Photo: Julia La Roche/Business Insider
One by one, through the years, Manhattan’s cigar bars have been winnowed out. It’s sad, but only the strong survive.Merchants Cigar Bar, located on East 61st and 1st Ave, is one of those survivors. They’ve been around for 15 years, and they want to be around for another hundred.
That’s why the Merchants team decided to overhaul their space to make it a true destination — the food, the drinks, everything has been reassembled by some of the most genius minds in New York hospitality.
The new cocktail menu was designed by mixiologist Jeremy Strawn, the man behind Mulberry Project. The new dinner menu has been personally overhauled by Wade Burch, a winner of Food Network’s Chopped competition.
General Manager Chris Eldridge told us that the food is “classic meat and potatoes”, and for the best meat in Manhattan, no one compares to butcher Pat LaFrieda — so that’s where Merchants is picking up their dry-aged steaks.
It’s also worth noting that Merchants is the only cigar bar open til 4 am — so it’s almost never too late to light up.
The upstairs portion of the bar is now Neely's, a restaurant collaboration between the famous Food Network couple and Merchants Hospitality Inc.
We headed downstairs. If you've been there before, you'll notice that they knocked down a bunch of walls.
The smoking space used to be sectioned off. In the new renovations, those walls were knocked down and the ventilation was vastly improved. It's also way better this way for parties.
The Volstead — Grey Goose Vodka, Muddled Strawberries, St. Germain, Lemon Juice, Topped with Champagne
Guys, this is one of the many items on the menu that even the girliest girlfriends will not turn up their noses at. The Chef wanted it that way.
These are humidors for your cigars. For $700 per year you can become a member. Up to two people can use each humidor to store their cigars.
There are other perks as well. Members get 10% off of all their tabs and get a seat in the house no matter what. There are 56 humidors in the restaurant.
We think the best part is that your humidor has a plaque with your name (or nickname) on it. Our favourites were 'Iron Man' and 'Little Rascals.'
Since we were first timers, we went for a milder cigar called the Tatiana Vanilla.
Then twirl the cigar slowly in your fingers so that it's evenly burned.
'At this restaurant, we're doing local,' he told Business Insider. 'Local cheese, meat from Pat LaFrieda, Jersey tomatoes, Lobster from Maine... Smoking a cigar is something you do that takes a while.'
The food reflects that.
Here's the Chopped Holiday competition where he took home the gold:
He explained that the rib eye has the most fat around it, and so, the most flavour. 'The filet is boring...people are always adding sauces to make a meal out of it,' said Burch.
Another Chef favourite on the menu is the lobster slider. Eli's makes a special bread for him and in general, Merchants cant keep lobster for more than a few hours before the patrons order it away.
The patrons were chill, the service was great, and we're jealous of the humidors.