Whiskey drinkers are spoiled for choice at the Flatiron Room parlor in Chelsea, which boasts one of the largest whiskey collections on the east coast. The classy lounge has a vintage vibe, felt immediately after entering the enclosed vestibule where hosts ask for your reservation and check your coat. In the lounge, you experience a mature setting—not a loud bar with booming music. Reservations are recommended and the only standing area is at two slim islands where you wait (and can drink) until your table is open. Aside from an extensive global spirits list, Flatiron Room offers top-notch cocktails, fine dining, and live jazz and bossa nova. Buying a bottle? They’ll store it for you if you don’t finish it through their Bottle Keep service.
As a Scotch drinker who used to do spirits PR, I was very excited to take my husband and his whiskey-drinking friends for his birthday. We were not disappointed! For drinks, I recommend The Mule with bourbon served the right way in a chilly copper cup, Balvenie 14 year, and the Mexican Jockey margarita with smoky mezcal. We shared a cheese board and charcuterie as appetizers; for entrees we all choose either the filet mignon or the braised short ribs. Everything was spot on and the service was perfect.
To learn more about The Flatiron Room (TFR), we caught up with owner Tommy Tardie (TT) who shared his vision with us.
LP: Tell us about how TFR opened, the concept, and how it evolved.
TT: I came up with the concept back in 2011. I envisioned a space that would appeal to those looking for a more mature night out. The idea was to create a venue where people could come for fine dining, live music and really extraordinary beverages. I didn’t want the typical bar scene that gets overcrowded and is often filled with 20-somethings. I wanted a mature place. A place that was civil with music at decibels that was still conducive to conversation. I knew I also didn’t want just a restaurant because they lacked the entertainment aspect I was looking for. Often when I dined with my wife and friends, our conversation would exceed our meal. We would typically pack up and go to the next spot that gave a little more interaction and entertainment. So I thought, why not create a space that would fill this hole? We have a premium brand, but it lacks any pretension and sets a very comfortable tone that guests feel immediately.
In terms of our evolution, I would say our whiskey program has evolved the most. We opened with just under 300 varieties and we now have over 1,000. Charles Darwin would be proud.
LP: TFR boasts an extensive whiskey list. What are some of the rare finds drinkers would be excited about?
TT: We have some very rare and very old marks that are located front and center in our bar, and are only accessible by an old library ladder that staff climb up. You can bet I get excited when I see someone climbing that ladder! Here you’ll find our Glenfiddich 40 year, Balvenie 40 year, Glenmorangie Pride and Johnny Walker’s The John Walker…to name a few.
LP: Tell us about your whiskey flight options.
TT: As our flights are very popular with our guests we routinely change them up to offer new tasting experiences. They allow guests to sample six different whiskies in an assortment of categories. It’s a great way to explore a variety of ryes, bourbons and single malts. I recommend the “Discovery Flight” for those new to whiskey and looking to see what their palate is partial to. In this flight, they’ll sample bourbon, rye, Irish, Japanese, Scotch, and a heavily peaty Scotch.
LP: Pine Barrens USA– what’s this brand about?
TT: Pine Barrens is an American single malt from Long Island Spirits — a true “craft” distiller on the North Fork of Long Island. My friend Rich Stabile is its founder and I’m a big fan of his work. Pine Barrens is no exception. Rich distills this single malt from fully finished hopped ale beer. The result is a very unique take on single malts. Die-hard beer fans may find themselves loving this mark. The hoppy flavor really comes through in a unique and refreshing way.
LP: Are people surprised by all of the global options on the menu? World Tour highlights this well.
TT: I think our World Tour tasting flight is a true testament to the global popularity of whiskey. Distilleries are opening up all over the world—India, Tasmania, Sweden, Taiwan, France, Japan, Bhutan—all producing some fine whiskey.
LP: What’s your favorite region of Scotch (in Scotland)?
TT: I like five regions in particular. (Joke) There are primarily five primary whisky-making regions (some argue six). The Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, Islay (and the Islands). I’m glad they all exist since each one has characteristics that make it unique. In the winter I’m partial to the heavily peaty varieties, so you’ll often find a few bottles from Islay sitting in my liquor cabinet.
LP: Any new trends you are seeing that you could share?
TT: American whiskey is going through the roof—over 400 distilleries and counting. With this demand comes a tremendous amount of shelf traffic that the consumer has to digest before deciding on their next purchase. I’d like to see more “full disclosure” from producers on what they are actually putting in the bottle, and less marketing hype and romantic stories. If your whiskey is sourced from someone else…fine…just let the consumers know. It doesn’t make it any less of a whiskey. It’s just important that people know what they are drinking.
The Flatiron Room is located at 37 West 26th Street, New York, NY. To learn more, go to TheFlatironRoom.com.
Nubia DuVall Wilson is a contributing writer. She is a luxury travel & lifestyle expert and published author of Encounters with Strangers. Learn more at www.nubiaduvall.com. Follow her on Twitter @NubiaWilson.