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‘Mad Men’ fans trawl Manhattan for show’s haunts

In this Feb. 13, 2012 image taken in Concord, N.H., an Old Fashion cocktail made with rye, is shown. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

NEW YORK: “Mad Men” fans, it’s cocktail time.

The return of the AMC show March 25 after a hiatus of a year and a half is cause for celebration, and there’s no better place to raise your glass than in Manhattan at one of Don Draper’s favorite haunts.

While many of the places name-dropped in “Mad Men” no longer exist – Lutece, the Stork Club, Toots Shor’s – there are plenty that do, among them P.J. Clarke’s, the Roosevelt Hotel and Sardi’s. Some Manhattan bars, clubs and hotels are even offering packages, drinks or viewing parties to mark the show’s return.

Of course, the series is filmed in California, so what you see on TV are well-researched sets, not real Manhattan bars. But “Mad Men” fans will not be disappointed by reality: Many of the establishments that turn up on the show retain a classy, retro vibe in real life, and can offer a fun, sophisticated setting for drinks or a meal.

Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin, authors of “The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook,” provide “A Handy List of Mad Men Haunts” in their book along with recipes from them.

“Some of these places just never go out of style, like the Grand Central Oyster Bar,” said Zheutlin. “It’s such a classic and bustling place.”

“Mad Men” aficionados know the Oyster Bar at the landmark train terminal was not mentioned by name on the show, but it’s believed to be the place where Don takes Roger Sterling for a martini-and-oyster lunch.

P.J. Clarke’s, at Third Avenue and 55th Street, manages to appeal to a trendy 21st century sensibility while channeling the classic cool that got the crowd from the fictional “Mad Men” ad agency, Sterling Cooper, drinking and doing the twist. P. J. Clarke’s “was the site of many ‘Mad Men’ parties,” Gelman said. “I think there might be more scenes set there” than any other bar or restaurant.

According to its real-life bartender, Doug Quinn, P.J. Clarke’s “was a joint often frequented by Madison Avenue advertising executives [in] the 1960s.”

The Roosevelt Hotel, 45 E. 45th St. at Madison Avenue, where Don stayed after his wife Betty threw him out, is offering a “Mad Men in the City” package, starting at $425 a night through June 30, so guests can “experience New York City as Don Draper would,” according to Kevin Croke, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

The package includes accommodations, ’60s-era themed cocktails at the hotel’s lobby-level Madison Club Lounge or its rooftop bar, called mad46. Guests also get a DVD of the show’s fourth season, a copy of “The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook,” and tickets to the Paley Center for Media at 25 W. 52nd St., where the hotel has reserved a screening booth for viewing ads from the era.

One of the best places Zheutlin and Gelman ate while researching their cookbook was Keens Steakhouse, 72 W. 36th St. They found the steak “sumptuous,” and were amused to learn that Keens’ top chef had no idea the restaurant turned up in “Mad Men.” (It was the site of a client lunch in which Don and Pete Campbell discuss the sport of jai alai.)

Gelman said the show’s depiction of Keens also did not fully capture its rich atmosphere and quirky history. The restaurant dates to the 19th century and the low ceilings are lined with thousands of old clay pipes. Patrons like President Teddy Roosevelt and baseball star Babe Ruth stored personal pipes on the premises for use when they dropped by.

In contrast, Sardi’s, 234 W. 44th St., was more faithfully recreated in a “Mad Men” episode, right down to the framed caricatures on the wall. Other “Mad Men” scenes took place at Dublin House, 225 W. 79th St., an old Irish pub where, on the show, Joan’s husband gets drunk; The Palm, 837 Second Ave., a seafood and steak restaurant; and Barbetta, an Italian restaurant at 321 W. 46th St., which Gelman says remains “absolutely luxurious and romantic. You feel like you’ve gone to another era.”

For “Mad Men”-style shopping, head to Bloomingdale’s at 59th Street and Lexington, where Pete returned a wedding gift. (Bonwit Teller, where Pete gets Joan to take care of a stained dress, no longer exists.)

While “Mad Men” mostly has an uptown look, the characters sometimes go for a walk on New York’s bohemian side. One episode finds Don with a girlfriend at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village for a poetry reading and folk music. The Gaslight, now defunct, was a real hangout for Beat poets and Bob Dylan. In May a club called 116 opened at the same address, 116 MacDougal St., with classic cocktails and acoustic rock.

If, like many “Mad Men” characters, you’re a smoker, the newly renovated Carnegie Club cigar lounge, 156 W. 56th St., is one of just a few places in Manhattan where you can legally smoke indoors while dining and drinking, just as people did in the 1960s.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 12, 2012, on page 12.

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