Minetta Tavern

photo by Sylvia Paret

Keith McNally bought Minetta Tavern five years back and gave it a facelift, but the restaurant precedes him by decades. Open since 1937, the dining room is steeped in history, and you can practically breathe in the ghosts of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Dylan Thomas while you eat. Shiny red banquettes line dark-wood walls adorned with framed caricatures of esteemed guests, and lampshade chandeliers fill the room with a warm yellow glow — it evokes a New York of a different era, when the city was at its best and most resilient. One big advantage of having McNally on board was the resulting menu upgrade; the list fondly recalls a time when fine food in New York was French. Sides like “Pommes Anna” — a skillet stacked with thin-sliced, buttery spuds rendered crisp and brown in the oven — are fine supporting actors to a dry-aged côte de boeuf for two. It’s a wallet-lightening $145, but if you can swing it, you’ll be glad you splurged. Tighter wads may opt for the burger, which, with its closely guarded, proprietary blend of beef, streams with fat-speckled juices and puts even the finest-ground patties to shame. Or opt for the mouclade: bouchot mussels steeped in a wine-infused crème fraîche curry.