Room with a View

O ne of the best-kept secrets in New Haven is old news to out-of-towners: Bar 19 at the Omni Hotel. You don’t need to book a room to experience Bar 19, so named because it’s perched on the 19th floor, with a view of the city that’s nothing less than stunning.

After work on Valentine’s Day, I met my friend Valerie in the hotel lobby, where a winter breeze swept across the blue and gold carpet as guests arrived, hauling backpacks and wheeling luggage. A steady buzz of conversation overlaid the pleasant sound of jazz piano on the speakers. I was pleased to discover a Peet’s Coffee counter there, the only one downtown that isn’t on Yale’s campus, though it was closed for the evening.

Valerie and I stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the 19th floor, encouraged by a plaque on the wall advertising Bar 19 with the slogan “eat • drink • view.” It was a bit early for a meal, so we skipped “eat” and went straight to “drink” and “view.” In fact, the latter is unavoidable as you pull up one of six stools at the bar. Behind the shelves of liquor, where most bars sport a mirror, Bar 19 offers an eastward view of New Haven and beyond.

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The 10th-tallest building (according to Wikipedia) in a city where most structures are considerably shorter, the Omni has a vista that seems to go on forever. The bartender told us that on a clear day, you can see Montauk at the tip of Long Island. Look left—north—through the windows of the adjacent John Davenport’s restaurant and peer down at the regal white spire of Center Church or follow the line of Whitney Avenue to the distant reclining figure of the Sleeping Giant.

I asked for a popular drink and was served a Rye Manhattan ($12), made with Bulleit Rye and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth and stirred with Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters—a smooth, smoky drink to warm the winter night. Also popular, the bartender told us, is the Añejo Old Fashioned ($12), described on the menu as “a Tequila variation on the classic Old Fashioned” with “Hornitos Black Barrel añejo tequila, simple syrup and angostura bitters.”

The drinks menu included other “time-honored” twists on “classic cocktails dating back to the 19th century,” including a Moscow Mule ($11), Champagne Cobbler ($10), Texas Greyhound ($11) and Queen’s Park Swizzle ($10) as well as several different Margaritas ($11-$13), a few “regionally inspired cocktails” ($10-$12), beer, wine and a menu of “Minis”—snacks that go beyond the usual bar food to include King’s Cured Salmon, Florida Shrimp and Grits and Texas Brisket Monsieur (three for $15 or five for $24).

We shared the bar with two young professionals—a woman who said she stays at the Omni twice a year on business and a man who was on his first visit and couldn’t quite believe the view himself. In the seating area around the corner, we found a couple from Hartford snuggled on a bench along the wall. One of them was a student in Yale’s Executive MBA program who stays at the Omni twice a month when she comes to New Haven for classes. Come back sometime on the weekend, she suggested, for the “best breakfast buffet ever,” featuring gluten-free items, specialty cheeses, fresh fruit, honeycomb and “the nicest omelet guy.” Her husband, who was joining her for Valentine’s Day, gave the bar kudos for serving local brewery Counterweight’s Headway IPA as well as an “eclectic” selection of food.

After sunset, Valerie and I moved around the corner to a table, where the nighttime view spread out like a carpet at our feet, with the four brilliant blue pillars of the Q Bridge and hundreds of white and red lights woven into its design. Behind them, the port’s lights glistened off the harbor.

One of the most appealing things about Bar 19 is its quiet intimacy. A few circular white stone tables seat up to four people on roomy, comfortable chairs in the dark-paneled bar, but there’s plenty of space between tables to ensure a private conversation. On a crowded night, we were told, a wedding party might come up from the ballroom, but usually there’s plenty of room for everyone. If you’re looking for a crowd, the bartender suggested, try coming on a Friday or Saturday night after 9.

After living in greater New Haven for 16 years, I had never set foot in Bar 19. That evening, all the other drinkers and diners we spoke to were hotel guests.

But Bar 19 is as much ours as it is theirs, a relaxing spot to sip a Manhattan high above New Haven.

Bar 19
Omni Hotel – 155 Temple St, New Haven (map)
Sun-Thurs from 4:30pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 2pm-1am
(203) 974-6858
www.omnihotels.com/…

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Photographed by Dan Mims.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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