Reason number 49 to opt for time-honored New York over the Current Hot Scene: immediately seating, with minimal bullshit.
This lesson was taught to me anew on Saturday when my friend John and I, having just endured Elton John's "Lestat" on Broadway, went swimming about the sea of humanity Broadway vomits into Times Square around 11 PM, searching for a place to have a drink. Angus McIndoe, the theatre boite of the moment? No available tables, third floor bar choked with a private party. Bar Centrale, the sizzling star hideout above Orso on Restaurant Row? No available tables AND no available bar stools or floor space; Bar Centrale requires you reserve a place at the bar ahead of time, and does not allow not-seated patrons of any kind. (This gives a new meaning to the warning "No Loitering.")
We stumbled down the steps of Bar Centrale, despairing and wet. Looking across the street at the grand 100-year-old Italian restaurant Barbetta, we wondered "We couldn't get in THERE, could we?"
We gave it a try and, yes, we could. A lovely lounge area, like something left over from some overstuffed, Belle Epoque mansion, was empty and ours for the taking. The well-dressed bartender gave us no attitude and brought us two well-made cocktails. We didn't have to speak over a whisper to hear each other. And, when they informed us the kitchen was closed, the bartender felt so bad for us, he brought us a place of salmon amuse bouche.
I bet Barbetta would have even permitted us to stand at the bar.