoked using apple and hickory wood, braised, and mopped with a tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce. Then grilled. The brisket and boneless pork butts are given no less attention. Replete with wood, American Flags, and comfortable seating, Mason Jar also achieves a homey feel to match its Southern style. Many of the University of South Carolina alumni  in Manhattan choose this spot as the venue to catch the Cocks football games, and Villanova basketball fans flock here for their games, as well. With the hearty food, good beers, and down-home feel, it is easy to understand why. To put it plainly and simply, Mason Jar was a good find.

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Wolfgang's Steakhouse

When I mentioned to my friend that I was up to 33rd Street, she reacted immediately, "You know that this is the street that Wolfgang's is on, don't you? " I loved the description that she and her husband shared with me. "It is an old world man-cave that has incredible charm and certainly appeals to the serious eater. " Situated in the former historic Vanderbilt Hotel with magnificently tiled low vaulted ceilings, my husband I agree that this is a splendid restaurant to dine. Wolfgang Zwiener spent some forty years digesting the world of steak by working in the iconic restaurant, Peter Luger's. Think of it this way, Wolfgang received a veritable master's degree in meats in Brooklyn, and now has earned his doctorate in his own restaurant, where he has written a top-notch thesis. When others might have chosen to slow down a bit or even to retire, he began opening his own restaurants. Over the years, I have been to the three in Manhattan, with the 33rd Street flagship location being the one where we have chosen to celebrate many special occasions. As noted, it is a favorite of friends of ours, and when I asked them to speak to me further about Wolfgang's, the immediate response was, "Personally, of all the steak houses in New York, this is the one to go to. " They went on to describe the menu as not only having excellent steaks, but they also always look forward to ordering seafood, and then brace themselves as the kitchen presents them with a seafood platter appetizer that is "utterly outrageous. " There are jumbo shrimp (my number one oxymoron) and lobster with huge pieces to devour, and thrown in for good measure, some oysters and clams. "Even if you leave the steak out of the equation, it makes for an incredible meal. " But, who can leave the steak out? According to my husband, a man who is passionate about his steak, Wolfgang gets it right every time whether he decides on a filet or a porterhouse. And I, of course, am all about the side dishes and salads, which I think are excellent.

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The Smith

Having grown up in Manhattan, Jeffrey Lefcourt knew the area well. Having been around restaurants since his summers as a busboy in high school, he also knew the industry well. Therefore, when he decided to open The Smith in 2007, a venture preceded by his founding of the restaurant Jane in 2001, he knew what he wanted. “It had to be accessible with high-quality food, ” Jeff reasoned. Nine years later he was onto his fourth location, this time in Nomad, on Broadway with an entrance on a side street. When I visited on a casual Wednesday afternoon in the summer of 2016, just months after its opening, the three-hundred-seat restaurant was nearly at capacity. “It’s really become an amenity for the neighborhood, ” Jeff explained, comparing the timelessness of his establishments to a favorite pair of blue jeans. He later showed me that the new location was already the eighth most-booked New York City restaurant on Open Table. Numbers one and two? The Smith - Lincoln Center and The Smith - Midtown. The Nomad crowd was embracing a comfortable and classic ambience set by the wooden-slabbed ceiling, black-and-white mosaic patterned floor, and sunlight pouring through the wide-opened doors, accented to peak brightness by custom light fixtures. There is a massive bar shelving one of the largest alcohol collections I have seen, with another one intimately situated in a private room reserved for special festivities. Downstairs, there is a photo booth awaiting guests wanting to document their experience with friends or family. In the kitchen, the fires burned high, tantalizing scents fumed, and the large staff was motivated by a booming voice that reverberated orders as they came through. “Fish sandwich at the bar with French fries, ” said the man behind the voice as the cooks kept to their rhythm, each invested in the plates that would soon walk out the door. “It takes a lot of people, ” Jeff smiled. Nearly everything on the menu is made from scratch, and the French fries alone require hours and hours of peeling, cutting and frying to have them just right. Admittedly Jeff’s favorite item on the menu, this crispy side accompanies the Burger Royale, a double patty burger so beloved in Nomad that it was introduced to all locations. The facial expression of our photographer, Tom, once he took his first bite said it all. The vegetarian Vegetable Bibimbap, the vibrant Seared Tuna Salad, and The Royale, an illustrious triple-tiered raw bar platter, each stand on their own. Plated on a bed of charred corn with summer greens, the Mahi Mahi offers refreshing seasonality in the summertime, and the spoonable, skillet roasted Mac and Cheese starter garners the most circulation on Instagram. A standout from the bar was the Moscow Mule on tap. The successes of The Smith restaurants lie not only in their inviting environments, complimentary purified water, drinks on tap, or comforting cuisine sourced from local farmers and fishermen, but also in their commitment to authentic service. “The Smith is a maker. We are making experiences, ” Jeff reinforced, “…It is all about giving people what they are looking for and connecting with them. ” When guests were upset that the winter salad did not make it onto the springtime menu, a slightly tweaked seasonal version was added. The adjustment became so popular that Jeff was afraid to take it off the menu. It is exactly that adaptability that enables the affable owner to perform his favorite part of the job each day - “making people smile. ”

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Up on 20

Where the Hyatt Herald Square has taken inspiration from the publishing and fashion worlds, its bar, called “Up on 20, ” seems to take its inspiration from the sky and cityscape. With clean metallics, greys, and glass, the rooftop bar mirrors its surroundings and emphasizes the sleek beauty of Manhattan. I learned a lot from speaking with Gunnar Steden, the executive chef, and Jordan Cook, the food and beverage manager. Jordan explained that both the food and the décor tried to seem as natural and organic as possible. He spoke about the flowers and plants that would soon be brought up to the bar and about the food that was all locally sourced and made in house. Gunnar explained that most of his ingredients come from no farther than Long Island and Brooklyn, and even the hotel snacks and the morning coffee come from within a very small radius. Gunnar has a significant amount of experience working as a chef for Hyatt, as he has spent time in the empire's German, Australian, and DC hotels. He proudly spoke about the balance in cuisine that he has created, thanks in part to his worldliness. Despite his emphasis on local ingredients, he also caters to more mainstream and international tastes. He used drinks as an example: Whereas he has beer brewed just across the East River on Long Island, he also carries Blue Moon and Shocktop, and he has brought in Kolsch from his native Germany to satisfy European taste buds. Gunnar and Jordan both expressed pride in the menu, and were quick to say that if something does not work, or if available ingredients change, they will change the menu overnight. This is especially helpful in a hotel as new as the Hyatt Herald Square, which had opened only six months before our visit in the spring of 2015. The rooftop bar itself had only just had its soft-opening the day before we arrived. As we wandered to a smaller terrace at the back of the roof with a view of the Freedom Tower, Gunnar explained to me that Up on 20 is not supposed to be a night club or a hot spot. Then he used one of our favorite phrases: “We want to be a neighborhood gem – we want to be small place where you can go and enjoy a beer. " Jordan added, "Our emphasis is on customer experience, not the bottom line. ”

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Cloud Social 1 Bars Rooftop Bars undefined

Cloud Social

“You can’t really get much closer than that, ” Tom, our photographer said, when we were surprised by the enormous view of the Empire State building looming over us. We were on the roof of the Nyma hotel on one of the first warm days in the spring of 2015. Fun, bright orange outdoor seats, the same color as the cozy heat lamps, greeted us next to zebra striped tables topped with little grassy ornaments. Unlike many of the more luxurious rooftop bars, Cloud Social felt more like a good friend’s well-decorated garden patio, unintimidating and intimate. This is exactly how Frank and Maya, the couple who own the bar along with VU at the top of La Quinta, want guests to feel. Frank told us “We don’t want to be pretentious – you don’t need to pay at the door, and there is no dress code. You can come in your shorts! ”Rooftop bars are Frank’s passion. He started working with hotels when he opened a small bar on the second floor of the Hotel at Times Square. He explained, “Hotels like the way I operate. ” He recognizes that when he rents space from a hotel, he must respect the guests. For example, it is essential that his staff be considerate to those on the top floor and control the noise level. Frank was sure to mention, however, that most of his patrons do not come from the hotel, but rather from the surrounding neighborhood. “We attract many young professionals, partly because we keep our prices reasonable. ”Maya is responsible for the décor. “Certain colors are soothing to the eye, ” she said, when we mentioned how much we enjoyed the orange. She continued to explain that she wanted to create a zen feeling with her design. Both Maya and Frank are proud of the fact that the bar is open year-round, and that people take advantage of it. “Even when it’s cold, many people will come outside, take pictures, have a smoke, and then go back, ” they told us. The bartenders made us a couple of Cloud Social’s most popular cocktails: A paloma (Mexico’s best loved drink), made with raw sugar around the edges and “On the Roof, ” which immediately transported me to the Caribbean with its flavors of Malibu and peach schnapps. Both drinks furthered the feeling of being at a friend’s classy pool party, and were delivered by very attentive, friendly staff. Frank explained that he puts a lot of emphasis on service. He believes it has been one of the main reasons why he has been successful. “A drink is a drink: you won’t remember a bad drink, ” he said, “but you will always remember bad service. ”

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The Smith 1 Brunch American undefined

The Smith

Having grown up in Manhattan, Jeffrey Lefcourt knew the area well. Having been around restaurants since his summers as a busboy in high school, he also knew the industry well. Therefore, when he decided to open The Smith in 2007, a venture preceded by his founding of the restaurant Jane in 2001, he knew what he wanted. “It had to be accessible with high-quality food, ” Jeff reasoned. Nine years later he was onto his fourth location, this time in Nomad, on Broadway with an entrance on a side street. When I visited on a casual Wednesday afternoon in the summer of 2016, just months after its opening, the three-hundred-seat restaurant was nearly at capacity. “It’s really become an amenity for the neighborhood, ” Jeff explained, comparing the timelessness of his establishments to a favorite pair of blue jeans. He later showed me that the new location was already the eighth most-booked New York City restaurant on Open Table. Numbers one and two? The Smith - Lincoln Center and The Smith - Midtown. The Nomad crowd was embracing a comfortable and classic ambience set by the wooden-slabbed ceiling, black-and-white mosaic patterned floor, and sunlight pouring through the wide-opened doors, accented to peak brightness by custom light fixtures. There is a massive bar shelving one of the largest alcohol collections I have seen, with another one intimately situated in a private room reserved for special festivities. Downstairs, there is a photo booth awaiting guests wanting to document their experience with friends or family. In the kitchen, the fires burned high, tantalizing scents fumed, and the large staff was motivated by a booming voice that reverberated orders as they came through. “Fish sandwich at the bar with French fries, ” said the man behind the voice as the cooks kept to their rhythm, each invested in the plates that would soon walk out the door. “It takes a lot of people, ” Jeff smiled. Nearly everything on the menu is made from scratch, and the French fries alone require hours and hours of peeling, cutting and frying to have them just right. Admittedly Jeff’s favorite item on the menu, this crispy side accompanies the Burger Royale, a double patty burger so beloved in Nomad that it was introduced to all locations. The facial expression of our photographer, Tom, once he took his first bite said it all. The vegetarian Vegetable Bibimbap, the vibrant Seared Tuna Salad, and The Royale, an illustrious triple-tiered raw bar platter, each stand on their own. Plated on a bed of charred corn with summer greens, the Mahi Mahi offers refreshing seasonality in the summertime, and the spoonable, skillet roasted Mac and Cheese starter garners the most circulation on Instagram. A standout from the bar was the Moscow Mule on tap. The successes of The Smith restaurants lie not only in their inviting environments, complimentary purified water, drinks on tap, or comforting cuisine sourced from local farmers and fishermen, but also in their commitment to authentic service. “The Smith is a maker. We are making experiences, ” Jeff reinforced, “…It is all about giving people what they are looking for and connecting with them. ” When guests were upset that the winter salad did not make it onto the springtime menu, a slightly tweaked seasonal version was added. The adjustment became so popular that Jeff was afraid to take it off the menu. It is exactly that adaptability that enables the affable owner to perform his favorite part of the job each day - “making people smile. ”