Mon-Fri, 5pm-midnight; Sat, 6pm-1am; Sun, closed
B, D, F, M at 42nd St.-Bryant Park; 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S at Times Sq.-42nd St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
Sometimes it feels like practically every unmarked door in the city leads to a secret bar, but the Bar Downstairs—which, yes, is through a hotel lobby, down an out-of-the-way staircase, behind a minimalist placard—is less a secret than it is merely elegantly discreet. On the lower level of the Andaz Fifth Avenue the huge, dark-walled, perfectly lit room is anchored by an airy cooking and drink-making space that turns the notion of an “open kitchen” completely on its head.
If you’re in the mood to sprawl, aim for the clutch of low leather banquettes just inside the door; otherwise settle in to the wooden chairs that line the rows of communal tables. If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself sitting at the bar—two bars, really, each a 14-foot slab of cross-sectioned walnut polished to a high shine, on the other side of which mixologists trained by Alchemy Consulting banter with chefs, guests, and one another while shaking up original (but classically-minded) cocktails like the Skinny Tie (Tito’s vodka, Dolin Blanc, douglas fir eau de vie, and orange bitters), the aptly named Mexican Firing Squad (Herradura Blanco Tequila, lime, pomegranate molasses, and Angostura bitters), or the signature Cellar Door, a nautical-colonial time machine of Pimms #1, lemon, bergamot syrup, Sailor Jerry spiced rum, and St. Elizabeth allspice dram.
Food is both plentiful and not an afterthought. The Iberian-influenced menu of shareables leans towards cocktail nibbles—aged cheeses, fancy hams, ecstatically addictive bacalao fritters—but deepens into more serious dinner territory with giant, garlicky prawns a la plancha and a fennel-stuffed chicken thigh roulade. Best of all is a grilled skirt steak doused in chimichurri, so tender and flavorful that it almost outshines the cocktails. It’s the kind of dish that justifies popping in for a quick post-work cocktail and deciding, three or four Mexican Firing Squads later, that you never, ever want to leave.
Picnics with a view, roller-skating nostalgia, and a party for gay headbangers.