First Impressions: The Lounge at Atera

atera bartender brandon duffThe newish Lounge at Atera isn’t your average neighborhood bar. You have to reserve by email at You enter the 77 Worth lobby, where there’s no sign at the door, and when the restaurant host greets you, you’re asked your name—or at least I was, even after it I had said the reservation was in my partner’s name—and escorted via elevator to the basement. It’s the same elevator used by Water4Dogs, The Wagging Tail, and Worth Street Veterinary Center, so there might be some dogginess in the air. (And/or an actual dog, as during my visit.)

atera sass cocktailIt’s a small, dark-walled, dimly lit, L-shaped room, with seats for 10 and three stools at the bar. The sofas and chairs are black leather, and the tables are low; the overall effect is somehow both butch and precious. I’d guess that if Adam and I were a straight couple we might have been seated side by side, airplane-style, but instead we got the two-dudes option, across from each other.

The mood started out as hushed and reverent as at Atera upstairs, quiet enough that I could use Shazam to identify the music (Lower Dens, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Alabama Shakes…). But—and this could be the alcohol’s work—as we loosened up, the place seemed to, too. It certainly helped that another couple came in. The restaurant was closed last week, and the bar is designed mainly for dinner guests who want a pre- or postprandial drink or coffee. (The famous Slayer machine from RBC NYC is now in the Lounge.)

atera bar menuThis being an Atera operation, some of the ingredients on the menu were unexpected or unfamiliar: vinegar, geranium, tonka bean, marigold, orgeat…. We asked Brandon Duff, who designed the menu with chef Matthew Lightner (and who I knew from when he worked at RBC NYC and Weather Up Tribeca), for a recommendation, and he suggested the Sass because it has real sassafras, brought in by the restaurant’s forager. I was curious about the Winter Walnut because while dining at Atera in April, Adam and I had liked the Nux Alpina walnut liqueur we were served so much that I tracked down a bottle at Chambers Street Wines. The “navy strength rum” in the drink description gave me pause, but Brandon said there was just a splash. And we were a bit concerned that the menu doesn’t list cocktail prices, although it does for wine. (“You wouldn’t get any of them,” said Adam, because I blanch at paying more than $14 for a glass of wine.)

atera sofasThe Sass was excellent, in a glass cooled by liquid nitrogen. The Winter Walnut was good, although I would’ve preferred more walnut and less alcohol—but that’s probably a result of my own walnut-y hopes getting in the way. We were surprised there were no nibblybits. At Atera, you’re presented a cavalcade of “snacks” before your meal; surely the foodlab could roast some nuts, but then I’d argue that any $16 cocktail should come with some sort of food accompaniment. Of course, most folks at the bar will be heading into (or coming from) a mammoth meal upstairs. If the bar does indeed move toward accepting walk-ins, as was indicated to me—and I hope it does!—the food situation may change.

atera winter walnut cocktailAt first, before Adam had arrived, I thought the Lounge would be a great setting for a thoroughly hypothetical affair; the odds of running into someone you know seem slim. (Generally, my rendezvous recommendation is the restaurant at the Sheraton—I don’t imagine many locals tread there.) But then I decided that the coolest thing would be to take over the Lounge for a very intimate cocktail party. And I’d insist that my guests use the stairs—as we learned on our way out, it’s a roundabout journey, and my guests will, appropriately, feel like they’re headed somewhere mysterious and special.

The Lounge at Atera is at 77 Worth (between Church and Broadway), 212-226-1444; It’s open 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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  1. Krystl and I have been twice already, and we loved it. The cocktails are all tasty and interesting, and we really enjoyed their playlist. Something we particularly enjoyed was their coffee. That might seem a little weird, but given Brandon’s RBC background, and the fact that the RBC Slayer is back there behind the bar, it makes sense that their coffee is fantastic! It’s an unusual little place, a little like one of the tiny bars you’d find hidden away in Tokyo. A nice addition to the area.

  2. This is not a partiers, scenesters spot, which is exactly why I like it. You won’t be disappointed by the drinks and will be curious to see the place but don’t expect a crowd.

  3. The drinks are fantastic! You can see the rest of the menu here: