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    New York's Best Singles Bar     white logo           

Story by Chris Poh

     This is the first time, and most likely to be the last, that the term “singles bar” finds its way into the pages of this publication. Not that I would disparage those establishments that have built a reputation on their ability to encourage the personal relationships of unattached Americans, it’s just that I much prefer to use a bar as a place to deepen my already committed relationship to those single beauties of Scottish heritage. And no bar in all of New York does a finer job of enriching that long-standing relationship than Keens Steakhouse.

Photo by David McBride     
Keens Steakhouse in New York, NY as seen in American Public House Review
Keens Steakhouse in New York City

Photo by David McBride    
Since 1885!

Bar at keens Steakhouse in NYC as seen in American Public House Review

Bar area ay Keens Steakhouse in NYC as seen in Anerican Public House Review
Dining area at Keens Steakhouse in NYC as seen in American Public House Review

Portrait at Keens Steakhouse in NYC as seen in American Public House Review

     I was first introduced to this venerable old Herald Square landmark in the early 1980s by a friend who shared my enthusiasm for single-malt Scotch whisky. Back then Keens offered approximately 40 of the Caledonian purebreds, today that number has grown to over two hundred, a true testament to this enduring edifice which was slated for demolition in 1977. But thanks to the Herculean efforts of restaurateur George Schwarz, and his late wife, artist Kiki Kogelnik, Keens was spared the effects of the city’s financial woes, which had already seen far too many of New York’s revered neighborhood watering holes fall victim to the torch and wrecking ball. Not only had the architectural beauty and details of this historic chophouse been preserved, but so would be a tradition unique to this part of the “New World.”

     Around the turn of the twentieth century, Keens adopted an English custom that may have had its roots as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth. During the 17th century, the subjects of the Crown chose the churchwarden as the preferred means by which to indulge their love of tobacco. Unfortunately, these delicate long stemmed clay pipes would prove to be far too fragile for the rigors of travel by horse and coach. So it became a common practice to check one’s pipe at one’s favorite public house. And there a so-called “pipe warden” would be entrusted with the cataloging, care and storage of each gentleman’s smoking apparatus. Thus was the case at Keens. And during the early years of the Pipe Club, it would not have been unusual to see those who had plied their craft on the stages around the once thriving Herald Square Theater District sneaking away for a pint and a puff in between acts.

      Today, for better or for worse, the air has been cleared of the sweet tang of burning tobacco, but the pipes remain, as do the spirit and memories of those over ninety-thousand souls that have checked their churchwardens at this beloved Manhattan institution. Among them were the likes of George M. Cohan, General Douglas Mac Arthur, Albert Einstein, Will Rogers, Babe Ruth and Teddy Roosevelt. And while it is no longer fashionable to burn a bowl of aromatic blends in public—at least at Keens one can always relive a bit of America’s rich past while enjoying one of those splendid singular pleasures derived in part from the smoking embers of Scottish peat.

taps at Keen's Steakhouse in NYC as seen in American Public House Review
Lovely beers and a fine selection of single malt scotch whisky

Pipes at Keens Steakhouse in NYC as seen in American Public House Review
  The remembrance of pipes past

Keens Steakhouse

72 West 36th Street

New York, NY 10018

(212) 947-3636 



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