The Algonquin Hotel sits in the center of Manhattan and at the center of literary history with its legendary Round Table lunch bunch of literary greats, such as Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.
The Lobby Bar – Eat and drink with history.
The bar in the hotel lobby offers an homage to the wit and style of its guests and diners with a huge “round table” beautifully set, overlooked by a painting, “The Vicious Circle” by Natalie Ascencios, depicting some of the famous literary and theatrical people who were part of the history of this classic hotel.
The Algonquin Hotel opened in 1902 near famous restaurants such as Delmonicos, famous clubs such as the Harvard Club and the New York Yacht Club, and a growing number of theaters. Frank Case, the manager at its opening who became the owner in 1927, chose the name. It was originally going to be called The Puritan, and it is really hard to picture Dorothy Parker, John Barrymore, and Erica Jong being associated with a place with that name. The name, The Algonquin, was chosen purposely to be an indigenous American name rather than one of the snobbish European names common in that time.
A proud tradition maintained.
The hotel is proud of its tradition, and has done all of us a service by maintaining the traditional character of the hotel through several restorations. They are well aware of their responsibility to this New York City landmark and literary landmark while continuing to run a successful hospitality business. The lobby displays books and photos of Dorothy Parker and the Round Table, and offers mugs, snow globes, ornaments, and other souvenirs.
The group commonly called the Round Table actually called themselves The Vicious Circle, as they were writers, critics, who shared a cutting wit. Many of the group were writers for nearby Vanity Fair Magazine, and some of the group later founded The New Yorker, which is still provided to guests of the hotel.
A modern cabaret.
The Oak Room Cabaret is among the best in Manhattan, and it continues to showcase the top singers in the business, including Harry Connick, Jr, Diana Krall, and Andrea Marcovicci. Ms. Marcovicci recently celebrated the Johnny Mercer Centennial with the only Mercer show to be commissioned for the music festival in Mercer’s hometown of Savannah, Georgia.Visiting the lobby bar at the Algonquin for a late night drink is like stepping back into history. Staff members manage to be both quite reserved and elegant, and very attentive. The setting is also elegant, with tall ceilings, beautiful wood paneling, comfortable arm chairs, and during the holidays, a tall Christmas tree. It seems appropriate to order an old fashioned, or a martini, to suit the historical setting, but in the evening with a delicious dessert, a hot Irish coffee with a rich dollop of cream fit the mood perfectly.
The famous Algonquin cat.
The hotel is pet friendly and has its own resident pet, the blue eyed, creamy colored, and fuzzy Rag Doll cat named Matilda. Matilda has her own small bed in the lobby, and wanders freely everywhere but the kitchen and restaurant. The tradition of a feline mascot began with Hamlet, a stray who wandered into the hotel in the 1930s and was provided food and a home in the lobby. Matilda has been the subject of books, has her own Email account, and takes nominal responsibility for the many pet services provided at the hotel. For anyone who loves history and literature, a pilgrimage to the landmark Algonquin Hotel to stay, dine, or just have a casual drink, is an essential part of any visit to New York City.A
A few Algonquin quotes and facts:
• Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe wrote My Fair Lady in Lerner’s suite at the Algonquin.
• The Algonquin was the first leading New York hotel to welcome ladies traveling alone.
• William Faulkner wrote his 1950 Nobel Prize speech in his Algonquin Suite.
• Contrary to myth, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and their fellow wits never drank at the Round Table because of Prohibition.
• “When I was growing up I had three wishes. I wanted to be a Lindbergh-type hero, learn Chinese and become a member of The Algonquin Round Table.” – John F. Kennedy
• One afternoon, Round Table member Edna Ferber arrived at The Algonquin in a new suit similar to the one Noel Coward was wearing. “You look almost like a man,” Coward said as he greeted her. “So do you,” replied Ferber.