Like the Financial District’s Rickhouse by the same owners, Downtown’s Local Edition is a happy hour hotspot, but this one offers up much more space in which to sit or mingle. The subterranean bar is located in the historic Hearst Building and pays tribute to the company’s history, themed around a 1950s or 1960s newspaper company. At the bottom of the stairs, the small first room has framed vintage newspapers displayed on the walls and an L-shaped display case that is actually a communal standing table. Past the host stand, the main room is set up like a supperclub, with a curved back wall lined with red couches and a series of candle-lit four-top tables filling the space. This makes the room’s focal point not a stage, but the bar, which faces the curve of the room. Tall tables closest to the bar are for walk-in customers, but the majority of seating is for people with reservations- though only drinks are served; not food. After the crowds who swamp the bar at happy hour taper off to get dinner, the bar is fairly quiet on many weeknights, but on weekends Local Edition is packed again with people reserving tables for parties. Some cocktails on the menu including the Bloody Mary and Gibson, plus a small section devoted to highballs, are inspired by mid-century drinks, but even these are given culinary touches like pho broth, house-pickled onions, and stout syrup.
From the owners of Rickhouse and Bourbon & Branch and located around the corner from the former, Tradition also employs B&B’s partial-reservation system. Split down the middle lengthwise by the bar, the left side of Tradition is open for walk-in drinkers, while the right is reserved for those who’ve booked tables and barstools in advance. An additional small-but-popular balcony in the back opens most nights with one bartender just for the area. The main feature of the reservation-only side of the room is a series of booths with high walls and stained glass windows that are nearly completely enclosed for maximum privacy. Each of these is lightly decorated according to a theme: New Orleans, Speakeasy, Tiki, Irish, Scottish, English, Dive Bar, and Grand Hotel. These are meant to represent the melting pot of drinking in America (which is the overall theme of Tradition), and the cocktail menu is divided into the same eight sections with appropriate drinks for each, even including a fancified version of the Surfer on Acid. The menu, a slightly longer version of which is available to those on the reservations side of the room, also lists “barrel blends,” a unique program where spirits are barrel-aged in casks rinsed with other spirits, such as tequila with an apple brandy cask finish. For a small bar Tradition puts forth an ambitious cocktail program, but a well-executed one like at its sister location Bourbon & Branch a few feet away.
The Burritt Room has seen many management changes in its short lifetime as a bar, with a quick succession of bar managers, a sudden closing, and now open again under the ownership of Charlie Palmer. With a successful restaurant and hotel group in charge now we’d expect things to remain stable for quite a while. The Burritt Room is that rare gem of a cocktail bar to which you can show up with 15 friends on a Friday night without a reservation and still have enough room for a good time and great drinks. Though located in the Mystic Hotel a block off Union Square, the only sign that this is a hotel bar is that you enter through a tiny all-white first floor lobby before heading up to the expansive bar. The Burritt Tavern restaurant is attached to the Burritt Room but the bar operates separately and is equal or larger in size. Tile floors, distressed brick and wood walls, and occasional live jazz trios give the room a 1930s Harlem nightclub type of feel, though it’s more like to be filled with 30- and 40-something cocktail-hopping patrons than flappers and gangsters. A good-sized cocktail menu includes punches to share, lesser-known classics (Monkey Gland, Old Pal), and tempting originals with ingredients like strawberry shrub, chocolate bitters, and spiced orange tea.
Written by Camper English