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  • Writer's pictureSara

DAY 3: Eating like a Mobster in NYC, the OG Dining Guide

When traveling Europe, it is typical to feel swept away into another time period. Traveling domestically is less “enchanting,” but America has historical landmarks that can transport you back in time.

New York City has a handful of old restaurants with a certain mystique that makes you feel like it’s 1928- when people smoked indoors, men wore suits, women put on pantyhose before leaving the house, and everyone danced the Fox Trot for fun. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but you can imagine these restaurants in their prime.

Below is a list of my Top 5 places in New York City that have been around since the city can remember.

Katz Delicatessen

Katz was established in 1888 and is known for the most amazing pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. Each week, Katz serves over 30,000 pounds of meat! What makes the corned beef from Katz Deli superior? The process of curing the meat takes 30 days opposed to commercial corned beef that only takes 36 hours.

If you are going to go to Katz Deli, I suggest you plan on reading my notes on how to order-

First, Get a ticket at the door- For real, DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET.

Line 1: The Grill- cheesesteaks, burgers, hotdogs, knishes, soup, and egg creams. Skip this line Egg cream- beverage with milk, carbonated water, flavored syrup, chocolate or vanilla. No egg or cream in the drink- Originated from Eastern European Jewish immigrants in NYC.

Line 2: The Cutter- Where to find hand-sliced pastrami, corned beef, and turkey.

Line 3: Soda and Sides- Where you can find a side of fries, slaw, or potato salad.

Line 4: Back counter- You can order specialty items here (bagel, lox, blintzes), or you can ship anything nationwide.

The Checkout Counter- When you leave, you take your ticket and check out. They only take CASH.

What I ordered; Classic pastrami on rye, side of pickles and fries. Enough food for two large men.

Keen’s Steakhouse

Established in 1885, Keen’s is the only survivor from the Harold’s Square Theatre District. If you want to stop at one of the most iconic chophouses in the city, look no further.

Keen’s was formerly a pipe club and owns the largest collection of pipes in the world.

Patrons would check their pipes at the door because they were too fragile to be kept in a saddlebag or purse. Today, the restaurant is decorated with churchwarden pipes, vintage décor, dark woods, and Victorian accents.

The most famous item on their menu is the Mutton Chop, but that is a far too much meat for me. No matter what you get on the menu, I can guarantee you will be satisfied with your pick.

What I ordered; Lobster Bisque, 8oz. Prime Filet Mignon, Roasted Market Vegetables, Hash Browns, Crème Brulee.

Pro-tip: Go with a group of at least 4. Sides are meant for sharing. Ask to sit upstairs. 12 oz. filet will run you $60

The Campbell Bar

The Campbell is known as Grand Central’s “secret bar.” Originally, in 1871, the bar was built as a private office for the American millionaire, John Williams Campbell.

The bar was closed for renovations for a while, but reopened after a shift in ownership. The Gerber Group now runs and operates The Campbell, which is the same group that owns Mr. Purple.

Since then, the bar has been serving up creative cocktails and bar snacks in one of the most gorgeous rooms in the city.

The décor is a mix of rich leathers with accents of hunter green, midnight blue, and striking red tones. The bar is worth the visit just to see the stunning 25- foot hand painted ceilings, the grand fireplace, and the century old leaded glass window with the original millwork. Yes, the drinks are pricey, but this spot is truly timeless.

What I ordered; John Campbell’s Martini, dirty, blue cheese olives.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

This place is no mystery to the thousands of tourist and locals that flock to this spot daily. Since its debut in 1913, the Grand Central Oyster bar has come a long way! In 1971, the drop of long-distance train commuters declined, and so did the number of hungry patrons.

In 1973, the restaurant briefly shut down for a revamp and redesign of the concept and menu. Jerome Brody is famous for putting the Oyster Bar back on the map and with restoring the reputation of serving the freshest oysters in New York City. The menu is full of delicious seafood selections and non-seafood items, but if you’re not a seafood lover, I would suggest dining elsewhere.

What I ordered; Oysters Rockefeller, Fresh Catch of the Day, ‘Manhattan’ Clam Chowder

Impress your date: In 1881, The iconic vaulted ceilings of the oyster bar were created by an immigrant family, the Guastavinos, from Barcelona. The Guastavino’s left their mark on the city by incorporating intricate laminated tile design into thousands of structures across the country and hundreds in New York City. The laminated tiles are fire proof, which was an attractive quality in the early 1900s. The Oyster Bar sustained a massive fire in 1997, but the vaulted ceilings remained intact.

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green was built in 1880 as a sheep fold back when sheep used to graze Central Park. In 1934, the building was converted into a restaurant where celebrities would dine and ladies of the Upper East Side would lunch.

I celebrated my 16th birthday at Tavern on the Green before they closed for another round of renovations. When the restaurant re-opened in 2014, I was thrilled and booked a table for Sunday brunch. I really enjoyed seeing well-dressed families and tourists indulging, laughing, and sipping mimosas over a decadent French toast overlooking the park.

My favorite time to visit Tavern on the Green is around the Christmas holiday- it’s truly magical. They have live jazz bands, pianists, Christmas trees, twinkle lights, and a cocktail program that will keep you warm.

What I ordered; Organic Scottish salmon, Side of Tavern maple brown sugar bacon (live a little)

Other Classics: Peter Luger’s Steakhouse (Est. 1887), PJ Clarke’s (1884), Lombardi’s (1887), Barbetta (1906), Russ and Daughters (1914)

Check back tomorrow,



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