Not all of us have the luxury of being in our old Kentucky home for the Derby. We, both Zelda and Scout, are going to be in the city that never sleeps this year. But even though we may be far from Southern climes, New York is never one to pass up a good time. We’ve curated a lovely list of the best places to celebrate Derby right here in NYC. So dust off your widest brim hat and your seersucker suit, and celebrate with the best the city has to offer.
Brooklyn Derby (Greenwood Park): A Z&S favorite, first featured in our September round-up for their video series on our hometown. The gang fully subscribes to the motto “Live every day like the first Saturday in May,” but their annual party is when they realize their full potential. The outdoor event includes a bluegrass and jazz concert (this year featuring The DeLorean Sisters, along with Dandy Wellington and His Band), a hat parade, dancing, drinking, and general revelry. The bar is open from 4:00 until 8:00 p.m., when it turns back into a (cash) pumpkin, so get there early and stay until it runs dry. brooklynderby.com
Mable’s: A perennial Zelda & Scout favorite, this joint is co-owned by a Louisville gal, so you know they do Derby right. We’re talking pie, races all day (contrary to popular belief, the Derby is not just a single two-minute race but an all-day event), and even some friendly wagering. The food is fantastic, the vibe is contagiously festive, and, most important of all, they know how to make a damn fine mint julep. We enjoy them all year round, but especially that first weekend in May, they get our highest rating: four glasses raised way up. mablessmokehouse.com
mad46: For the classiest Derby observer, this rooftop lounge at the Roosevelt Hotel is the spot. Named CBS New York’s Number One Derby Party for the past three years, the annual fete is sponsored by Woodford Reserve — favorite bourbon of corporate executives and discerning grand dames, which really tells you everything you need to know about the flavor of this event. Doors open at 3:30 and reservations are strongly recommended; heathens need not apply. And you should definitely dress to impress: The evening includes a Best Dressed contest, and prizes include a free night at the hotel (for the Most Polished Gentleman) and bottle service for six (for the Most Derby Chic Lady). mad46.com
Brickyard: This Hell’s Kitchen gastropub and sports bar is the best place in Midtown to watch the big race. They’re serving up $5 dollar mint juleps all day, as well as a healthy amount of Kentucky cuisine, including the Appalachian delicacy known as burgoo (a stew traditionally made with whatever meat is on hand — more on that someday) and, of course, cornbread. There’s a gift card for whoever is rocking the best head topper, and if you’re not bourbon inclined (note: now is a good time to convert), they’ve got 24 craft beers on tap. Reservations recommended. brickyardnyc.com
The Bell House: Gowanus is where it’s at, y’all, especially if you’re looking for a kick ass Derby Party. This year, The Bell House is hosting “The 141st Run for the Roses: The Honorary Homer Fink Kentucky Derby Gala.” It has everything you could possibly want in a Derby day: live music, Bulleit juleps, a hat contest, a group sing-a-long of “My Old Kentucky Home,” and of course the viewing of the race. For just ten dollars general admission, it can all be yours! Buy your tickets today. thebellhouseny.com
Your friendly neighborhood Kentuckian’s apartment. The best option of all, and the only way to be sure you’re getting the bona fide experience. Damn straight.