Gallaghers Steakhouse Was Once The Prime Speakeasy In NYC

In New York City, it is possible to drink and dine in establishments that have been operating for the better part of a century, and Gallaghers Steakhouse is one such location. Situated smack in the center of Manhattan, the West 52nd Street icon of a watering hole has seen its fair share of athletes, celebrities, and modern-day stars such as Sean Penn, Aretha Franklin, and James Gandolfini. 

Whether visitors have tickets to a Broadway show or plan on stumbling into Times Square after dinner, the prime location offers generous menus to keep tourists and locals alike well-fed and quenched for excursions, concerts, and game days. Gallaghers has provided tables for Wall Street deals to be discussed and seen sports teams celebrate winning titles in rooms decorated with vintage photographs, yet the origins of this establishment carry an exceptionally lively history, as operations began at a time when cocktails and pints of beer weren't openly slid across bars and secret phrases stood in for drink orders.

When coded words meant alcohol

Former Ziegfeld girl Helen Gallagher and gambler Jack Solomon teamed up in 1927 to make Gallaghers a go-to destination for sports enthusiasts, gamblers, and stars. At the time, Prohibition was in full force, so tender steaks served with well-made martinis weren't exactly easy to find. Gallaghers came to the rescue of thirsty New Yorkers, answering coded orders of "soup" by serving soup cups filled with alcohol. Writers, showgirls, and businessmen filled seats, and evenings became lively as word spread. When Prohibition ended, the speakeasy hung its shingle as the first steakhouse on Broadway and unabashedly served alcohol and juicy meat to the rich and famous.

In 2013, the steak house made a public announcement about the prospect of needing to close its doors, yet the owner of Central Park's Loeb Boathouse bought the deed and renovated the space to keep the doors of Gallaghers open. A year later, Gallaghers debuted a fresh look, new menus, and a glass-enclosed kitchen for guests to watch the goings on of the kitchen team. As sumptuous as the interior might be, careful hospitality, hickory-smoked beef, and expertly made cocktails keep patrons satisfied. "Gallaghers is a true Steak House. From the wood circular front door to the old school service," one Trip Advisor reviewer gushed. "The Clam Casino is not to be missed. Usually have a filet mignon which is always cooked perfectly medium rare along with hand-cut fries."

A taste of old New York

Today, New Yorkers and visitors frequent Gallaghers for cocktails and steak. Prime beef is stored for weeks in a windowed meat locker, yielding irreplicable flavors from dry-aged flanks and cooking over hickory coals. A raw bar of various seafood can get meals started while diners choose main dishes and appetizers. Specialties include the veal chop parmigiana served with fresh mozzarella and parmesan and filet mignon offered with blue cheese, bone marrow, or pepper crust. Sweet chili, porcini and coffee, and cajun rubs flavor bites, while mushroom garlic butter offers a taste of decadence.

In between generous courses, diners can sip Helen's Diamond Fizz, a cocktail of cognac, apple brandy, lemon, honey, egg white, and sparkling wine served in honor of Gallaghers founder. Many bartenders manning the burgundy-embellished bar continue to regale visitors with tales of inebriated guests and runnings of the speakeasy. Add an extensive vintage photo collection and a private Trophy Room — a second-floor bar and seating area that can accommodate over 100 guests – and Gallaghers is a destination for not only intimate dinners but also memorable events. 

Can't make it to the Big Apple? In addition to the original New York City location, Gallaghers has franchise locations in Tampa, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Newark Airport. At the Las Vegas restaurant, the 52nd and Broadway cocktail pays homage to the origins of the establishment, pouring $21 servings of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in glasses for patrons to toast the Manhattan legacy. The restaurant also recently opened another location in Boca Raton, the only other location that is operated by the owner of the original Gallaghers, Dean Poll.