No matter what time of day we have stopped by Grey Dog, the restaurant is pulsing, but in a quiet, relaxed sort of way. Despite the lines to order food from the menu on the chalkboard and the crowded tables, everyone is calm and content. Apparently, this has been the vibe since two brothers opened their first restaurant back in 1996 on Carmine Street. Today they have expanded to four different locations, each one incredibly successful. The formula seems to be quite simple – a chill atmosphere, easy-going but efficient staff, a menu that covers all of the basics with a bit of a flair, hefty portions and, most importantly, everything tastes great. Beginning early in the morning, there are pancakes, French toast, eggs, homemade granola and coffee being served. As the day progresses, lots of sandwiches, salads and other creative dishes are available for lunch and dinner. Without a doubt, if I lived nearby, I would also become a regular.
Four generations of the McManus clan have operated this jovial Irish tavern, making it among the oldest family-run bars in the city. Its originator, Peter McManus, left his quaint Irish hometown and disembarked in Ellis Island with “basically five dollars and a potato in his pocket, ” as the story goes. He opened the first McManus as a longshoreman’s bar in 1911 on West 55th Street, which he then converted into a thriving general store during Prohibition while migrating his liquor business into a number of speakeasies. Once the restrictions ended in 1933, the shop was so successful that Peter kept it going and found a new spot on 19th Street in which to revive his bar. Peter’s son, James Sr., spent close to fifty years working in and later running the pub. It then passed into the hands of James Jr., who now stands beside his own son, Justin, serving beer and cracking jokes over a century later. Knowing that they will find pleasant conversation and an intriguing cast of characters at McManus, people often come alone to see what the night holds for them. The atmosphere at McManus is merry, but patrons still respect the history and charm that suffuse every corner of the space. Much of the bar is original, including the stunning Tiffany stained glass windows, the hand carved woodwork and crown molding, and the terrazzo floor that can no longer be made today. “We try to preserve it and are pretty protective of it. This bar was built to last, ” Justin said.
Trendy and filled with beautiful people, the Dream Hotel has created quite an aura around it. Sitting in the lobby is certainly entertaining at any hour of the day, but in the evening the action really kicks in. There is a DJ in the lounge area right off the lobby and not far from the entrance is Bodega Negra, with a Mexican menu. Also attached to the hotel is a restaurant called Fishbowl, with a 5000 gallon fish tank behind the bar. On the rooftop, the PHD Club tends to play top 40's music, and downstairs is the Electric Room, which is described as a rock club.
The Corner Bistro is a beloved neighborhood bar in New York City's West Village that has endured for over 60 years. Though lacking the storied literary pedigree of other downtown haunts, it has cultivated a loyal following thanks to its unpretentious charm, congenial atmosphere and its signature flame-broiled burgers — declared among the city's best by New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton in 1978. We certainly enjoyed ours (with a side of tater tots) when we visited. We got chatting to Jim, who was managing and bartending on the Wednesday lunchtime we popped by — he shared his longtime love of the fabled bar. "We're open late. So even when I was living uptown in my young twenties, I would come downtown, drink with my friends and then stumble in here to have a burger at two in the morning, " he said. His enthusiasm and memories are matched by the customers too. Jim recalls: "Every day people come in saying 'I used to come here in the seventies' or "I met my wife here'. So every day we have people coming back to New York and say this is a memory of their past. "Longtime Corner Bistro owner Bill O'Donnell, who turned the unassuming West Village burger joint into an iconic New York City destination during his 45 year tenure, died in 2016 at age 80 after a battle with cancer. ""The owner passed away before the pandemic. And his daughter just seamlessly took over, " said Jim. Corner Bistro retains its consummate neighborhood bar character, giving locals and visitors alike a taste of an ever-rarer old New York — and it's the western gateway to 4th Street!
“We are one of the oldest gay bars in the city, ” said Helen Burford. The owner of Julius’ considers it an honor to be a part of this history and to allow others to share in it. Many who stop by are keen to dip their toes into an earlier, more troublesome period. “We are a good reminder of the struggles people went through for those of us today. ”What better way for young men and women to learn about landmark events like the renowned “Sip-In, ” where gay activists challenged New York’s prohibitions on gay bars? The patrons who have been frequenting Julius’ for decades are happy to provide a history lesson. Every day around 4 p. m., they sit in a corner and share stories of what it was like back in the day. “This is their home. To them, Julius’ is not a bar — rain or shine, they need to be here. ” The old group, now in their seventies and eighties, enjoy having a drink and chatting with one another, but they also invite “guests” into the conversation — passing the baton, as this is their legacy. “They are always trying to bring young people into the fold, ” Helen commented.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.
Although small, this family-owned café is inviting. The sandwiches are interesting and tasty, as are the soups and salads…and then there is the cappuccino and sweets. Consistently busy, the staff is always smiling, the food is healthy and hearty, and the vibe is positive, even during rush hours.