This has always been a hip place to hang.
Founded in 1926, Hotel Elysée was a European-style hotel for the carriage trade. Later, Mayer Quain purchased the hotel out of bankruptcy in 1937. His children designed every room so that no two were alike. Instead of numbered rooms, they were named to reflect different personalities. The “Sayonara” suite was assigned to Marlon Brando after his starring role in Teahouse of the August Moon. Famed playwright Tennessee Williams lived in the hotel for fifteen years and died in his “Sunset” suite in 1983.
Society and celebrities flocked to the hotel. Nicknamed the “easy lay” in the 1940’s, this was a place to see and be seen, with complete discretion, of course. For instance, in November of 1948, Tallulah Bankhead who made this hotel her home, threw a party to celebrate President Harry S. Truman‘s Presidential win over Thomas E. Dewey It ran non-stop for five days and nights.
So, let’s talk about the Monkey Bar. With the repeal of Prohibition near, it was opened on the ground floor of the hotel.
After years of disrepair, the Monkey Bar was purchased, in 2009, and returned to its former glory by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
Yellow walls featuring monkey murals by caricaturist Charlie Wala (and then added to by other artists), ambient jazz, leather furniture, lit candles and brass monkey sconces are what you take in when you first enter. You feel transported back in time and as it was then, it is a super cool place now.
I was here for lunch.
It was a cold day in The Big Apple. I needed something warm and comforting. And what is more warm and comforting than a grilled cheese sandwich and some soup?
First, out came the rolls. They were like the best rolls ever with an ample side of butter. Soft with a touch of sweet, they hit the spot. There was enough for dipping in the soup too.
The sandwich was grilled cheddar and swiss. Crispy and buttery and extremely hot, the cheese was gooey and delicious. The Lobster Bisque Soup was the perfect consistency with hunks of lobster and crunchy croutons.
After eating, I had a few minutes to chill and jot down some notes. The place was shutting down for the day and a film crew was setting up. This wouldn’t be the first time as it has in recent years been the scene for Sex and the City, Mad Men, The Other Woman, and various other productions.
If you get a chance, this is a must.
60 East 54th Street
New York, NY 10002
Location: 40.75988, -73.9732