November 26 2009
Mark C O’Flaherty
Dinner at the 21 Club in New York – jacket and tie required, of course – is an institution. I’ve rarely visited town without being drawn to its pitch-dark dining room with red checked tablecloths for a profoundly grown-up, classic Manhattan dining experience.
For a thoroughly unique experience of the city, though, you have to be invited to, or host, a dinner in the private wine cellar, originally a Prohibition hot-spot entered through the kitchens. The milieu of the wine cellar – which has its own special menu – outdoes the toy-strewn ceiling of main dining room; there are hundreds upon hundreds of bottles of private wine stock, each one labelled with the varietal, year and owner, including Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Carter, the Clintons and Mary Boone, as well as regulars unlikely to return for an uncorking (Nixon, President Ford and Sammy Davis Jr). It’s the most offbeat museum in the city, and it serves the best burger in the Five Boroughs.
Dinner in the wine cellar costs $485 per person, which includes seven courses with wine pairings, tax and gratuity.