photo credit: Monkey Bar
At nearly 100 years old, Monkey Bar has never been better. This isn’t just a great steakhouse, date spot, or Americana-themed burgerfest with white tablecloths and waiters dressed like they're about to perform in the New York Philharmonic. It’s all three of those things, and it’ll serve you well in any situation that calls for stiff drinks, satisfying food, and the kind of nostalgia that always seems to work best in Midtown.
This place is a hat trick of a restaurant. It feels like a classic, but it’s also cool and buzzy. It’s great for special occasions, and it has a walk-in-only tavern where you can pop in for a daiquiri. It’s in Midtown, but it isn’t just a place you settle for when you’re stuck above 34th Street. Also, it has a huge cocktail menu and a zebra-print staircase, and that staircase has a sturdy brass railing that’ll come in handy after several martinis.
photo credit: Monkey Bar
Founded in the 1930s, Monkey Bar has changed hands a few times over the years. The latest iteration is run by the team behind 4 Charles and Au Cheval, and the big sunken dining room, with its red leather booths and massive mural of Jazz Age celebrities, remains. Bring a date, a few coworkers, or an out-of-towner who demands to be impressed. Lit like a jazz club, the retro space feels quintessentially NYC, and the menu is packed with crowd pleasers.
Monkey Bar is equal parts steakhouse, old-school bistro, and TGI Friday's. The menu is huge, and for a place that has the audacity to tackle everything from crab rangoon to chicken parmesan, the results are impressive. Want some pasta? Monkey Bar has that, and for some reason, it’s fantastic. You can also get fried chicken or miso black cod—but we suggest sticking to the things this restaurant group does best. Go for the burger with two thin patties welded together with American cheese. It’s just like Au Cheval’s. Or get the prime rib french dip. You’ll like it even more than the one at 4 Charles.
Stop by for a special night out, drink several of the infinite house cocktails, and finish with one of the desserts that look like they fell out of a book on home entertaining from 1953. Or just pop into the casual bar area up front, have an old fashioned, and jet. There’s no wrong way to do Monkey Bar—although you might have trouble getting a seat. This is a fun, historic, all-purpose restaurant, so it makes sense that everyone wants to eat here.
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Crispy Potato Pancakes
Monkey Bar doesn’t serve elegantly tweezered fine-dining fare. The food is heavy and unpretentious—and these potato pancakes are the perfect example. If you’d like a few discs of fried potato, order away. Just be aware that we slightly prefer the fries.
King Crab Rangoon
Here to reinforce Monkey Bar’s old-school Americana theme, these deep fried dumplings are blistered, chewy, and stuffed with a creamy filling that actually tastes like crab. They aren’t essential, but they’re highly recommended.
New York City is packed with great Italian restaurants, so you might be hesitant to order pasta here. Don’t be. With its chunky vodka sauce and ribbons of melted parm, this rigatoni is significantly better than it has any right to be.
Once again, it does not make sense that this place serves excellent pasta. But they do, and the garlicky trofie with shrimp and Calabrian chillies is a close second to the vodka rigatoni.
Prime Rib French Dip
The prime rib french dip is a staple at Monkey Bar’s sister restaurant 4 Charles (which remains impossible to get into). The one here is similar, and it might be even better. We’d have to do a side-by-side comparison to provide a definitive answer, but until that happens, always have this on your table.
This restaurant group knows how to make a burger. The one at 4 Charles is a certified hall-of-famer, and the version at Au Cheval (pretty much identical to the one here) is also one of the best in the city. You can’t go wrong with this fluffy bun filled with two thin patties and impressively thin pickles.
As a rule of thumb, the entrees get less interesting the further you go down the menu. You aren’t going to dislike this roasted chicken, but you aren’t going to congratulate yourself on ordering it either.
Ribeye Steak Frites
For the most part, the steak at Monkey Bar is great. But don’t order the steak frites. The cut of ribeye they serve with this dish is flimsy and poorly charred. If you want a piece of red meat, go for the New York strip or filet mignon.
Order the fries. You want them, and we want you to be happy. The garlic aioli on the side is a perfect condiment. 10/10. No notes.