Spring had officially come a day early, though, unofficially, it felt much earlier than that. We took notice of the sweat stains soaked eagerly into the underarms of our plaid button-down and the discernible discomfort of chinos matted to the back of our knees. The winter had been a short one, and the weight we packed on for our annual hibernation had yet to be converted into self-sustaining energy. Or perhaps it was the gym membership that lay lazily on our dusty dresser. Or the vicious cycle of both.
Whatever the reason, we had misread the almanac. And we were looking like an overweight college student who hadn’t showered in weeks. Nonetheless, a few Mondays back, we bounded across the pre-seasonably green island to Park Avenue Tavern where tape measures, hand-rolled cigars and deep pours of Laphroaig single malt greeted us for our custom suit fitting, part of a Luxury Lifestyle series that was supposed to make us feel like the proper gentleman that we (apparently) weren’t.
We were late and ducked and dodged through the barroom upstairs, as thirty-somethings poured from their self-service taps and were determined to recall the conquests of their weekends, drowning out the workday blues with pats on the back and thrown-back laughs.
Downstairs in the Barrel Room, we were ushered into a shoe shine chair, where we finally settled down. The penny loafers we had worn had taken on the appearance of dehydrated apples—they needed a good sprucing up; our toothpicks-and-duct tape budget spit shines had only gone so far. Eugene Brennan, co-owner of the joint, was making his rounds, pacing between the bar and a couch positioned just off the main stretch where others fiddled with fabrics and patterns, often carrying and spilling two large glasses brimming with lager, entertaining an onslaught of media types there for the booze.
He was tall, a well-groomed man whose clothes clearly fit better than ours; he played the part of bartender quite well. Animal hides spic and span, we slid off the stool and made a beeline for Mr. Brennan, who gladly entertained our questions, as we entertained the pint he, in turn, offered up.
“The idea came about with one of our regulars who knew the boys from Bangkok were coming to town,” he started, the boys from Bangkok being the father-son team of the Narulas (the younger Mana had the honors of fitting us), in town for the week. “I then started tailoring it to our VIP—family and friends—putting together a nice, corporate, upscale, men’s attire event.” A corporate, upscale, men’s attire event? We looked around, taking notice of the evening’s clientele.“It’s not the environment that is important,” Mr. Brennan quickly chimed in, “but the everyday mentality—when you wake up and get dressed. Why not look good when you walk out the door?” It was with a similar mindset that the Midtown American GastroPub found its legs. Dressed to the nines in a fashion that croons of the art deco dera, the owners’ mentality was and remains “classics never grow old” and that anyone, or, at least, those who find themselves meandering down Park Avenue, is a potential follower of the lifestyle they advertise so proudly. The upstairs houses their wall of fame, though fame is redefined to include shots taken out of their family albums, shots of their great-grandfathers in the early twenties, stiff drinks in hand, hung proudly next to shots of themselves, in the same style.Tonight, the Lifestyle Series continues as John Allan sets up shop, and mid-May will see Warby Parker tending to the downstairs lounge. These gentlemen staples are the current affectations that adorn Park Avenue Tavern in hopes that it becomes more than that, in line with the general demeanor they carry themselves in.
“It’s about service, from the moment you walk in with a handshake at the door to the moment you walk out the door when everyone knows your name.”
A new man, now wobbling under the weight of the 10-year, Quarter Cask and 18-year Scotches, left the Midtown drinking den that evening. If only we remembered his name.
Follow Michael Woodsmall via RSS.