Supper Clubs in New York Are a Vanishing Breed. Café Carlyle Is Keeping the Tradition Alive

On a Tuesday evening last December, the singer-pianist Michael Feinstein was at Café Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in a sparkly silver blazer, making his way through the audience to the little stage, wherethe members of his four-piece band were taking their places. The audience erupted into applause. A few people stood and reached out a hand to greet him. As he launched into George and Ira Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” some sang along, others swayed a little. Written in 1937, the American songbook standard is full of nostalgia, wit and romance. The same might be said for Café Carlyle.

The nightclub at the Carlyle hotel (now part of the Rosewood Hotel Group) seats just 90 patrons at its small tables and banquettes. Before each show, there’s a prix fixe dinner starting at 6:30, 7 or 7:30 p.m., depending on which seating you choose. The menu runs as old school as the venue: oysters, shrimp cocktail, poached salmon, roast chicken, seafood salad, steak and cheesecake, all served smartly on crisp white tablecloths and swiftly enough that diners are more or less finished by 8:45, when the show starts.

Café Carlyle seats just 90 patrons. A prix fixe dinner is served starting at 6:30 p.m. The show kicks off at 8:45.Credit…Izzy Brown
The dishes on Café Caryle’s dinner menu skew unsurprisingly old school, from the shrimp cocktail to poached salmon. The Eartha cocktail, named for the singer Eartha Kitt, features Lillet Blanc infused with rosemary.Credit…Izzy Brown

No matter the night or the performer, there’s a sense of occasion at Café Carlyle, the feeling that this is a big night out at the last great supper club in New York. The room has barely changed since it opened in 1955, except that back then, there were often two or even three shows instead of one a night. The martinis are still considered the best in the city, and the soft light from the little table lamps, the most flattering.

The lampshades were painted by the Hungarian-born French artist Marcel Vertès, as were the fanciful and droll murals on the walls, storybook-style illustrations of children in Pierrot party hats painting and playing music, as well as dancing bears and ballerinas.

One of the cafe’s dessert offerings, cheesecake topped with passion fruit.Credit…Izzy Brown

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