New York City-Lower West Manhattan
May 11, 2018
Finding a coveted seat at the bar may be a challenge post 6:15 pm, which may explain the early dinner reservations some make to secure a table – but standing near the efficient mixologists is also an option. EO isn’t the type of bar you go to alone, however, should you be waiting to meet a guest, a tarot card reader stationed at the entrance offers a nice diversion (and look into your future). Though the trend of nostalgically looking back at Prohibition influences the bar’s retro design and understatedly cool atmosphere, the above-ground bar is not quite a speakeasy. Plus, everyone in New York is in on the secret.
This legendary bar known for influencing mixologists and chefs now leading their own food and beverage programs throughout the city has a bit of a cult following, with mixologists stamped with signature EO tattoos and regulars vying for their preferred spots to sip their favourite menu staples. On the cocktail list, several staples are perfected riffs of the classics, like a Manhattan stirred with Rittenhouse Rye, Italian vermouth, Grand Marnier and Angostura bitters and the Old Fashioned-esque Yankee Notions, an aperitif-style cocktail made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Blandy’s Rainwater Madeira and a camomile cordial. For those not wooed by liquor-forward concoctions, plenty of well-executed fruity beverages are also served, like a Bellini made with pureed white peaches.
As a restaurant, Employees Only also holds its own at dinner each night. American-style dishes range from drinking snacks like oysters on the half shell, charcuterie, cheese and caviar platters and tartare, with heartier fare like roast chicken and rich pasta dishes rounding out the meal, soaking up some booze so you can indulge in a few more cocktails.
Though some stop at Employees Only for a casual-ish drink before catching the train home from work, the lauded bar is indeed a scene: loud, dark, full of well-dressed imbibers not hesitant to open a tab. After 1 am, the bar starts to change tune, with industry folk pouring in to meet up, and drink heavily, paying homage to the bar’s name.