the gobbler

Best Seats in the House: Where to Eat at the Bar

From left, Masa, Grand Central Oyster Bar.Photos: Masa, Mark Peterson; Oyster Bar, Noah Kalina

Even before the arrival of Joël Robuchon and his bar-centric L'Atelier, the ancient urban tradition of bar dining was undergoing a great renaissance. And why not? Eating while seated on a stool is a uniquely New York experience. It's convivial, expedient, and communal, but in a solitary way. The Gobbler has met Wall Street kingpins, ex–CIA agents, and loquacious bookies from Queens at restaurant bars. You don't have to deal with sniveling waiters or go overboard on tips, and it's often a convenient excuse for getting really, really drunk. Here are a few of the Gobbler's favorite barfly destinations.

Grand Central Oyster Bar. Order the oyster pan roast, and be sure to sit at the bar, not the counter (or, God forbid, the tables). It's still the best seat in town.

• Donohue's Café. The cigarette funk has disappeared from this venerable Lexington Avenue institution. But the sallow barflies remain, along with the laconic Irish bartenders and the finest Depression-era cheeseburger around. 845 Lexington Ave., at 64th St.; 212-650-0748.

The Spotted Pig. Dinner is a madhouse, so go at lunchtime. We suggests you order the cheeseburger and a modest platter of the chicken-liver pâté, then spread out the paper and commence pounding frosty pints of Speckled Hen.

Ouest. Tom Valenti is the only superstar chef who deigns to display a TV above his bar. For this, and his sublime stewed tripe, we give him credit.

Masa. True, only hedge-funders can afford the tab. But the Japanese invented this genre, and, more often than not, the great chef will be there to serve you himself.

Tía Pol. In a city littered with failed tapas bars, this is the best one in years. The croquette of the day merits repeated visits, even within one day.

Del Posto. Babbo's bar gets the press, but try getting a seat. We enjoy the impressive selection of Italian wines, the risotto balls on the special bar menu, even the absurd tinklings of the Mr. Batali's piano.

Union Square Cafe. Luncheon at the bar remains the best way to experience the kind of elegant, neighborly style for which this restaurant is famous.

Gotham Bar and Grill. The town's premier combination of gourmet cooking and commodious service. It also happens to be a half-block from the Gobbler's apartment.

Momofuku Noodle Bar. In our humble opinion, David Chang's crispy pork bun is the emblematic dish of our new, bar-emphasizing era.

— Adam Platt

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