When I first moved to New York, The Standard, High Line became, in many ways, a North Star for classic nightlife. Or at least what I imagined it to be like. Tuesdays on Top, a weekly party helmed by legendary promoter Susanne Bartsch, took place 18 floors up at Le Bain and featured every OG that queer kids dream of sipping cocktails next to, from Amanda Lepore to Joey Arias. It also attracted all the new kids, like Ryan Burke with his towering floral face masks, and fashion industry all-stars like stylist Nicola Formichetti.
I remember first being listed by a Brooklyn performer named Lady Simon, who at the time swathed herself in long black fabrics and tons of fake blood. We drank from her bottle, seated around the infamous indoor hot tub, where people were swimming with their clothes on and making out with complete strangers. The nights were all energetic and lived up to the sleepless NYC I'd grown up fantasizing about.
Under COVID restrictions, when the city's nightlife has come to a miserable halt, it's nice to still be greeted at Le Bain's front door by a familiar face: Connie Fleming, a former fashion model for the likes of Thierry Mugler, who's since become the person you first confront to get inside NYC's coolest parties. Even if you're certain she has your name on The List, Connie will take her time flipping through the pages, making you sweat and question your entire existence as you wait. "What's your name, again?" she'll ask, entirely unimpressed, before finally stamping your hand and moving onto the next. Sounds scary, but it's all part of the experience. I miss it.
Getting into Le Bain this time was much easier — only because I had a reservation — as Connie called up to ensure we'd have an escort directly from the elevator to our table to minimize time walking around the venue. If it weren't because we were in a pandemic, I would've felt like Rihanna. Inside, guests were spaced out, masks were required and, yes, the hot tub was completely covered for a future date. I had two tequila sodas — both Le Bain-level strong — to kickstart my staycation at The Standard, which was much-needed and far more low-key than those Tuesdays on Top.
With COVID cases increasing and travel becoming a greater risk — especially as we enter a grim holiday season — finding responsible entertainment in your home city is essential. The Standard is a perfect way to get a break from the four apartment walls you've spent nearly a year now Zooming in, crying in and, in my case, bingeing Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares in. And it's also safe, with considered precautions like limited room service, easy check-ins and extra cleaning in all its public spaces.
After living in New York for a while, everything inevitably loses its luster. Which is why becoming a tourist in your own city rejuvenates all the sights that initially attracted you. The views from a corner guest room at The Standard, facing downtown towards One World Trade Center, are an instant reminder of why we all first moved here — especially at night, when all the lights make Manhattan look a bit more lively than it actually is, right now. The Hudson River looks especially mesmerizing lit by the moon.
As it turns out, The Standard's floor-to-ceiling windows have a reputation beyond offering a great skyline. Tons of guests apparently have sex against them, curtains completely drawn. You can occasionally see it from the streets, below, and a few friends of mine have admitted to doing so, as well. I'm sure this was more common in a pre-COVID era with people spilling down from escapades at Le Bain, but it's also a hidden perk for NYC couples who've now exhausted every possible position under quarantine. If that's too much, however, showering alone at night with that uninterrupted Meatpacking District view is enough of a thrill. Throw on a bathrobe after, order up a glass of red wine and suddenly 2020 isn't all so bad.
For the full effect, don't bother leaving The Standard at all, even to eat. The Standard Grill, located on the ground level, marries a traditional steakhouse with all-American cuisine, and you can sit outside with blankets and heaters to stay warm. Its dinner menu is focused and delicious, using fresh, local ingredients to offer updates on the classics, from steaks to burgers and shoestring fries. Meatpacking around dinner time, especially now that everyone's fled the city, is perfectly quiet. And best of all, it's a short distance up to your comfy bed once you've signed the check.
For food, our table first loaded up with the Cheese Board. There are options for three, four or five, but you should always opt for the largest amount of artisanal cheese possible on any quality Charcuterie board. Needless to say, we got all five. The Grill's fresh Diver Scallops, paired with roasted tomatoes and Espelette cream, were another excellent starter. Then for mains, we ordered the Steak Frites, a 12 oz. grass-fed prime New York strip with truffle butter, and the Salmon, with braised kale and a creamy sunchoke puree. The New York cheesecake was a great closer and comes with rich blueberry compote.
But let's talk cocktails, the most important part of any solid staycation meal. Menu highlights include an entire Highline Fizz punch bowl, packed with vodka, mandarin, blood orange and sparkling wine. There's also mulled cider, served hot, with house-made apple cider and the option — though you should absolutely take it — to spike the drink with honey whiskey. As a Mezcal fan myself, I went for the Winter Oaxaca, mixed with vanilla, coconut and nutmeg. One wasn't enough, so I ordered a second. Could've easily gone for a third. We also tried the Full Moon Fever, which was unusual albeit worth the risk: Tequila and cherry brandy with banana and chilled espresso. Strong and strangely sweet.
And if you wake up in bed a touch hungover, the best part is that it's not your bed. It's something different. Different. A word we've rarely been able to use this year. Because this hangover was brought to you by an adventure more decadent and self-indulgent than your go-to Drizly order or the bodega six-pack you ran out to get after a day of working remotely. When you finally choose to open your eyes, you can call to order room service — Eggs Florentine, half a ruby red grapefruit, a pot of black coffee, OJ — and only rise once someone finally knocks on your door.
If you live in New York, The Standard, High Line or East Village is just a short train ride away. But sometimes those small shifts in environment are exactly what's needed to continue pushing through, especially in a time that can easily feel aimless. Sure, there's few opportunities for making physical memories with family and friends, but a staycation makes space for memories with yourself. And with The Standard that possibility is not just limited to manhattan residents, but also Hollywood, Miami Beach, London and more.
For more information, visit standardhotels.com.
Photos courtesy of The Standard, High Line