The storied bar and restaurant continues to evolve.
Everywhere in the country but especially in NYC, the dining scene is constantly in flux, restaurants opening and closing constantly. Chefs arrive and depart, dishes pop up everywhere before falling out of favor, and cuisines have it moments only to get replaced by something else by the time you go to make your next reservation. One restaurant that's endured decades of the city's ups and down, however, is Monkey Bar. Few surviving restaurants have as storied a history—even fewer in midtown Manhattan.
A fixture in the Hotel Elysée hotel since the 1930s, the restaurant and bar has had many lives (and accordingly, many legends, including one unconfirmed tale that there were actually live monkeys at one point in the piano bar before the Board of Health shut that down. Out went the monkeys and up went the murals). When former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter bought the place in 2009, he restored a sense of old-world glamor, accompanied by hard-to-come-by reservations. In fiction—it's supposed to be the bar where Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield drank his scotch and soda—and in reality, it's one of those institutions that exists both in the city's collective memory and in real time.
Yesterday, the New York Times announced that David Tanis, a longtime contributor to the newspaper's food section with his "Hungry City" column, will be the new chef. Co-owner Jeff Klein expects "refinement and subtle changes," under Tanis, who says his food “will be straightforward and simply presented.” Keeping up with the times, the chef will swap steakhouse staples for more salads, seafood and seasonal dishes made with sustainable ingredients—or, how people want to eat these days. It's an update that bodes well for the continued longevity Monkey Bar, in a city where change is the only constant.
As fans of Tanis's writing and cooking, we're excited to see what he does with the place. See below for 5 classic recipes from the chef, and start making your reservations now.