First Impressions: Evening Bar

Evening Bar roomI love a hotel bar—even the phrase, like “water taxi” or “hot sandwich,” gets me excited. The more old-school, the better: dim, quiet, and elegant, with free snacks. The Smyth’s former bar was a failure; Adam and I went on a few occasions, when we had family or friends at the hotel, and the staff always seemed a bit surprised someone might want to order a drink. Quality service is a very important part of the hotel bar equation.

I’m pleased beyond pleasure to report that NoHo Hospitality Group—which runs not just Little Park restaurant but also Evening Bar and food-and-beverage service in the lobby—is bringing swanky back at Evening Bar. When I first heard it referred to as a speakeasy, I cringed. It is sort of hidden, but not really, so let’s just put that notion in a box and bury it in the backyard. What it is is a classic hotel bar.

First, I should explain that the ground-floor layout of the Smyth has changed. The restaurant is still where it was, but when you enter the hotel’s front door, the front desk is dead ahead, while the lobby is to the right. The main lobby area is called the Living Room. Behind it is the Library, a space that wouldn’t seem to require a name except that it’s partitioned off with glass (to minimize noise and/or large groups, I’d wager). And behind the Library is Evening Bar.

Let’s start with Evening Bar, because I’m obviously most excited about it. First, you’re shown to a seat by a friendly hostess, and unlike at the Greenwich Hotel, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the bar. (I know, you’re allowed to order a drink in the lobby of the Greenwich, if you like Siberia.) And, perhaps, the fact that people get seated might help Evening Bar retain its civilized nature. I’m holding out hope that the UrbanDaddy/Thrillist crowd will move on after a few months.

Evening Bar is roughly square, with low chairs and sofas arranged in small groupings, some by a fireplace; at the rear of the room is a handsome bar with eight to ten stools. Along the top of the walls is a mural (shades of Bemelmans Bar, Palio, and the King Cole Bar), said to reference classic New York. It is all wildly seductive, with contemporary music played at a low level and glamorous, flattering lighting (not nearly as dark as it comes off in these photos). I had no cell service, which heightened the lovely feeling that I had escaped; so did the Old Pal that I ordered. You’re brought water without having to ask for it, and the aforementioned snacks were olives, cashews, and delicious little potato chips, served in an iconic three-bowl dish. A cocktail napkin would be nice, to deal with the olive and chip residue.

The official word is that you can’t reserve at Evening Bar, which opens at 6 p.m. (Currently, like Little Park, it’s closed Sundays, which seems odd for a hotel bar.) If you don’t score a seat, you can hang out quite happily in the Library or Living Room. “Can we get whoever designed this to do our apartment?” asked Adam on another night, because we moved into our place a decade ago and never quite finished it. “We can’t afford Gachot,” I said. The firm did an extremely appealing job, carving the big space into rooms and then making each room feel distinct, with the kind of furniture you see in stylish homes, not hotels. I coveted all the furniture, all the art, all the knickknacks—basically, everything but the Paris Reviews stacked on a coffee table. This is probably the most travel-writery thing you’ll ever hear me say—travel writers love to drop names—but it reminded us both of the Fasano in São Paulo, my favorite city hotel in the world, in a way that was hard to pin down. The service was attentive and warm, and the only demerit was that my gin and tonic had those lame, hollowed-out ice cubes. Why was a mystery, because the bartenders at Little Bar have much higher-quality ones.

Best of all, the Living Room and Library are open all day. If anyone invites me to a coffee meeting, I now know where we’ll be going. Well, not anyone. My companion will need to be someone patient. One afternoon, I ordered tea and cookies, and the cookies took a half hour to come out. They were warm, and tasty, but still. You can even order lunch there, at although there are only a few tables you’d want to eat at.

Evening Bar is at 85 W. Broadway;

The Living Room and Library:

Smyth Living RoomSmyth Living Room2Smyth Living Room sofaSmyth Library fireplaceThe food menu at Evening Bar:

Evening Bar food menuThe daytime menu in the Library/Living Room:

Smyth lobby menuSmyth lobby menu2Recent New Kid on the Block / First Impressions articles:
Little Park
Jack Erwin
Drill Fitness
Bar Cyrk
Dutch Petals
Church Street Tavern
Tribeca’s Kitchen
White Street
EGG by Susan Lazar