Visiting The Met on a Friday evening, when the Museum stays open until 9 p.m., has been a favorite pilgrimage of mine since I moved to the Upper East Side just after graduating from NYU. One great feature of the later hours means a visit to one of the Museum's bars, which is how I found myself ascending in the cramped elevator to the Museum's popular rooftop bar.

It was a warm evening and the place was packed. There was nowhere to sit and barely any room to stand; lines for the non-member bars—be prepared to be shooed away from the member bars, even if you just wanted to stand by the edge and had no intention of walking into the member bar area—were long; and it was even difficult to appreciate Adrián Villar Rojas's The Theater of Disappearance because champagne swilling visitors were crammed between the pieces of sculpture. In short, it was a zoo, which is why I spent less than five minutes in the space before decamping to the Museum's superior watering hole: The Great Hall Café & Bar.

Situated, tellingly, over the Museum's iconic Great Hall, the "Balcony Bar," as it's more commonly known, offers a welcome respite from the insanity of the rooftop. On most evenings, a string quartet or other small musical group performs for a few hours of the evening. There are plenty of tables (with chairs!) at which to sit and savor a martini or nibble on a cheese board. You can hear the hum of the crowd downstairs but can't see them, only the lovely oculus that illuminates them and the curves of the Great Hall's arches, which glow in the evening light.

Had a hot date with an old friend

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Maybe it's because the Balcony Bar is somewhat hidden that it's able to keep away the crowds. One has to know it's there, or happen upon it while perusing the lovely Chinese ceramics that rim the mezzanine level. It's a stalwart, always there for you, rain or shine, snow or heatwave. The rooftop is all new art (and, "Oh, look at those views!") compared to the The Balcony Bar's "permanent collection" vibes.

My go-to order is a gin martini and whatever small snack they have on offer. Recently that was a large bowl of excellent hand-cut potato chips, fried until dark and crisp, then tossed in a fragrant rosemary salt with a side of malt vinegar aioli. I'd like to also thank the Balcony Bar for introducing me to the concept of dipping potato chips in mayonnaise.

You always learn something new at the Museum.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 5th Avenue. Take the staircase immediately opposite the main entrance and walk either left or right around the mezzanine to reach The Great Hall Balcony Bar.

Balcony Bar Menu by Nell Casey on Scribd