Welcome To The Club: New York Revamps

by BILLY GRAY · November 16, 2009

We're not the only ones who've applied a fresh coat of paint recently. Sometimes, even the grandest of grande dames need some sprucing up. Below is a list of city establishments to have gone under the knife and come out looking better than ever. Not bad company...-

-

-

-

-

-

The Waverly Inn. 16 Bank Street. West Village residents were of mixed mind when Graydon Carter turned this unassuming neighborhood tavern into a pricey clubhouse for the Town Car and TMZ crowd. Although the Waverly's white-hot buzz has cooled a bit, its phone number remains unlisted. But feel free to enjoy a sheepish walk past the beautiful people as you head to Siberia for a plate of the Inn's signature $55 Mac n' Cheese.

-

-

Minetta Tavern. 113 MacDougal Street. This charmingly dingy red sauce joint once hosted a crowd of Greenwich Village beats. Minetta remained an oasis of calm on student and tourist-saturated MacDougal even as most of the area's artsy types were priced out. (On a personal note, I enjoyed my first illegal drink there!) Then Keith McNally, the King Midas of NYC restaurateurs, spiffed the place up (though thankfully not too much), put a $26 burger (and, according to Frank Bruni, the city's finest steaks) on the menu and made it one of the toughest reservations in New York.

-

-

Russian Tea Room. 150 W. 57th Street. "Six minutes and twenty three seconds from from Lincoln Center and slightly to the left of Carnegie Hall," the Tea Room was opened in 1927 as a hang for Russian expats. It quickly attracted a crowd of theatrical types and the intellectuals who loved them. Famed showman/restaurateur Warner LeRoy (also of Tavern on the Green) bought the glitzy institution in 1995, but shuttered seven years later. Consistently lauded chef Gary Robins took over the kitchen during a 2006 reopening. And although reviews were mixed, we're just happy that this ornate standby is still standing.

-

-

Theatre 80 St. Mark's. 80 St. Mark's Place. This off-off-Broadway theater has had quite the history (from authentic speakeasy, with what was the longest bar in NYC, to jazz club to film revival house) and is now back in the hands of Lorcan Otway, son of former owner Howard. With great theatrical programming and recently announced plans to bring back movie screenings for New York cineastes, Theatre 80 is keeping St. Mark's on the map for something other than karaoke bars.

-

-

The Plaza. 768 Fifth Avenue. Fingers crossed our own redesign goes more smoothly than this icon's. There was an uproar when plans were announced to convert the venerable (if seen-better-days) hotel into luxury condos and boutiques. Reports of shoddy construction and recessionary vacancies followed. Luckily, The Oak Room and the grand plaza remained open to the public, allowing another generation to visit Eloise's old haunt.

-

-

Washington Square Park. The most egalitarian of New York's recent relaunches. Neighbors were weary when the park was turned into a giant construction zone, all so the fountain would line up directly with the square's iconic arch. New lights were installed as well, presumably to deter the shady types peddling oregano to easily duped teens from the five boroughs and beyond. But the park's character endures, especially the chess masters humiliating amateurs in the southwest corner.

-

-

The Monkey Bar. 60 E. 54th Street. Another Graydon Carter reinvention. This one employs the same formula as Waverly: take a charming but dusty relic, give it a new shine, install some faux-homeyness (in this case there's chili, Nora's Meatloaf and Mrs. Carter's Butter Tarts on the menu), charge exorbitant prices and, voila, the city's media elite have a new canteen! At least the murals are cool.