Feinstein’s/ 54 Below: A Rollicking Good Time Below Studio 54
The basement of New York's Studio 54 has a fabled history; during the legendary club’s heyday it served as the club’s VIP room and if those walls could talk I’m sure they’d have a lot to say. They’re telling a different story nowadays, however: One of a classy cabaret that hosts some of the biggest names in Broadway and the music industry on a near-nightly basis. We had the opportunity to drop by Feinstein’s/ 54 Below for dinner and a show at the invitation of the venue, and were impressed by just about every aspect of the evening.
With a speakeasy-style décor designed by renowned set designer John Lee Beatty, the supper club, which opened in 2012, more closely resembles music venues B.B. King and The Blue Note than more old-fashioned cabarets like Don’t Tell Mama. This is an A-list venue for some serious talent, and it was packed to the gills when we arrived to take in a show by former Monkee Micky Dolenz. It’s not a restaurant, so don’t be surprised if you’re sharing a four-top table or booth with another couple (several rows of long communal tables jut out from the stage as well); they’re going to be filling all of the approximately 140 seats in the room, so be prepared to make some friends, whether you want to or not.
The rectangular room has plenty of dark wood, red leather, and gold molding, and definitely gives the impression of opulence. The menu, from chef Lynn Bound (formerly of the Museum of Modern Art) changes seasonally, but there’s an a la carte menu as well as a prix-fixe. On the evening we dined there, we sampled a flavorful carrot soup and quinoa salad, perfectly cooked filet mignon with spiced potatoes and asparagus, and cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Other menu items include meatballs, a charcuterie and cheese plate, bacon mac and cheese, and Amish chicken. The fare is just as good as anything you’ll find at any of the top restaurants in the area, and is served nightly starting at 5:15; I suggest you arrive well in advance of your show so you have time to enjoy your meal before it begins. And once it does begin, the intimate space takes on the atmosphere of a living room, with a convivial charm that permeates the proceedings.
Visiting a supper club for dinner and musical entertainment is definitely a dying way to spend an evening, but there’s something elegant and luxurious about sitting down for a meal and being entertained by a Broadway (or pop music) legend. And if the prospect of paying for a full meal and a Broadway show makes you sweat, 54 Below is a far more affordable option, with cover charges starting at around $30 and a food and beverage minimum of around $25. It’s a wonderful way to spend a night on the town.