Next door to the legendary Joe Allen restaurant, behind an unmarked door and a heavy curtain, lies the Theater District's best-kept secret: Bar Centrale. The dimly lit second-floor hideaway is owned by the Joe Allen folks, but doesn't attract the usual touristy clientele; here you'll find reporters decompressing post-deadline, thespians celebrating their latest opening and producers negotiating their next show.
There's jazz in the background, classic black-and-white movies on the flat screen above the bar and snug booths perfect for quiet conversations. Friendly bartenders seem to know everyone by name and pride themselves on their classic cocktails: Perfectly mixed martinis come with an extra carafe nestled in a pile of ice. Naturally, there's Champagne, and nearly everything on the short (but diverse) wine list is available by the quartino.
Bar Centrale's somewhat haphazard menu is great for snacking as long as you order defensively. Skip the lackluster fish tacos in favor of the hearty watercress, beet, and smoked-trout salad or the always-classic shrimp cocktail. The tiny space fills up quickly, so reservations are essential--but once you're through the door, you're part of the family.
Bar Centrale, 324 W. 46th St. (between Eighth and Ninth aves.), second floor; 212-581-3130 or barcentralenyc.com
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