Midtown Happy Hour: Smith’s Bar

If you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week we’ll post about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap. This week Mamacita goes to an ancient Midtown bar that has seen better days…

Smith's Bar

A look into the history of Smith’s Bar shows it has been in business for over 6 decades. That’s 11 presidencies. The historic façade has the rich neon beauty of New York in the 50s. Glowing vibrantly, its florescent sign dominates the corner of 8th Avenue and W. 44th Street. Alas the Dubya years were not kind to this bar and it changed ownership to a company that also owns the upscale lounges: Social, Social@Dunwoodie, Kanvas and Latitude. Smith’s new website informs us, “You haven’t been to New York until you’ve been to Smith’s.” As you know the Internet never lies. So as I’ve been living here for a while now it’s apparently time for me to stop in to confirm my residency!

Smith's Bar

Once inside there’s a long mahogany bar that splits in half two spacious eating areas. I chose to sit at one of the rustic benches to the left of the bar. If you rather eat more privately, there is waitress service located in the back booths and a more traditional diner section on the other side of the bar. Happy Hour is 12 to 7pm and offers $3.50 Buds and Coors, $4 Amstel and Sam Adams, and $4 well drinks.

Smith's Bar

I found a look around to be rather disappointing. These days the bar is basically a sports bar, which means it’s festooned with TV screens and team jerseys. Patrons at the bar were mostly tourists, a few frat boys and some working types. Time Out magazine had reviewed Smith’s and claimed, “The barstools tend to be filled with grouchy old men hunched over cheap beer. As a history lesson, Smith’s is unsurpassed.” Someone should drop them a note that things have changed.

I ordered at the bar and tried a vodka soda and it was Ok, but I was ready to move on to some beer and food. Next up was a pint of Kelso of Brooklyn and a Sam Adams Lager for my friend that tallied up to $11. The menu is standard pub grub with a fair amount of items under $10.

Smith's Bar

We decided to share a plate of sliders with fries. The four little burgers came out perfectly medium rare and were topped with cheese, a bit of caramelized onion and a slice of pickle. A mountain of golden fries filled the plate and I must add that the secret to these wonderfully crispy spuds is that they are lightly coated with a little seasoned flour before being dunked in the fryer. The end result is a starchy splendor.

After some beef and beer my take on Smith’s had grown brighter. The bar does have live music most nights and some karaoke for the drunken tourists. The music is mainstream radio singles brought to you by the bar’s iTunes library. The floor space is big so it lends itself perfectly for after work gatherings. It’s also conveniently located next to the “Girls, Girls, Girls” gentleman’s club. (Yes, I’m looking at you commenter Wayne.)

Lots of the history of the bar is gone along with the career-bartenders and the tale telling drunks, but the food and location can still bring in the crowds and maybe in another few decades it will yield a new generation of story telling locals hunched over their beers. One can only hope, right?

Now to kick it +/- style…

THE + (What somebody who likes this place will say)

  • Happy hour on local beers and well drinks
  • Tasty pub fare to provide booze ballast (try the fries!)
  • The historic building is something worth visiting
  • Sports bar: enthusiastic/intoxicated crowds etc…

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • All in all the happy hour is nothing exceptional
  • Atmosphere a bit lacking
  • While food is good it’s pretty standard and not an exceptional deal
  • Sports bar: enthusiastic/intoxicated crowds etc…

Smith’s Bar, 701 8th Avenue (on 44th), 212-246-3268

Post and Photos by Mamacita


  • McBeagle

    I have it on good authority that you are a deliveryman for Dial-A-Matress in the suburban Pittsburgh area.

    And that you do not bathe daily.

    It’s little wonder than you have invented a different online personality for yourself, unimaginative though it may be.

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