510 Hudson Street, New York 10014
By Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown
Sometimes, the most important move a great bar can make is to avoid change. Employees Only has miraculously maintained the spark that launched it instantly to the forefront of the New York bar scene.
The entrance is still classic speakeasy, a few steps into a fortune teller’s storefront then through the curtain to a splendid, timeless, wood-paneled Art Deco bar – the sort of place that harks back to New York’s post-war heyday when The Stork Club and The Copacabana were hotspots.
The atmosphere runs between polite occasion and frat party depending on the time and day. It’s been called a lot of things over the years, but it’s never been called dull. White-jacketed bartenders are constantly in motion behind the undulating bar extending back from the entrance, yet manage to greet even newcomers who opt for one of the tables toward the back instead of joining the throng at the bar.
Perhaps the line-up of photogenic male bartenders drew them in, and the bar quickly became known as a spot where attractive young women flocked. This attracted the bachelor crowd and a surprising number of New Yorkers claim to have met their spouse, significant other or at least an ex there.
Now that it’s been around a while, it has another advantage over new bars. Its cocktail list doesn’t just open with classics, it opens with Employees Only classics – the best of the original drinks created over the years, such as the Provençal, West Side and Billionaire.
While Employees Only is considered by all standards to be a bar, a great bar at that, the dinner and late-night food menus make it tempting to settle in for the entire evening – marrowbone poppers, bacon-wrapped lamb chops, oysters on the half shell served with the house Bloody Mary mix, Reuben croquettas based on the classic New York sandwich.
Global domination seems to be the next step for partners Dushan Zaric, Igor Hadzismajlovic, Jason Kosmas, Billy Gilroy, Henry LaFargue and the rest of the crew. An EO has opened in Singapore, while Texas and Florida are about to follow suit.