photo credit: The Polo Bar

The Polo Bar image

The Polo Bar


Midtown EastMidtown

$$$$Perfect For:Impressing Out of TownersBirthdaysSpecial OccasionsSee And Be Seen
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Would The Polo Bar be as good if it weren’t so exclusive?

That’s sort of like asking if the ocean would be as blue without any water.

The question is ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense.

And the answer is, of course, no.

Ralph Lauren’s glorified Midtown country club is impossible to get into for a reason, and the reason is because it’s impossible to get into. The food is above satisfactory and the parquet ceilings are a very nice touch, but in the grand scheme of things, those are minor details. This restaurant’s allure stems from the fact that it’s one of the toughest reservations in New York City.

The Polo Bar image

photo credit: The Polo Bar

The Polo Bar does not take reservations online. In order to get one, you have to call and speak to a reservationist who will gently take your hopes out back and bury them six feet under. For a more realistic shot at landing a table, reach out day-of to check for cancellations, try a concierge service, or take a bus to Beverly Hills and obstruct Jerry Bruckheimer’s driveway until he casts you in the next Top Gun. A speaking role could translate to a very decent time slot.

Outside the front door, a host dressed like a member of the Harvard Glee Club will vet your reservation, before admitting you to a bar area that functions as a foyer. It’s a very attractive bar, with a functional fireplace and free fried olives, but the main event is the subterranean dining room, featuring hunter green walls, glossy wood paneling, and leather banquettes topped with the plumpest tartan pillows in all of Manhattan. Filtered through lampshades and splashed across walls, the light is soft and indirect, and the collection of horse-themed art is magnificently vast. (If you see Ralph shopping for another equestrian painting, tell him to slow it down a bit.)

The Polo Bar image

photo credit: The Polo Bar

As you’d expect from a place that’s preppier than Nantucket in August, the menu is tame and vaguely Continental. Offerings include a Waldorf salad, a crab cake, and a crisp caesar with inch-wide shavings of pecorino. Aside from an $80 dover sole that can never seem to get it together, most dishes are pleasantly forgettable, with a few standouts. The steak has a beautiful char, and the corned beef sandwich on buttery rye is simple and iconic. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you’re unimpressed by the food at The Polo Bar, that’s only part of the experience. Your rep tie-sporting server will attend to you with care and attention, allowing you to play along and act blasé, as if you come here several times a month. Even when you hear someone give a lukewarm review, chances are they’d return in a heartbeat, given the opportunity.

An exercise in exclusivity, The Polo Bar is silly, superficial, and even a little reprehensible. But what else would you expect from the guy who charges a premium for embroidering a tiny horse on a shirt? And who are we to judge? So many restaurants in New York City are trying to do what this place does. They just can’t pull it off.

The Polo Bar image

photo credit: The Polo Bar

We’re not saying you should pour all your resources into getting a reservation. The Polo Bar has never made anyone a more interesting person. But if you can somehow snag one, you’ll have a nice time staring at faces that are staring right back, trying to figure out if you’re a person worth seeing. Just keep in mind that if you come here a second time, it won’t feel quite as special as the first. When the appeal is the fact that you can’t get in, the returns are always diminishing.

Food Rundown

The Polo Bar Crab Cake

Loosely packed and topped with crispy strands of phyllo, the Polo Bar crab cake is hefty and straightforward. It’s not the headliner that the name suggests, but it gets the job done.
The Polo Bar image

photo credit: The Polo Bar

Tuna Tartare

You know what this tuna tartare reminds us of? The version at American Bar. And we doubt that’s a coincidence, seeing as how that restaurant is the generic knock-off version of The Polo Bar. We prefer the one here, which comes with chunks of avocado and thick cubes of bright pink tuna in a light soy-ginger dressing.

Ralph's Corned Beef Sandwich

The corned beef sandwich is the best thing here. It consists of melted swiss and thick-cut ribbons of moist corned beef on buttery griddled rye, and it works great as a starter for the table. Ask your server to cut it into little shareable pieces.
The Polo Bar image

photo credit: The Polo Bar

The Polo Bar Burger

Some brioche buns can be too big or dry. This one’s just right. The sweet, smoky bacon is also exceptional, although the rest of this burger is more or less standard. Not a bad choice, but not an especially exciting one either.
The Polo Bar image

photo credit: The Polo Bar

New York Strip Steak

What a nice sear. If you’re going to spend big on an entree here, make it the NY strip. It comes with a few sauces on the side, but you don’t really need them. Just smear a little roasted garlic on your charred beef, and enjoy.

Dover Sole

Eating dover sole at the Polo Bar has to be one of the least relatable activities you can engage in in New York City. It also feels like a waste of time and resources when your fish inevitably arrives dry and overcooked.

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Suggested Reading

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The Lambs Club

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Frenchette is a tough act to follow, but this Midtown brasserie is a successful sequel. Here, you can eat flawlessly-executed food in a grand Art Deco space with an energetic crowd and a sceney vibe.

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