The list has dwindled, but a couple of establishments exist in the Big Apple where you can relax, have a nice meal, a drink and a smoke without stepping outside or ducking out the back door to avoid a raid. Since circumstances have changed since our last article on smoke-friendly New York, we ventured out again. We found that some of our previous smoker-friendly havens -- Aubette, Lobby Court Lounge, Oyster Bar Saloon, Swan's and Mustang Grill -- no longer allow smoking indoors. However, a majority still welcomes cigars with open arms and have taken on an air of hip exclusivity.
Rumors abound of bars opening up the place to smokers at the stroke of midnight, but we concentrated on the still legal proprietors that have found creative loopholes to dodge the ban bullet. Here's who's still smoking.
Lexington Bar & Books
1020 Lexington Avenue (73rd St.)
Jazz music plays in this library turned bar with dark wood trimmings, a working fireplace and lots of cigarette and cigars smokers. Munch on some light fare including assorted meats and cheeses and choose from the cigar menu, which is limited but good. Many scotches, bourbons and fine spirits are available for the well-heeled older clientele that frequent the establishment.
Hudson Bar & Books
636 Hudson Street (Horatio St.)
This is the original Bar & Books with the same owner, theme and feel as the Lexington B & B. One difference: it charges a $2.50 smoking fee per person whether you are smoking or not -- a clever way to declare tobacco revenue without forcing customers to buy cigars and cigarettes at the bar.
1633 Second Avenue (85th St.)
This rootin' tootin' Tex Mex bar used to be a well-known haven for cigar smokers but has surrendered its indoor smoking rights, although you can still buy cigars from a cabinet humidor inside. The front tables are good for the summertime smoking crowd but on cold New York nights only the bravest venture outdoors. When the snow begins to fall, the restaurant has a retractable roof outback covering a little courtyard surrounded by a red brick wall where smoking is permitted. Large heaters are set amidst the tables to keep it pretty warm outside. The full menu of spicy food, also serves as a nice warmer upper.
1125 First Avenue (62nd St.)
Merchants is a bi-level bar and restaurant a stone's throw from the Queensboro Bridge. The upstairs is reserved for nonsmokers, but the downstairs basement area is smoker territory. Dark and candle lit, it has a small cigar menu and light appetizers as well as a wine list and all the spirits you can handle. With a fireplace and overstuffed leather chairs, it is a more sophisticated romper room than the downstairs your parents sequestered you to in the heady days of high school parties. Booths enclosed in curtains with coffee tables and velvety cushions can make you feel like a sheik.
Florio's Grill & Cigar Bar
192 Grand Street (Mulberry St.)
Upon entering this Little Italy haunt, you are met with full glass enclosed display cases stacked with cigars like a retail shop and a couple of black leather chairs to lounge. There is a large dining area in the back, which is smoke free. If you don't mind sitting at the bar, you can drink from top shelf liquor, order from a full menu of Italian food and smoke a cigar all without moving from your stool -- a rarity in New York now.
The Campbell Apartment
15 Vanderbilt Avenue (42nd St.)
Grand Central Terminal
This Grand Central hotspot caters to a swank commuter crowd with a touch of roaring twenties speakeasy charm. Top of the top shelf liquor is served in large supply at the crowded happy hour. A good mix of cigar smokers and cigarette smokers puff together in the high ceiling room, which still manages to fill up with a foggy cloud. There is no food served here aside from the spicy salted trail mix and the ice in your glass. Don't come casual -- there is a no sneaker policy. Write down your name with the hostess when entering to get a good spot -- the place fills up quickly. There is a short cigar menu.
The Carnegie Club
156 West 56th Street (between 6th & 7th Ave.)
A great little getaway that's big inside but easy to miss from the street. The cavernous space serves high-end beverages and a menu of light appetizers. A jazz band plays in the corner amidst the stylishly dressed patrons. The large dark wood wrap-around bar is lit with candles and mini-shade lamps. There is a small cigar menu of about ten cigars but feel free to bring your own. You can distinguish the clandestine spot by the hologram of a Martini floating over the front arched doorway.
392 Columbus Avenue (78th St.)
Proceed through the trendy restaurant and go upstairs. At the top of the stairs behind a big metal door is a nice, quite dark wood cigar bar with light music, candlelight, a full bar, stocked cabinet humidors and a small cigar collection. Get top shelf booze or order from the wine list and the gourmet menu. With the wooden slat shades drawn over the windows, this bar offers privacy and a dimly lit intimacy. It is almost a shame considering the charming view of the planetarium across the way, but it sets a relaxing mood for hours of lounging.
Staple Cigar Bars:
26 East 63rd Street (Madison Ave.)
Club Macanudo -- Still Smoky
Grand Havana Room
666 5th Avenue
39-40 Bell Boulevard
[At the bar only]
333 East 63rd Street (between 1st & 2nd Ave.)
Click here for our previous article on cigar friendly New York.
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