If one man can make the lonely stretch of towering steel and glass high-rise monsters on a drab strip of 54th Street a destination, it might just be Graydon Carter.
The editor of Vanity Fair-cum-restaurateur's latest venture, the Monkey Bar, is soft-open now and set to open to the public in a week.
So far, only Graydon's cronies have been allowed in, but since you might need to start making preparations for next week's power dinners, we wanted to bring you your first little glimpse at the inside.
Think about it like this: if the Waverly is Gray-Gray's neighborhood bar, the Monkey Bar is his grown-up after-work joint. The bar, part of the Hotel Elysée, first opened its doors in 1932, back when murals of monkeys doing human things didn't seem weirdly racist. The front room—the one with a newly restored monkey mural—contains a few booths, a long bar and a soon-to-be piano. But the sunken back room, bathed in golden light, with a Waverly-style mural and filled with deep upholstered booths, is where the powerbrokers dine. In other words, if you're in the mood to chat up some cute Condé Nast editorial assistants, stay up front. You want to offload that estate in Bridgehampton—and make googly eyes at Anna Wintour—sit in the back.
The menu is meat-heavy but veggie-shy, so play to its strengths. Defer the plank salmon for the meatloaf or, if you can expense it, the Lobster Newburg. Wash it down with a stiff Manhattan, then saunter up to the piano man.
If he takes requests, start with "Brass Monkey."