12 Bars That Will Make You Believe in New York City Again
Courtesy of: Jens Karlsson/Flickr
In the city that never sleeps one thing is certain: there’s ample nightlife — so much nightlife you can end up feeling overwhelmed if you’re visiting or new to the city. Go to the wrong bar, and you risk feeling uncomfortable with an over-priced cocktail in the corner after waiting 20 minutes for service. Then you’re faced with one of two choices: continue drinking (and waiting) until you feel comfy, knowing your wallet won’t feel the same once you’re done (neither will you the next day), or head to the next place.
You could always access Yelp reviews, but the thing about those is everyone is looking at them (particularly in NYC) and the bars with good ratings are guaranteed to be crowded. If you’re looking for more privileged information, you’ve come to the right spot. Everyone has a different flavor when it comes to bars, so here are some of the best, categorized for your convenience.
Winter (and Summer) Hotspots
Winter is oftentimes a harsh prospect in NYC. A quality watering hole comes in handy as an escape from low temperatures, high winds, and crowded itineraries. Here are some of the best bars for forgetting it’s winter:
To enjoy the food at this Williamsburg beach bar it helps to be a fan of jerk spices and burgers, but to enjoy the drinks all you need is a taste for craft beers and specialty cocktails. The atmosphere is a delight, with a tropical beach vibe and ample outdoor patio seating for warm summer nights and days. Inside during the winter you’ll still feel like you’re at the beach. Twenty beer taps accompany a plentiful cocktail selection, topped off with house specialty drinks that are worth the wait.
With locations at the upper and lower East Side, this is an excellent spot to kick back and enjoy a healthy slice while lounging like a lizard as you sip on an “Endless Summer” cocktail. The atmosphere at Pizza Beach is thoroughly casual, clean, and as you’d expect, beachy, with white floors and strings of white lights on the ceiling. With buckets of beers and food options for pescatarians, vegans, and gluten-free citizens, this place has something for everyone.
A Cajun/Creole joint, Claw Daddy’s has $1 oysters for happy hour every day until 7:30. Happy hour is highly recommended; the oysters and the cajun wings are tough to beat. You can wash them down with drink pouches that look like Capri Suns, but don’t let the packaging fool you: the cocktail inside the pouch is a soju concoction with quite the kick (soju is Korea’s national drink and the number one best-selling liquor in the world — who knew?).
Winter or summer, this place packs people in. There’s a patio you’ll fall in love with: it’s dog-friendly and heated during the winter. During happy hour (4-8pm and all day Monday) cans of Narragansett (a lager made in Providence, RI) are only $3 — a steal in NYC — and you can get a handle on the fried brussel sprouts with lemon aioli for $5. This is a cocktail-lover’s paradise, with unique specialties like the “Sunny Afternoon,” a concoction of coconut-infused vodka, fresh lime juice, pineapple, and Fernet Branca to balance the whole thing out.
Haunts for Young Professionals
Why young professionals? Because Manhattan has plenty of them. It’s one of the top cities for young professionals, with nearly a quarter of the population checking in between ages 25 and 34. About 3 percent of the people who move to Manhattan are millennials. Here are the best bars for young people in Manhattan and beyond.
This place lures people in with reverse psychology, and it works. The theme here is fun, with plenty of opportunities for impromptu dance parties featuring 80s music, which, as every club patron knows, is the best dance music. No Fun does have pub food, but most come here to mingle late into the night and sip tasty whisky cocktails — imagine that!
The Wren is so chic. Nothing wrong with that because the offerings are full of substance. Vintage beers are aged bottles for the brew connoisseur in you. For the cocktail connoisseur, there’s an upscale selection, but you have to be prepared to spend $14. But the point is, for such a clean, spacious, hip place, The Wren also feels cozy like an Irish pub. After enjoying a decent meal up until 1am, you can make your way to the bar downstairs to immerse yourself in the din and swagger of young New York.
Absolutely no pretensions at Union Pool — just good music, photo booths, a taco truck, and a dance floor. No pool table or swimming pool, FYI. This place is a reminder that, even in NYC, a bar can simply enable good times and provide an atmosphere where you can meet people, no strings attached.
So, Crocodile Lounge serves you a free pizza with every drink. Toppings cost $1. Need I say more? True, pizza isn’t everyone’s bag. For everyone else, there’s skee ball and Buck Hunter to make you feel at home if the casual atmosphere and cheap drinks haven’t done that for you already. The Crocodile draws in a wide variety of young people looking to do what young people do at bars, including trivia nights. Bartenders are nice, and one of the best words for this place is unassuming.
Best Bars for Music
Nothing goes with drinks like a good shot of music. Here are some great places where you can catch tunes and a buzz all at once.
A Williamsburg honky tonk bar nonpareil, Skinny Dennis gives you a chance to get back to roots of downhome country America. There are 18 beers on tap and a vintage jukebox that ensures the place maintains its character. Stiff, cheap drinks, a house band called National Reserve, and an atmosphere that’s a holdover from the good ol’ days all make this a sure bet for a hollerin’ good time.
Here’s where you can hear jazz and imbibe a selection of whiskey so big it’s almost criminal. The bar has earned accolades such as Best Whiskey Bar in America (Travel and Leisure), and it’s a whiskey bar, no worries about it being snooty. You can even buy a preferred bottle and have the bar hang onto it for you. Flatiron is all about the drinks and the food crafted to go with them, so the music isn’t too loud — perfect for mingling, drinking, eating, chatting, and tapping your foot.
Harlem Nights really captures the essence of old Harlem. It’s got an old-timey feel to the decor, it’s relaxed, cozy, and perfect for checking out a live act as you sip a hand-crafted cocktail. Like Skinny Dennis, this is a neighborhood bar, but it’s not focused on roots music. Rather, you’ll hear lounge music and jazz, R&B and funk. Bar snacks are available all night long, and the patrons aren’t afraid to get down.
Tourists don’t make it to Mona’s too often — which is one reason why you should. A NYMag critic’s pick, this is a small, comfy, slightly divey bar with brick walls, a pool table, skee ball, and live music. The vintage jukebox sports punk rock, and on Tuesdays you can see live jazz, primarily of the New Orleans sort, and Mondays you’re likely to hear some bluegrass. Any other night is fair game. You won’t break your bank at Mona’s, but you’ll come away with an authentic feel for Manhattan.