Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Hourglass Tavern: Time Sifts When You're Having Fun

Dining in New York at the Hourglass Tavern is a unique experience.
By Mitch Broder

In Times Square, you can watch a ball drop until your year is gone.

Just blocks away, you can watch sand drop until your seat is gone.

Either way, something is gone. But in Times Square you could be cold and hungry, while just blocks away you could be warm and fed. Personally, I’d take warm and fed, meaning the Hourglass Tavern, the most hospitable place you can find in Manhattan to throw you out.

You're on the clock when dining in New York at the Hourglass Tavern
Beth setting the clock.
The Hourglass opened three decades ago on a reasonable premise: They had just a little space, so you had just a little time. There was an hourglass nearby at every table. When you sat down, it got flipped; when it ran out, you got flipped. If you couldn’t eat dinner in an hour, you didn’t belong in New York City.

Theoretically, the metered meals aided the patrons as much as the restaurant, since the Hourglass is on Restaurant Row, in the Theater District. People dining close to curtain time wanted to know when they should leave. With the moments passing before their eyes, they were hard-pressed not to know.

The Hourglass was run for about twenty-five years by Christo and Tina Sideris. They retired and sold it three years ago to Beth Sheinis and Josh Toth. The new owners have, naturally, renovated, refurbished, and reimagined. The good news is, they’ve kept the tradition of giving you the bum’s rush.

Actually, they don’t do it that often, since the Hourglass has grown. It began with a few tables on one floor and now has tables on three. But it’s still small, and, Beth says, “a lot of people will make reservations for four o’clock and want to sit till their eight o’clock show.” Those are the people who are just asking for it.

Still, Beth is more inclined to welcome than to eject. She loves her job and believes that part of it is making people feel at home. I met her at the bar at rush hour, and she introduced me to the crowd by announcing: “Everybody, this is Mitch.” I expected everybody to hurl olives.

The bar is new. It’s named Bettibar and is fittingly cozy. The third-floor décor is new. The walls are festooned with musical instruments. But the rooms still feel like 1894, which is when the brownstone they’re in was built. And most of the tables still have hourglasses. And the ones that don’t still can.

“We have all their original hourglasses,” Beth says. “We have hourglasses that can go to the tables.”

“But don’t be afraid to come in,” she adds. “We are flexible. And if we do ask people for their table, it’s part of the experience of the restaurant.”

Step inside the Hourglass Tavern for a unique experience when dining in New York.

Savor the minutes at The Hourglass Tavern, 373 West 46th Street, between Eighth and Ninth avenues, New York City.


  1. Sweet...only in New York can you feel at home by getting the bum's rush! Great post, Mitch!

  2. A fun way to keep time and keep yourself moving! Thanks Mitch!

  3. Like sands through the are the days of our lives. Great idea. Maybe I will start using one at home. "You can complain this long. When the sand runs out, done."

    Ever heard of the Timepiece Cafe? Great place to go on LI. Probably closed down by now, but was fun in high school.