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Not that anyone in the restaurant’s crowded VIP section seemed to notice these transgressions. “Is Mark Ronson actually eating this stuff?” someone at the table muttered, as we peered up from our dinners at the scruffy D.J. demigod, who was sitting not far from the former Doogie Howser, M.D. (Neil Patrick Harris), who was seated, obliviously, next to an animated-looking Salman Rushdie. The usual answer, in celebrity hangouts like this, is, who the hell cares if the stars are eating or not? Once a scene restaurant like Michael’s or Mr. Chow achieves critical mass, people will ingest almost anything to be part of the show. But at this stage in its tortured evolution, Monkey Bar lacks the kind of solid, crowd- pleasing cooking that makes the Waverly Inn such a hit downtown.

The desserts, when they finally limp in, include a few hollowed-out doughnut holes filled with blackberry jam, and several slices of premade layer cake, which look like they’ve been lifted from a diner in Piscataway. The best of the bunch is probably the sticky toffee pudding, which survives from the original menu. But Monkey regulars, beware. It lacks any hint of stickiness, and costs $2 more than it used to.

Monkey Bar
Address: 60 E. 54th St., nr. Park Ave.; 212-308-2950
Hours: Dinner: Monday to Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.; closed weekends through Labor Day.
Prices: Appetizers, $13 to $23; entrées, $21 to $48.
Ideal Meal: Wild-salmon tartare, MB Burger, sticky toffee pudding.
Note: Monkey Bar only takes reservations online at
Scratchpad: One star for the room, and another for the excellent celebrity-watching. Minus one for the dreary cooking.



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