A new underground bar has opened at Columbus Circle, and it’s perhaps the only place to grab a cocktail in a New York City subway station.
Dubbed Merchants’ Gate, the bar opened within the Turnstyle Underground Market under Eighth Avenue at 57th Street last week, serving beer, cocktails, and bar snacks inspired by old-school New York street food. The menu will include upgraded versions of food found in Central Park street carts, such as Bavarian pretzels and a New York hot dog with sauerkraut and spicy mustard on a pretzel bun, co-owner Dieter Seelig says. Food will start up later this week.
It’s a project from Seelig, Joshua Friedman, and Brian Stapleton, who also own a craft beer bar named Craft + Carry with locations in Gramercy and in downtown Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market Hall. Stapleton and Seelig are also behind East Village sports bar Finnerty’s and Irish pub Plug Uglies in Gramercy. Here, they’ve brought on JJ Condon to create cocktails, which will arrive later in the evening, and should be on the menu starting later this week.
During the day, the focus will be on beer and wine, plus grab-and-go snacks. But at night, the owners aim to transition into more of a cocktail lounge, or “the best place to grab a cocktail in Columbus Circle,” Seelig says. See the menu in full below.
Merchants’ Gate is enclosed in a glass-lined space, home to a long bar and plenty of seating. The bar embraces its location, with subway tiles lining the walls and ceiling plus a subway-like sign displaying the bar’s name.
While bars in subways are common cities like Tokyo, the concept hasn’t caught on in NYC, though there are multiple food vendors at this station within the Turnstyle food hall. Merchants’ Gate joins other food vendors Bolivian Llama Party, Doughnuttery, and Zai Lai.
The bar is named after the Columbus Circle entrance to Central Park — named Merchants’ Gate in 1862 to recognize the importance of commerce and business in the city. Seelig says the team wants to honor “old New York” with the new underground bar.
Update: Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 11:45 a.m.: This article was updated to include details from Dieter Seelig.