Keens Steakhouse

December 14, 2007

72 West 36th Street, Manhattan

Tucked amidst the hustle and bustle of discount shopping and commuter lunch joints that line the midtown stretch between Penn Station and Herald Square, an inviting bit of Old New York is waiting for you to discover it.

Keens Steakhouse, on 36th Street near the corner of 6th Avenue, is the last surviving remnant of what once was the regaled theatre district of Herald Square.  A former playground of the famous and infamous, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers and Teddy Roosevelt, among other notables, were all regulars of Keen’s members-only “Pipe Club”.  The “Gentlemen’s-Only” club might still be going strong today, if not for the efforts of actress Lillie Langtry, who in 1905 took Keen’s to court in protest, and won.

Lucky for us she did.  My father first introduced me to Keens as a teenager, and it still holds a magic for me that few NYC restaurants can muster. Stepping into the heavy oak doors is like stepping through a portal in time.  The main dining room, with its stark wooden booths, bathed in a kerosene glow, is the perfect atmosphere by which to enjoy Keen’s top-notch steakhouse fare.

Keens famous Mutton Chop is still on the menu, as well as a dizzying selection of house-aged prime cuts of meat.  Selections from the raw bar or lobster tank are also on hand, and doled out by black tied waiters who’s sometimes gruff demeanor only further enhance this quintessential New York dining experience.

While dinner in the main dining room can be pricey, Keens best kept secret is its delightful Pub Room, which offers not only more in warmth and charm than the main dining room, but a decidedly more affordable Pub Menu, with smaller cuts of steak, as well as an ample selection of raw bar choices, sandwiches and salads (try the prime rib hash – at $16.50, it just may be the best value in Manhattan).  The full dinner menu can also be ordered in this fireplace-lit room.

After dinner, sojourn into Keens wonderful bar, where a mural of the siren-like “Miss Keen’s” beckons you to enjoy a perfectly made classic cocktail.  As far as I am concerned, there are only 2 places in New York that can perfectly make a gimlet, and Keens is one of them.

– Kitty Jay, Brooklyn


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