Downtown Classics

New York is a city of new — new friends, new neighborhoods, new restaurants. And while we love a good opening as much as the next Downtowner, we have to say: Sometimes a trusted classic is just better. These six Manhattan institutions are a cut above the rest, drawing diners for decades and putting pop-ups in their place. From the persistently chic Minetta Tavern to New York’s oldest bar, here’s what not to miss:

The Odeon

In the 1980s, Tribeca was a no-man’s-land of dark corners and dormant cobblestones. Then there was the Odeon, with a neon sign that drew every It Person from Andy Warhol to Robert DeNiro. Back then, revelers at Keith McNally’s (Minetta Tavern, Cherche Midi) French bistro were just as likely to order the restaurant’s landmark burger as they were to get caught making out in the bathroom. And today, although tamer, The Odeon’s lush red leather banquets, wooden bar and crispy frites continue to transport diners from their daily life to an old New York that’s a little bit edgy, but comfortable all the same.
145 W Broadway

Raoul’s

Opened in the 1970s, many consider Raoul’s the quintessential New York restaurant; it’s dark, bustling and completely unassuming from the front. And while reviews will undeniably point you to the steak, it’s the elusive burger that stole our hearts long. Serving only twelve per night — and only at the bar — you have a better chance of befriending Kimye than you do sinking your teeth into this LaFrieda patty atop a chewy Challah bun. Also not to be missed? The old school bar program where drinks are stiff and frills are nonexistent.
180 Prince Street

Minetta Tavern

Minetta Tavern has charmed New York and its visitors since 1937, occupying a snuggly space in the NYU-adjacent Greenwich Village. In its earlier days, the Tavern was frequented by everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Ezra Pound, securing the restaurant a coveted appearance on an episode of Mad Men. (Remember? Peggy thought Abe was going to propose over mouth-watering steaks and Manhattans.) And if it feels a little bit like the aforementioned Odeon, that’s because it, too, is part of Keith McNally’s Parisian-inspired empire (which also includes hotspot Balthazar). Don’t miss the burger, which is mandatorily served without cheese.
113 Macdougal Street

Ear Inn

New York’s oldest bar has been serving alcohol since 1817, when the building was first built by former George Washington aide James Brown. Many of the building’s original architectural features have survived, but the affordable menu of cocktails and bar bites has, thankfully, been updated. It’s nothing fancy, but crowds of 20- and 30-somethings descend upon the bar every Friday and Saturday night to pay tribute to bar’s history.
326 Spring St.

Barbuto

It’s hard to live in Manhattan without visiting Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto, housed in an old garage beneath the West Village’s Industria Studios. The restaurant isn’t as old or as storied as its other counterparts on this list, but is a bonafide classic nonetheless with a rotating roster of celebrity guests (Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively) and impossibly long waitlist. (Pro tip: Make reservations the moment they become available, 30 days in advance.) And although the menu’s dominantly Italian, it’s Waxman’s famous roasted chicken, served with housemade salsa verde, that’s not to be missed.
775 Washington St.

Katz Deli

Don’t come here looking for frills — the Lowest East Side’s most famous deli is a no-nonsense spots with long lines and celebrity pics on the walls. (Because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Bill Clinton eat a Reuben.) Sandwiches can run upwards of $20 a pop, but are well worth it once you taste either succulent brisket and house-carved turkey. Don’t skip the fries, and come early in the night to avoid late night crowds of debaucherous hipsters. 205 E Houston

Words by Emily Siegel