Fodor's New York City 2016 - Fodor's (2015)
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Updated by Jessica Colley
New Yorkers are fond of the “work hard, play hard” maxim, but the truth is, Gothamites don’t need much of an excuse to hit the town. Monday is the new Thursday, which replaced Friday and Saturday, but it doesn’t matter: the bottom line is that there’s always plenty to do in this 24-hour city. Whether it’s raising a glass in a divey 1930’s saloon, a gay sports bar, the latest dimly lit cocktail den, or a swanky rooftop lounge; checking out the latest band, or laughing it up at a comedy show, it isn’t hard for visitors to get a piece of the action.
The nightlife scene still resides largely downtown—in the dives of the East Village and Lower East Side, the classic jazz joints of the West Village, and the Meatpacking District’s and Chelsea’s “seeandbeseen” clubs. Midtown, especially around Hell’s Kitchen, has developed a vibrant scene, too, and plenty of preppy hangouts dot the Upper East and Upper West sides. Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg, is the destination for hipsters.
Keep in mind that when you go is just as important as where you go. A club that is packed at 11 pm might empty out by midnight, and a bar that raged last night may be completely empty tonight. Paper magazine has a good list of roving parties. You can check their online nightlife guide, PM, via their website (www.papermag.com). Another streetwise mag, the L Magazine (www.thelmagazine.com), lists what’s happening at many of the city’s lounges and clubs, as well as dance and comedy performances. Scour industry-centric websites, too, like Eater and Grub Street, which catalog the comings and goings of many a nightlife impresario. The New York Times has listings of cabaret and jazz shows, most comprehensively in their Friday and Sunday Arts sections. Bear in mind that a venue’s life span is often measured in months, not years. Phone ahead or check online to make sure your target hasn’t closed or turned into a polka hall (although, you never know—that could be fun, too).
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Lower Manhattan | Chinatown, NoHo, NoLIta, and SoHo | East Village and Lower East Side | Greenwich Village and West Village | Chelsea and the Meatpacking District | Union Square, Gramercy, and the Flatiron District | Midtown East and Murray Hill | Midtown West | Upper East Side | Upper West Side | Harlem | Brooklyn | Queens
Fodor’s Choice | The Dead Rabbit.
For exquisite cocktails without the dress code or pretentious door policy typical of some New York cocktail dens, venture to the tip of Manhattan for a night of Irish hospitality in a 19th-century-inspired saloon. The ground-floor taproom serves craft beers and whiskeys of the world, while the upstairs parlor shakes and stirs craft cocktails, many utilizing Irish whiskey—accompanied by ragtime music played live on the piano. | 30 Water St., Financial District | 646/422–7906 | www.deadrabbitnyc.com | Station: 1 to South Ferry; R to Whitehall St.
The design is red-on-red here, and the Asian-style cocktails are particularly groovy (literally—one, with citrusy Japanese yuzu juice and vodka, has been dubbed the Groovy) at this Japan-meets-’50s-America lounge. Listen to live jazz while nibbling on American and Japanese-inflected treats. | 277 Church St., between Franklin and White sts., TriBeCa | 212/219–2970 | www.bflat.info | Station: 1 to Franklin St.; 6, A, C, E, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
Alas, the only book in this exquisite, wood-paneled room is the leather-bound menu listing hundreds of brandies and single-malt scotches. The bottles are on gorgeous backlighted “bookshelves,” though, and you can learn what makes each of them special by chatting with the spirit sommelier—or by attending the twice-weekly Spirit School tasting classes. | 25 N. Moore St., between Varick and Hudson sts., TriBeCa | 212/226–5545 | www.brandylibrary.com | Station: 1 to Franklin St.; A, C, E to Canal St.
For the more bohemian of TriBeCa pubgoers, this lipstick-red, high-ceiling spot is a vast playground (as in,billiards and darts). There is a reggae jukebox, huge screens for sports, live shows, and DJ nights on the weekends—all without a pesky cover charge. Extra points, too, for the bar’s name, which cites TriBeCa’s warehouse zoning law. | 52 Walker St., between Broadway and Church St., TriBeCa | 212/965–1701 | www.m1-5.com | Station: 6, A, C, E J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
Smith and Mills.
Attractive scenesters frolic at this tiny gem of a gin mill, where mixologists who resemble Daniel Day-Lewis dispense elixirs (and caviar) from a bar hung with pots and pans. There are cozy table-nooks for couples, and while the food is worth a visit, many locals come here late when a cocktail craving hits. | 71 N. Moore St., between Hudson and Greenwich sts., TriBeCa | 212/226–2515 | www.smithandmills.com | Station: 1 to Franklin St.
Terroir Wine Bar.
If the tag line—the Elitist Wine Bar for Everyone—isn’t enough to get you in the door, the extensive wine list, including options by the glass, bottle, or adorable 3-ounce “taste” should do the trick. This low-lit neighborhood wine bar is easy to walk right by on charming Harrison Street, but once inside you find seats at the bar for wine-centric conversations with the sharp staff, or more private nooks for a romantic evening of wine and cheese. | 24 Harrison St., TriBeCa | 212/625–9463 | wineisterroir.com/tribeca | Station: 1 to Franklin St.
You can get a solid Negroni or Manhattan at this exposed-brick watering hole, but where the bar really shines is in its bespoke cocktails. Fight for a seat at the bar if possible to watch the sharply clad mixologists whip up house specialties, or simply give them a few descriptive words (“spirit-forward,” “something with bourbon,” “light and refreshing”) and let them create a cocktail on the spot to match your thirst. | 111 Reade St., between West Broadway and Church St., TriBeCa | 212/240–9194 | www.ward3.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St.
Exposed brick walls, Dr. John on the jukebox, framed sports portraits on the wall, a dark setting that seems to glow, and the biggest, chunkiest banquettes in the whole wide world (or at least south of Canal Street) distinguish this TriBeCa beatnik boîte, co-owned by ice hockey god Sean Avery. | 77 Warren St., between West Broadway and Greenwich St., TriBeCa | 212/227–8994 | www.warren77nyc.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St.
Dance Clubs and DJ Venues
Santos Party House.
“Now this is what I call a dance club,” says Arthur Baker, the legendary DJ (and legendary record producer), about this glorious downtown dance club, where the velvet ropes part for everyone. Co-owned by rocker Andrew W. K., the bilevel Santos ain’t fancy, but that’s the point, and the customers are as eclectic (everybody from punks to Upper East Siders) as the DJs, including Mr. Baker, who flies in regularly from London. Hence the musical vibe—underground dance, mostly—is simply kaleidoscopic. | 96 Lafayette St., between White and Walker sts., TriBeCa | 212/584–5492 | www.santospartyhouse.com | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
CHINATOWN, NOHO, NOLITA, AND SOHO
Tucked away down a winding lane deep in Chinatown, this cocktail apothecary is a surprising find in a neighborhood known more for soup dumplings than creative tipples. Influenced by the 19th-century absinthe parlors of Paris, this historically inflected spot is all about drama and presentation. Think more chemistry lab than traditional bar—the results are not only delicious, but a feast for the eyes. | 9 Doyers St., | 212/406–0400 | www.apothekenyc.com | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.; 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall.
Adjacent to the stylish and packed restaurant Saxon + Parole, this gin den is named after the 18th-century English term for the clear spirit. The brick-lined, dimly lit bar and lounge is a natural spillover space after dinner next door; you can also nibble on Asian-inspired snacks here (from the same kitchen). The crowd is thirsty, polished, and often on the prowl. There’s a DJ on weekends. | 4 Bleecker St., | 212/254–0350 | www.madamgeneva-nyc.com | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; F to 2nd Ave.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Sweet and Vicious.
The name of this unpretentious butterfly-logo lounge doesn’t signify the looks (sweet) and attitude (vicious) of certain downtown pretty things that frequent the bars on this stretch. So what makes this bar in particular so sweet? A lovely back garden that’s more private than the sceney bars they might otherwise hit in SoHo and NoLIta. | 5 Spring St., between the Bowery and Elizabeth St., NoLIta | 212/334–7915 | www.sweetandviciousnyc.com | Station: 6 to Spring St.; J, Z to Bowery.
Is it the city’s most creative wine bar? Or its most impressive concert space? Both, actually. Pairing killer music (Nick Lowe, Shawn Colvin, War, Los Lobos) with unique events (Klezmer Breakfast, Cheese Brunch, tours of its in-house winery, special “Vinofile” memberships, and a Twitterwine-tasting party called Spit and Twit), the City Winery has ample room for customers with “good taste” in every sense of the term. | 155 Varick St., at Vandam St., SoHo | 212/608–0555 | www.citywinery.com | Station: 1 to Houston St.
Since the early 1800s this sturdy old New York classic (at one time also a bordello) has been packing in, and amiably spooking, customers. According to legend, the place is haunted by a randy ghost, so beware—that hand you feel in your lap might not be your lover’s. This hardly scares away patrons—in fact, it may be a selling point (the staff encourage you to report all sightings). | 326 Spring St., between Greenwich and Washington sts., SoHo | 212/226–9060 | www.earinn.com | Station: 1 to Houston St.; C, E to Spring St.
Linger over the New York Times at this terrific neighborhood bar and restaurant, which is pretty down-to-earth for a SoHo landmark that’s been serving drinks (and solid cuisine—dig those burgers!) since 1847. Check out the hilarious old-timey photos on the walls, too. | 94 Prince St., at Mercer St., SoHo | 212/226–9412 | Station: N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Located on the 18th floor of the trendy James Hotel, Jimmy is a rooftop bar with stellar views. Sit in a corner nook for Empire State Building vistas, or head toward the outdoor pool area to survey the bridges over the East River. Cocktails are a highlight, featuring seasonal ingredients and novelties like ice cubes made from cinnamon water. | 15 Thompson St., at Grand St., SoHo | 212/201–9118 | www.jimmysoho.com | Station: C, E to Spring St.; 1 to Canal St.
La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels.
Cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate are all temptations at this cozy wine bar, lined with exposed-brick walls and shelves stocked with wine (the complete list is over 600 bottles). This is the dimly lit sister property of a bar of the same name in Paris; the wine list leans heavily toward French options. | 249 Centre St., | 212/343–3660 | www.compagnienyc.com | Station: 6 to Spring St.
The supermodels party elsewhere, and Madonna no longer works the door, but this enjoyable bistro remains the realm of hipsters who pose at the cozy back tables while DJs play reggae, R&B, and hip-hop, especially on crowded weekends. | 59 Grand St., between West Broadway and Wooster St., SoHo | 212/941–0772 | www.luckystrikeny.com | Station: A, C, E, 1 to Canal St.
Modeled after an officers’ club in Myanmar, the Pegu manages to feel expansive and calm even when packed. The well-dressed and flirtatious come here partly for the exotically lovely surroundings, but primarily for the cocktails, which are innovative, prepared with superlative ingredients, and predictably pricey. | 77 W. Houston St., 2nd fl., between West Broadway and Wooster St., SoHo | 212/473–7348 | www.peguclub.com | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
Fodor’s Choice | Pravda.
This Russian retreat has more than 70 different vodkas, including 10 house-infused flavors, which means the choices of martini is nearly endless. The speakeasy feel of this underground spot is comfortable enough to spend the entire night, and Russian-inspired nibbles including caviar with blini provide longevity to try yet another vodka variation, from cucumber-dill to ginger-infused flavors. | 281 Lafayette St., between Houston and Prince sts., SoHo | 212/226–4944 | www.pravdany.com | Station: N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
NYC Karaoke Clubs
If you’re looking for a venue other than your shower to bust out a rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” you’re in good company. Otherwise-jaded New Yorkers have become hooked on the goofy, addictive pleasure of karaoke. The K-word means “empty orchestra” in Japanese, and seems to tickle both downtown hipsters (who dig the irony of kitsch) and uptown financiers (who need a good rebel yell at the end of a workday), and everybody in between who loves to flex the golden pipes after a few drinks.
There are three ways of getting your lead-vocalist groove on: doing it in public at a barwide Karaoke Night; reserving a private space at a bar (“karaoke boxes,” they’re called), where only your friends can hear you scream—er, sing; and bounding up onstage in front of a live band.
The hardcore karaoke places tend to be either grungy or glitzy, with as many as 15 available boxes for rent by the hour or night (each box includes a music machine, microphones, and bar service), as well as up to 80,000 songs on tap for you to warble. (Don’t worry, that figure includes stuff by Journey, REO Speedwagon, Britney Spears, and other grotesquely catchy Top 40 music.) There are two locations of Sing-Sing (9 St. Marks Pl.; 212/387–7800 and 81 Ave. A; 212/674–0700), a triple serving of cheesiness at Midtown’s Pulse (135 W. 41st St., between Broadway and 6th Ave.; 646/461–7717), and just about anywhere else in the unofficial Koreatown that sprawls around Herald Square are a blast—try Karaoke Duet 35 (53 W. 35th St., 2nd fl., between 5th and 6th Aves.; 646/233–2685).
For live-band karaoke, head to the Lower East Side’s hottest song-fest: Monday-night rock ‘n’ roll karaoke at Arlene’s Grocery (95 Stanton St.; 212/995–1652).
EAST VILLAGE AND LOWER EAST SIDE
Grab a seat in a barber chair or under a dryer at this made-over hair salon where, during happy hour, the manicurist will do your nails for a fee that includes a drink. (How’s that for multitasking?) The DJ spins everything from Britpop to rock—a great soundtrack for primping. | 231 E. 14th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., East Village | 212/539–1389 | www.thebeautybar.com/New_York | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
Death + Company.
Theater behind the bar, inventive cocktails, and decadent bar bites bring thirsty New Yorkers to the sister lounge of the equally imaginative and classy nearby bar Mayahuel. Check out the hilarious wall mural toward the rear, setting the tone for the tongue-and-cheek satanic vibe of this watering hole. | 433 E. 6th St., between 1st Ave. and Ave. A, East Village | 212/388–0882 | www.deathandcompany.com | Station:F to 2nd Ave., 6 to Astor Pl.
At the top of the “hookah bar” heap that has taken this neighborhood by storm, Karma provides a stylish sprawl with Indian decor (dig that wrought-metal statue of Kali) for local scenesters to fill their bowls and suck in the various aromatic tobaccos available (cigarette smoking is permitted too). Happy hours start from 1 pm and Friday nights have belly dancers (the professional kind—not customers who get too hookah-ed up and start gyrating). | 51 1st Ave., between 2nd and 3rd Sts., East Village | 212/677–3160 | www.karmanyc.com | Station: F to Lower East Side/2nd Ave.; 6 to Bleecker or Spring Sts.
Sake Bar Decibel.
Red paper lanterns dimly illuminate couples sipping sake from tiny wooden boxes at this underground (in geography and attitude) Japanese bar. Polite servers can help navigate the impressive but reasonably priced list, as well as the menu of Japanese bar food. The entrance is easy to miss: look for a small wooden sign at the top of a sidewalk staircase, then step down and ring the buzzer to get in. | 240 E. 9th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., East Village | 212/979–2733 | www.sakebardecibel.com | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.
Fodor’s Choice | Mayahuel.
The Agave goddess is behind the name of this cocktail den, where all manner of Aztec spirits (raspberry tea–infused tequila, pineapple-infused mescal) make for the fiendishly rococo concoctions, courtesy of master mixologist Philip Ward. Equally good are snacks such as popcorn with lime, cheese, and chili. The bilevel setting conjures a south-of-the-border bordello feel. | 304 E. 6th St., between 1st and 2nd aves.,East Village | 212/253–5888 | www.mayahuelny.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
McSorley’s Old Ale House.
One of New York’s oldest saloons (it claims to have opened in 1854) and immortalized by New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, McSorley’s is a must-visit for beer lovers, even if only two kinds of brew are served: McSorley’s Light and McSorley’s Dark. It’s also essential for blarney lovers, and much friendlier to women than it was before the ‘80s. (The motto here once was “Good ale, raw onions, and no ladies.”) Go early to avoid the down-the-block lines on Friday and Saturday nights. | 15 E. 7th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., East Village | 212/473–9148 | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.
Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar & Lounge.
Who says NYC doesn’t appeal to all tastes? Should you get a sudden urge to visit a tiki bar while in the East Village—and who doesn’t sometimes?—the ultrapopular Otto’s is your ticket. You’ll find more than just a bamboo bar here, namely fish lamps, a tattooed, punk-rock crowd, cute little banquettes, drinksserved in shrunken-head mugs, beef jerky for sale, and DJs prone to spinning anything from ‘50s rock to “Soul Gidget” surf music. | 538 E. 14th St., between Aves. A and B, East Village | 212/228–2240 | www.ottosshrunkenhead.com | Station: L to 1st Ave.
Those who crave their cocktails with a little cloak-and-dagger really flip over PDT (which stands for “Please Don’t Tell”). Housed beside the unassuming hot-dog joint, Crif Dogs, this pseudo-speakeasy can be reached only through a phone booth. Patrons with phoned-in reservations are escorted through the phone booth’s false back into the cocktail bar, which is decorated with warm wooden beams and tongue-in-cheek taxidermy. | 113 St. Marks Pl., between 1st Ave. and Ave. A, East Village | 212/614–0386 | www.pdtnyc.com | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.
Fodor’s Choice | Pouring Ribbons.
This polished second-floor cocktail bar is named after the way a drink forms iridescent liquid ribbons when it is expertly poured. Coiffed bartenders shake or stir your concoction of choice from a grid-based menu that allows you to visualize just how “spirit-forward” or “refreshing” you want your drink to be. Elaborate cocktail garnishes on the bar look tempting enough to eat, but order some cheese and charcuterie to accompany your drinks instead. | 225 Ave. B, , 2nd fl., between 13th and 14th sts., | 917/656–6788 | www.pouringribbons.com | Station: L to 1st Ave.
Scotland colonizes the East Village at this splendidly appointed pub, complete with staff people dressed like golfers, stained-glass church windows, a Ouiji board under glass, orchids—lots of orchids—and, best of all, an “Opium Den” backroom. Bonus point: It’s right across the street from the equally wonderful Blue Owl Lounge. | 197 2nd Ave., between E. 12th and E. 13th Sts., East Village | 212/529–0340 | www.shoolbreds.com | Station: L to 3rd Ave.; 6 to Astor Pl.
Manhattan’s easternmost cocktail bar, Summit Bar serves up high-end sips in a low-key environment. Still, much thought and care is put into the drinks, right down to the herbs that come from the Summit’s rooftop garden. The menu aims to please, and splits between “classic” and more ambitious “alchemist” sections, the latter boasting drinks with caraway-infused agave and shiso leaf. There’s a snug outdoor patio as well, ideal for sampling the Summit’s surprising take on a margarita come summer. | 133 Ave. C, between 8th and 9th sts., East Village | 917/261–7708 | www.thesummitbar.net | Station: L to 1st Ave.
Unmarked and famous for its classic cocktails and romantic atmosphere, the Temple is prime first-date territory, especially once you drift past the sleekly wonderful bar to the back, where, swathed in almost complete darkness, you can lounge on a comfy banquette, order an old-fashioned, and do what people on first dates do. | 332 Lafayette St., East Village | 212/925–4242 | www.templebarnyc.com | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
The thought of a civilized wine bar in the East Village might have raised eyebrows 20 years ago, but it’s de rigueur now, and the crowds keep cramming themselves into this vino spot with minimalist decor and maximalist wine selection. | 121 St. Marks Pl., at Ave. A, East Village | 212/358–8600 | www.10degreesbar.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 1st Ave.
Cabaret and Piano Bars
Sweaty guys pack into this tiny, dingy hot spot to dance in scarlet light beneath hammer-and-sickle-theme decor. The scantily outfitted dervishes whirling around the pole at the center of the room show off the latest fashionable sneakers, and the clientele ranges from East Village hipsters to muscly Chelsea boys in tight black tank tops. | 505 E. 6th St., between Aves. A and B, East Village | 212/777–2555 | www.easternblocnyc.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 1st Ave.
Wood paneling, red-velvet walls, and comfy sofas make a lush setting for top-notch performers and the A-list celebrities who love them(or pretend to). Named for the Public Theater’s near-mythic impresario Joe Papp, and located inside the Public, Joe’s doesn’t have a bad seat—but if you want to occupy one, buy tickets beforehand and/or arrive at least half an hour early for the Italian-inspired dinner menu. | 425 Lafayette St., between 4th St. and Astor Pl., East Village | 212/539–8778 | www.joespub.com | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.
Fodor’s Choice | Lit Lounge.
With a rock roster that’s included musical forces as diverse as Devendra Banhart and the Hold Steady, Lit is a wonderfully grungy East Village classic. The raucous arty crowd hits not only shows but its charming art gallery Fuse and theme parties, which cater to fans of specific bands (the White Stripes, Devo, and the Buzzcocks, to name just three). | 93 2nd Ave., between 5th and 6th sts., East Village | 212/777–7987 | www.litloungenyc.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave., 6 to Astor Pl.
LOWER EAST SIDE
Fodor’s Choice | Back Room.
The Prohibition-era atmospheric touches here include tin ceilings, chandeliers, velvet wallpaper, mirrored bars, an amply sized fireplace, and a “hidden” outdoor entrance (which you can find easily enough, though the backalley). The music consists of rock CDs rather than a live spinmeister, and the drinks come in old-fashioned teacups or wrapped in paper bags. These, and other prize quirks, attract a slightly older clientele than many of its rowdier neighbors. | 102 Norfolk St., between Delancey and Rivington sts., Lower East Side | 212/228–5098 | www.backroomnyc.com | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
A white-hot sensation as soon as it opened several years ago, Simon Hammerstein’s Roaring Twenties–style cabaret-cum–burlesque show–cum-performance art emporium remains one of the biggest players in any nightlife category. The tripartite of gorgeousness—design, customers, and performers—explains why ticketprices are so steep and hard to come by. But for those who want to splash out a bit, it’s worth it. | 189 Christie St., between Stanton and Rivington Sts., Lower East Side | 212/982–9301 | www.theboxnyc.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
The party gets started late at this lively though somewhat bare Lower East Side hangout, but the established DJs keep a diverse and friendly crowd moving with deep house, hip-hop, soul, funk, and Latin music. (In fact, the friendliest here just might drag you onto the floor to strut your stuff.) | 249 Eldridge St., between E. Houston and Stanton Sts., Lower East Side | 212/777–5153 | www.sapphirenyc.com | Station: F, M to 2nd Ave.
No, you won’t rub shoulders with ex-governor Eliot Spitzer here, but you can find 40 types of beer on tap plus a selection of the bottled variety, good food, floor-to-ceiling windows that pop open in fine weather, and wooden walls supposedly taken from pickle barrels (fortunately, the air is free of any scent from their former contents). | 101 Rivington St., at Ludlow St., Lower East Side | 212/228–0027 | www.spitzerscorner.com | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
Live Music Venues
On Monday nights, crowds pack into this former Puerto Rican bodega for Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke, where they live out their rock-star dreams by singing favorite punk anthems onstage with a live band. The other six nights of the week are for local bands, and accordingly hit-or-miss. | 95 Stanton St., between Ludlow and Orchard sts., Lower East Side | 212/358–1633 | www.arlenesgrocery.net | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Bowery Ballroom.
This theater with Art Deco accents is probably the city’s top midsize concert venue. Packing in the crowds here is a rite of passage for musicians on the cusp of stardom, including the Gossip, Manic Street Preachers, and the exuberant Go! Team. Grab one of the tables on the balcony (if you can), stand (and get sandwiched) on the main floor, or retreat to the comfortable bar in the basement, which really fills up after each show. | 6 Delancey St., between the Bowery and Chrystie St., Lower East Side | 212/533–2111 | www.boweryballroom.com | Station: J, Z to Bowery.
From the palm-studded rooftop deck (heated in winter, hosting barbecues in summer) down to the basement, where noisy rock and punk bands hold court, the multifaceted Delancey, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, strikes an invigorating balance between classy and trashy. | 168 Delancey St., between Clinton and Attorney sts., Lower East Side | 212/254–9920 | www.thedelancey.com | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
You have to squeeze past all the sardine-packed hipsters in the front bar to reach the stage, but it’s worth it. Not only does this top-quality venue, a “little sister to the Bowery Bar,” specialize in cool bands on the indie scene (Holly Golightly, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Apostle of Hustle, anyone?), but it was where the late, great Jeff Buckley used to stop by to do spontaneous solo shows. | 217 E. Houston St., at Ave. A, Lower East Side | 212/260–4700 | www.mercuryloungenyc.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
With two venues for live music and DJs—the Showroom downstairs and Lounge upstairs—as well as a full bar that serves food downstairs, there’s something for everyone at this Lower East Side staple. It’s a blast late nights. | 158 Ludlow St., just south of Stanton St., Lower East Side | 212/505–3733 | www.pianosnyc.com | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
Rockwood Music Hall.
Musicians and DJs rev up the crowd seven days a week at this intimate, multi-stage venue. Performances start as early as 3 pm on the weekends and 6 pm during the week—meaning you can get your live music fix and catch up on your sleep, too. Many shows are free. | 196 Allen St., Lower East Side | 212/477–4155 | www.rockwoodmusichall.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.; J, Z to Bowery.
GREENWICH VILLAGE AND WEST VILLAGE
A true charmer, this second-story haven for blues lovers is a cozy Greenwich Village club surprisingly short on NYU students (unlike other places in this neighborhood). Everyone from great national acts like Buddy Guy to local R&B’ers graces the stage year-round. | 149 Bleecker St., between Thompson St. and LaGuardia Pl., Greenwich Village | 212/777–7776 | www.terrablues.com | Station: A, C, E, B, D, F, M to W. 4th St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
The Dove Parlour.
On a colorful block that evokes the Greenwich Village of yore—a cigar store, vegetarian cafés, a bootleg music shop, a store specializing in chess—is this wonderful bar, whose elegant atmosphere (red-velvet wallpaper, white-wood paneling) is belied by the revelry of the sexy young customers sipping cocktails. | 228 Thompson St., between 3rd and Bleecker sts., Greenwich Village | 212/254–1435 | www.thedoveparlour.com | Station: N, R to 8th St.–NYU; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
“Red in tooth and claw” might be the motto of this crimson-colored, bordello-like hangout, which attracts a stylish-without-too-much-attitude crowd. The garden in back is open year-round, thanks to the miracle of outdoor heaters. | 94 W. Houston St., between LaGuardia Pl. and Thompson St., Greenwich Village | 212/539–0808 | www.madamex.com | Station: 1 to Houston St.; C, E to Spring St.
Vol de Nuit.
Tucked away from the street, the “Belgian Beer Bar” (as everybody calls it) features a European-style, enclosed outdoor courtyard and a cozy interior, all red light and shadows. NYU grad-student types come for the mammoth selection of beers on tap as well as the fries, which are served with Belgian flair, in a paper cone with an array of sauces on the side. | 148 W. 4th St., at 6th Ave., Greenwich Village | 212/982–3388 | www.voldenuitbar.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
124 Rabbit Club.
Named for a 19th-century bar on, or near, its current site, this tiny-yet-charming exotic beer bar could easily steal the motto of the punk band the Germs: “What We Do Is Secret.” There’s such a hushed, sacred (yet low-rent) vibe to this subterranean space of baby chandeliers, scratchy wallpaper, and rabbit images that the glorious menu comes as a surprise: on it you find “autumnal ales,” Trappist monk–made beers, and strange American concoctions on tap, plus fantastic beers from Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, and the Baltic region. | 124 MacDougal St., between W. 3rd and Bleecker Sts., Greenwich Village | 212/254–0575 | Station: A, C, E, B, D, F, M to W. 4th St.
Laughter fills this exposed brick, subterranean space nightly beneath the writer-friendly Olive Tree Café. The bill features a range of comedians, from up-and-comers to truly hilarious television personalities like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari. | 117 MacDougal St., between W. 3rd St. and Minetta La., Greenwich Village | 212/254–3480 | www.comedycellar.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Bar Next Door.
It doesn’t get more intimate than this dark, inviting music den downstairs from the Italian café La Lanterna. An ever-changing roster of musicians takes the stage here, from emerging artists to featured trios. Come early to grab a seat and tuck into a good thin-crust pizza. In summer, hang out in the lovely garden for a prelude. | 129 MacDougal St., between W. 3rd and W. 4th Sts., Greenwich Village | 212/529–5945 | www.lalanternacaffe.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
On a fabled street of West Village bohemia, this Greenwich Village standby has served its share of talent since 1961, with Billy Joel, David Crosby, and Dr. John among the stars who’ve played here. These days you’re more likely to find (much) lesser-known musicians playing blues, rock, funk, and jazz. If you don’t like what you hear, there’s always the similar Kenny’s Castaways just down the block—and (Le) Poisson Rouge nearby. | 147 Bleecker St., between Thompson St. and LaGuardia Pl., Greenwich Village | 212/673–7030 | www.bitterend.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Blue Note.
Considered by many (not least its current owners) to be “the jazz capital of the world,” the Blue Note was once the stomping ground for such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, and still hosts a varietyof acts, from Chris Botti to the Count Basie Orchestra to Boz Scaggs. Expect a steep cover charge except for late shows on weekends, when the music goes from less jazzy to more funky. | 131 W. 3rd St., near 6th Ave., Greenwich Village | 212/475–8592 | www.bluenote.net | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Knickerbocker Bar and Grill.
Jazz is on the menu Friday and Saturday nights at this old-fashioned steakhouse, a longtime staple of the city’s more intimate music scene. | 33 University Pl., at 9th St., Greenwich Village | 212/228–8490 | www.knickerbockerbarandgrill.com | Station: N, R to 8th St.–NYU; 6 to Astor Pl.
Live Music Venues
(Le) Poisson Rouge.
Underneath the site of the late, lamented Village Gate jazz emporium is this cutting-edge jewel of a place, whose name means “the Red Fish” (and whose parentheses around “Le” remain a mystery). Blending just the right mix of posh notes (lush décor, fine dining) and brave music programming (jazz, classical, electronic, cabaret, rock, folk—even, with the splendiferous Ralph’s World, children’s music), the Poisson is quite simply an essential NYC fixture. | 158 Bleecker St., at Thompson St., Greenwich Village | 212/505–3474 | www.lepoissonrouge.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Opened in 1961, this charming neighborhood saloon serves what many think are the best (and most affordable) burgers in town. Once you actually get a seat, the space feels nice and cozy, but until then, be prepared to drink a beer amid lively and hungry patrons. | 331 W. 4th St., at 8th Ave., West Village | 212/242–9502 | www.cornerbistrony.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Employees Only.
The dapper, white-coated bartenders (many of them impressively mustachio’d) at this speakeasy-style bar mix delicious, well-thought-out cocktails with debonair aplomb and freshly squeezed mixers. Sip one in the dimly lit bar area and you might feel like you’ve stepped back in time—if it weren’t for the crush of trendy West Village locals and visitors in-the-know at your back. Look for the green awning that says EO and the neon Psychic sign out front. Dinner is served in the restaurant at the back: it’s quality, but pricey. | 510 Hudson St., between Christopher and 10th sts., West Village | 212/242–3021 | www.employeesonlynyc.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Hudson Bar and Books.
Along with its sister branches—Beekman Bar and Books on Beekman Place and Lexington Bar and Books on, yep, Lexington—the Hudson reflects a literary bent in its cocktails, with names like the Dewey Decimal, the Cervantes Spritzer, and Alphabet Absinthe (topped off with floating letter-shape sugar cubes). Despite that, it’s hardly a hushed library where well-read butlers serve you; the atmosphere here is more about book decor than serious literature. It’s seriously clubby, with wood paneling and leather banquettes. And it’s one of the few places where you can still smoke. | 636 Hudson St., at Horatio St., West Village | 212/229–2642 | www.barandbooks.cz | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Little Branch.
Top-quality cocktails, dim lighting and snug booths make this the ideal spot for a conversation with friends (that you can actually hear) or an intimate date. | 20 7th Ave., at Leroy St., West Village | 212/929–4360 | Station: 1 to Houston St.
Ever wish that the bar you’re drinking in had something more interesting on its walls than Budweiser signs? Head to the far west Otheroom, art gallery by day, upscale drinking spot by night. The menu is pretty creative, too, with dozens of microbrews and American wines available by the glass. | 143 Perry St., between Greenwich and Washington sts., West Village | 212/645–9758 | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
White Horse Tavern.
According to New York legend, writer Dylan Thomas drank himself to death in this historic West Village tavern founded in 1880. The Horse remains perpetually popular with literary types, but thankfully it’s lacking more death-by-alcohol-poisoning cases of late. When the weather’s nice, try to snag a seat at one of the sidewalk tables for prime—and, given the neighborhood, we do mean prime—people-watching. | 567 Hudson St., at 11th St., West Village | 212/989–3956 | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
Wilfie & Nell.
Combine the beloved cozy atmosphere and frothy pints standard at Irish pubs with a well-heeled West Village crowd and you get Wilfie & Nell, a candlelit bar full of communal tables for making new friends. This perpetually crowded neighborhood favorite, with its low ceilings and locally sourced food, is a popular singles spot as well as a good match for night owls: food and brews are served into the wee hours. | 228 W. 4th St., between 10th St. and 7th Ave. S, West Village | 212/242–2990 | www.wilfieandnell.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
The back room of this Mexican eatery is a tribute to the stars of Las Vegas, from Martin and Lewis to Siegfried and Roy, but the real action is in the main room, where rambunctious customers pack the tight quarters for games like bingo (on Monday and Tuesday), Hula-Hooping (on Wednesday), trivia (on Sunday), and whatever other sports may result from the plentiful tequila on sale. (Note: Flats is a prime bachelorette-party destination, but no male strippers have been spotted there recently—not even on Hula-Hoop Night.) | 767 Washington St., at W. 12th St., West Village | 212/243–1053 | www.tortillaflatsnyc.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Cabaret and Piano Bars
No matter who’s performing, the largely gay audience hoots and hollers in support of the often kitschy performers at this music-scene staple on busy Sheridan Square since 1951. Singers and comedians hold court in the cabaret theater, while those itching to take a shot at open mic head downstairs to the lively piano bar. | 61 Christopher St., at 7th Ave. S, West Village | 212/255–5438 | www.theduplex.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
Early in the evening the crowd is mixed at this neighborhood institution, where the DJs, unpretentious décor, and inexpensive margaritas are popular. Later on, the women take charge. | 281 W. 12th St., at 4th St., West Village | 212/243–9041 | www.cubbyholebar.com | Station: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Henrietta Hudson.
The nightly parties at this laid-back West Village HQ for the Sapphic set attract young professional women, out-of-towners, and longtime regulars. Because the DJ and pool table quickly create a crowd, though, stake your claim to a spot early, especially on weekends. | 438 Hudson St., at Morton St., West Village | 212/924–3347 | www.henriettahudson.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
Whatever “Marie’s crisis” is (all the employees seem to have a different story), all the customers here know all the words to show tunes you’ve never even heard of. Down enough drinks at this ultra-fun West Village joint and you’ll be singing along, even if you don’t know all the lyrics. | 59 Grove St., at 7th Ave., West Village | 212/243–9323 | Station: 1 to Christopher St./Sheridan Sq.
Perfect for what the French call “le start” (of an evening out, that is), the Monster has a piano bar upstairs, a disco downstairs, and men—lots of them. Not that women feel too out of place—this “Monster” is a friendly one. | 80 Grove St., between W. 4th St. and 7th Ave. S, West Village | 212/924–3558 | www.manhattan-monster.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St./Sheridan Sq.
Garage Restaurant & Café.
Good news for you budget-minded jazzers: there’s no cover and no minimum at this West Village hot spot, where two jazz groups jam seven nights a week and a fireplace sets the mood upstairs. | 99 7th Ave. S, between Bleecker and Christopher sts., West Village | 212/645–0600 | www.garagerest.com | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
Fodor’s Choice | Village Vanguard.
This prototypical jazz club, tucked into a cellar in Greenwich Village since the 1940s, has been the haunt of legends like Thelonious Monk and Barbara Streisand. Today you can hear jams from the likes of Bill Charlap and Ravi Coltrane, and on Monday night the sizable resident Vanguard Jazz Orchestra blowtheir collective heart out. | 178 7th Ave. S, between 11th and Perry sts., West Village | 212/255–4037 | www.villagevanguard.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 14th St.
Live Music Venues
The initials stand for “Sounds of Brazil” (no, not what you—and everybody else—might think), and this is the place for reggae, African, and Latin music, with some jazz gigs sprinkled in. The late, great Cuban sensation Cachao used to hold court here, as does calypso’s Mighty Sparrow when he’s up north. Don’t miss the Haitian dance parties, the afterwork Latin groove happy hour, or the bossa nova brunches. Dinner is served as well. | 204 Varick St., West Village | 212/243–4940 | www.sobs.com | Station: 1 to Houston St.
CHELSEA AND THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT
Writer Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) is one of the owners of this would-be literary mecca. We say “would-be,” because the ambience can be more publike than writerly—and that’s fine, since the King draws such a friendly crowd (media types, mostly). We like it best for its frequent readings, gallery exhibits, and Irish-American menu. | 505 W. 23rd St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/462–4300 | www.thehalfking.com | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Vintage Italian posters, international magazines for browsing, and a huge Italian oven set the stage at theMaritime Hotel’s European-stylerestaurant and bar. In summer, grab a spot outside, and in winter bring your drink to the lobby for a seat by the fireplace. | Maritime Hotel, 363 W. 16th St., at 9th Ave., Chelsea | 212/242–4300 | www.themaritimehotel.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Gotham Comedy Club.
This 10,000-square-foot club—complete with a chandelier and roomy downstairs lounge—showcases popular headliners such as Johnny Walker and Kate Clinton. | 208 W. 23rd St., between 7th and 8th Aves.,Chelsea | 212/367–9000 | gothamcomedyclub.com | Station: 1 to 23rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
Raucous sketch comedy, audience-initiated improv, and classic stand-up take turns onstage here at the city’s absolute capital for alternative comedy. There are even classes available;. | 307 W. 26th St., between 8th and 9th aves., Chelsea | 212/366–9176 | www.ucbtheatre.com | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
The drag shows are what lure a mostly male crowd to this cute, casual, comfortable neighborhood hangout, far less pretentious than some of its grander Chelsea neighbors. | 275 W. 22nd St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Chelsea | 212/645–8613 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.; 1 to 23rd St.
Gym Sports Bar.
At New York’s first gay sports bar, the plentiful flat-screen TVs and cheap Budweisers draw athletic enthusiasts of every stripe, from athlete to armchair. Nobly, the bar sponsors—and frequently hosts parties for—a number of local gay sports teams. | 167 8th Ave., at 18th St., Chelsea | 212/337–2439 | www.gymsportsbar.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.; 1 to 18th St.
THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT
Hogs & Heifers.
This raucous place is all about the saucy barkeeps using megaphones to berate male customers and bait the females to get up on the bar and dance (and add their bras to the collection on the wall). | 859 Washington St., at 13th St., Meatpacking District | 212/929–0655 | www.hogsandheifers.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
The Gansevoort Hotel’s slick rooftop bar would be worth visiting even without its mouthwatering views. The adjectives sleek and glossy could easily be illustrated by Plunge, where the lighting is soft, the furnishings are cool and comfy (at least to a degree), the music isn’t too loud, servers of both sexes are sexy, and there is ample space—indoors as well as out. | 18 9th Ave., at 13th St., Meatpacking District | 212/660–6736 | www.hotelgansevoort.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
The Standard Hotel Biergarten, Grill, and Living Room.
Practically the official bar of the High Line park, the Standard Biergarten is a sprawling, riotous space complete with ping pong tables and big steins of beer. There’s also a grill bar and indoor Living Room lounge. As for the chic hot spot on the top floor, unofficially called the Boom Boom Room, it’s currently the hardest door in town (“hardest,” that is, to get through), but given the quality of the accessible fun down below, we forgive the snobbery. | 848 Washington St., at 13th St., Meatpacking District | 212/645–4646 | www.standardhotels.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Dance Clubs and DJ Venues
Relatively mature dance clubgoers (if the word “mature” can ever be applied to such a crowd) gravitate to this small but sturdy Meatpacking District music-head mecca to toss back cocktails, dig the high-quality sound system, groove to top-flight DJs spinning soulful Latin beats and techno, boogie on the sunken dance floor, and smoke in the no-frills garden outside. Monday nightis home to the award-winning Deep Space parties, where resident DJs (as well as guest spinmeisters like Dimitri from Paris) rev up the faithful with everything from dubstep to Stravinsky. | 18 Little W. 12th St., between 9th Ave. and Washington St., Meatpacking District | 212/645–5700 | www.cieloclub.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
UNION SQUARE, GRAMERCY, AND THE FLATIRON DISTRICT
A welcoming bar with slick cocktails and a clever take on comfort food, the Rye House beckons just steps from the chain store overload of Union Square. From boiled peanuts and fried pickles to their own take on a Sazerac, the space is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle outside. | 11 W. 17th St., between Broadway and 5th Ave., Union Square | 212/255–7260 | www.ryehousenyc.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
Descend into the warm pink-and-peach cocoon of this candlelit martini lounge for eclectic music spun by eccentric DJs. Or else make your way to the sublime bamboo garden for a more partyesque groove. | 56 Irving Pl., between E. 17th and E. 18th Sts., Gramercy | 212/460–5656 | www.cibarlounge.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St./Union Sq.
This cocktail parlor invites Gramercy locals inside with its name, the beginning of a letter to the lovely Irving Place on which the bar resides. Interiors are chic and refined, and just like at sister property Raines Law Room, there are private sections of tables and couches for intimate conversations. Reservations are recommended, epecially during prime weekend hours. | 55 Irving Pl., between 17th and 18th sts., | www.dearirving.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
Old Town Bar.
The proudly unpretentious bilevel Old Town is redolent of old New York, and why not? It’s been around since 1892. Tavern-style grub, mahogany everywhere, and atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere make this a fun stop on any pub crawl. Men: don’t miss the giant, person-size urinals. | 45 E. 18th St., between Broadway and Park Ave. S, Gramercy | 212/529–6732 | www.oldtownbar.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
This historic landmark (where O. Henry was a loyal customer) is one of the bars that claims to be the oldest continuously operating watering hole in the city. Pete’s has charm to spare, with its long wooden bar and cozy booths, where locals crowd in for a beer or a fantastic burger. When weather warms up, sidewalk tables with red-and-white-checkertablecloths on scenic Irving Place are a neighborhood favorite. | 129 E. 18th St., at Irving Pl., Gramercy | 212/473–7676 | www.petestavern.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
Fodor’s Choice | Jazz Standard.
The Standard’s sizable underground room draws top names in the business. As a part of Danny Meyer’s southern-food restaurant Blue Smoke, it’s one of the few spots where you can get dry-rubbed ribs to go with your bebop. Bring the kids for the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra concerts every Sunday afternoon. | 116 E. 27th St., between Park and Lexington aves., Gramercy | 212/576–2232 | www.jazzstandard.com | Station: 6 to 28th St.
Live Music Venues
Fodor’s Choice | Irving Plaza.
This two-story venue is known for its solid rock performances, both indie (DJ Shadow and Sleater-Kinney) and more mainstream (Lenny Kravitz)—even if they can get a little pricey. Red walls and chandeliers add a Gothic touch. If the main floor gets too cramped, seek sanctuary in the chill bar upstairs. | 17 Irving Pl., at 15th St., Gramercy | 212/777–6800 | www.irvingplaza.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
The Ace Hotel.
A hot spot for the digital set, this hotel’s lobby and adjoining restaurant spaces—the Breslin and the John Dory—have been packed since they opened at this Pacific Northwest import. If your bearded hipster friend came into some cash, his place would look like the lobby here, with reclaimed-wood tables, beer signs, and beautiful folks in oversize eyeglasses drinking coffee by day or a craft brew by night (while a DJ spins in the background). | 20 W. 29th St., between Broadway and 5th Ave., Flatiron District | 212/679–2222 | www.acehotel.com | Station: R to 28th St.
Here, resident mixologists rely on the freshest (and sometimes most exotic) ingredients available. The cocktail menu changes often, but if you’re stumped, tell the bartenders what you like and they’ll happily invent a bespoke concoction on the spot. | 37 W. 19th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Flatiron | 212/727–7741 | www.flatironlounge.com | Station: 1 to 18th St.; F, M to 14th St.; L to 6th Ave.; 6 to 23rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | The NoMad Bar.
A sultry space from the team behind the NoMad Hotel (with a separate entrance on 28th Street) this bilevel bar impresses with its inviting leather banquettes, extensive golden-lit bar, and tempting list of craft cocktails. The food leans towards comfort classics, such as chicken pot pie and bacon-wrapped hot dogs, but the design is pure sophistication. | 10 W. 28th St., at Broadway, Flatiron District | 347/472–5660 | www.thenomadhotel.com | Station: N, R to 28th St.; 6 to 28th St.
Raines Law Room.
There’s no phone number or big sign for this cocktail bar; just ring the bell to enter. Wood-burning fireplaces, deep banquettes, and curtains for privacy all contribute to the comfortable, living room–like vibe—perfect for a date or intimate group gathering. An outdoor garden lighted by candle is functional, too: herbs grown here are used in the carefully crafted cocktails. | 48 W. 17th St., Flatiron District | www.raineslawroom.com | Station: F, M to 14th St.; 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
MIDTOWN EAST AND MURRAY HILL
The Bar Downstairs.
The bar without a name in the basement of the Andaz 5th Avenue may lack a moniker, but it certainly has pedigree. Alchemy Consulting, a joint venture from Chicago’s Violet Hour and New York’s Death and Co., designed the cocktails here; look for spins on the Negroni and Manhattan in the sleek subterranean space. The food menu is similarly up-market, with a variety of nebulously Spanish small plates. | 485 5th Ave., at 41st St., Midtown East | 212/601–1234 | newyork.5thavenue.andaz.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/thebardownstairs.html | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.; 4, 5, 6, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Campbell Apartment.
Commuting professionals pack into this Grand Central Terminal bar on their way to catch trains home during the evening rush, but don’t let the crush of humanity scare you away—you can have a romantic time here in one of Manhattan’s more beautiful rooms. The restored space dates to the 1920s, when it was the private office of an executive named John W. Campbell, and as the exquisite décor suggests, old JWC knew how to live. Sample the good life as you knock back a well-built cocktail from an overstuffed chair. Just try to avoid that weekday evening rush. | Grand Central Terminal, 15 Vanderbilt Ave. entrance,Midtown East | 212/953–0409 | www.grandcentralterminal.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Maybe it’s true that, as some wag once said, “History is made at night.” But New York City (and American) history are made at lunchtime, too, here in Philip Johnson’s landmark temple of modern design. Come nightfall, watch for politicos and media moguls at The Bar. | 99 E. 52nd St., between Park and Lexington Aves., Midtown East | 212/754–9494 | www.fourseasonsrestaurant.com | Station: E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.; 6 to 51st St.
King Cole Bar.
A justly beloved Maxfield Parrish mural of “Old King Cole” himself, as well as his psychedelic court, adds to the already considerable elegance at this romantic and essential Midtown meeting place. Try a Bloody Mary—this is where the drink was introduced to Americans. Be warned: prices for a single cocktail are steep. | St. Regis Hotel, 2 E. 55th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Midtown East | 212/339–6857 | www.kingcolebar.com | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
This spot on the garden level of one of the city’s most stylish office buildings (built in 1952) draws a younger, faster, louder crowd than its closest competition, the Four Seasons. People flock here to see and be seen in a futuristic, honeycomb setting where everybody looks like they’re somebody, even when it’s just a facade. | 390 Park Ave., at 53rd St., entrance on 53rd St., Midtown East | 212/888–2700 | www.casalever.com | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.; 6 to 51st St.
P. J. Clarke’s.
Mirrors and polished wood and other old-time flair adorn New York’s most famous Irish bar, a red-brick brawler of a joint. Steeped in Hollywood lore—Steve McQueen was once a regular, and scenes from the 1945 movie Lost Weekend were shot here—Clarke’s draws in the after-work crowd that appreciates drinking beer and eating exceptionally juicy burgers immersed in history. | 915 3rd Ave., at 55th St., Midtown East | 212/317–1616 | www.pjclarkes.com | Station: 6 to 51st St.; E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.; 4, 5, 6 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
Evolve Bar and Lounge.
Rising from the ashes of a popular gay club on the same site, this glossy, raucous Chelsea-style bar–club gets Midtown East rocking, with its sexy-yet-genial staff and theme nights like Pop-off Thursday, Bulge Friday, and Disco Balls Sunday. | 221 E. 58th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/355–3395 | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
It’s the elegant yin to the rowdy yang of Evolve, which is just across the block at East 58th Street. Distinguished mature men from the Upper East Side meet younger would-be versions of themselves at this “gentlemen’s club,” which looks like the home of a blueblood with superb taste. The attire is “uptown casual” if not fancier. | 236 E. 58th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/754–4649 | www.townhouseny.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
This welcoming spot is sought out as one of Midtown’s best Irish pubs. Even on a block with a high number of fine drinking establishments, Galway Pub stands out thanks to its gorgeous circular bar, intriguing orange lighting, spirited after-work crowd, and bartenders, some of whom may actually hail from the Emerald Isle. Snag one of their business cards, too—on the back are words of wisdom from the best Irish writers. | 7 E. 36th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Murray Hill | 212/725–2353 | www.galwaypubnyc.com | Station: 6 to 33rd St.
Sasha Petraske’s speakeasy-style cocktail bars have expanded into Murray Hill with Middle Branch, a two-story space and former antiques store with no sign outside to announce its presence. Cocktail lovers find the brick townhouse anyway, and inside, linger over small plates, live jazz, and a long list of sophisticated drinks. | 154 E. 33rd St., Murray Hill | 212/213–1350 | Station: 6 to 33rd St.
A row of lawn jockeys welcomes you to this former speakeasy, celebrated for having pulled in famous writers and movie stars through most of the past century. Privilege and whimsy are mixed together here: the well-dressed can enjoy quality American cuisine in the well-appointed Bar Room anddrinks next to a roaring fire in the cozy front lounge. | 21 W. 52nd St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Midtown West | 212/582–7200 | www.21club.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 47–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St..
Underneath the Bryant Park Hotel—and a tiled, arched ceiling—is one of the more spectacular spaces in Midtown. As a DJ with a taste for classic R&B spins the night away, a fashion-industry crowd gets up to dance—and spilltheir collective drink. | 40 W. 40th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/642–2211 | www.cellarbarbryantparkhotel.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
Don’t Tell Mama.
Composer-lyricist hopefuls and established talents show their stuff until 4 am, seven nights a week, at this convivial Theater District cabaret. Extroverts will be tempted by the piano bar’s open-mic policy as well as by the other showroom’s singers, comedians, and drag acts. Those needing a break from the above can find it in the quieter exposed-brick lounge. | 343 W. 46th St., between 8th and 9th Aves., Midtown West | 212/757–0788 | www.donttellmamanyc.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St./Port Authority; C, E, to 50th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Joe Allen.
Everybody’s en route either to or from a show at this “old reliable” on the boisterous Restaurant Row, celebrated in the musical version of All About Eve. Chances are you’ll even spot a Broadway star at the bar or in the dining room. Still, our favorite thing about Joe’s is not the show crowd but the hilarious “flop wall,” adorned with posters from musicals that bombed, sometimes spectacularly. (Check out the ones for Paradox Lust, Got Tu Go Disco, and Dude, the unfortunate sequel to Hair.) | 326 W. 46th St., between 8th and 9th aves., Midtown West | 212/581–6464 | www.joeallenrestaurant.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority; N, Q, R to 49th St.
Single-malt scotch aficionados have a delicious dilemma trying to select from 200-plus varieties on the menu at Keens. Given its location just around the corner from Madison Square Garden, this 120-year-old institution sees its share of sports and music fans—but whatever your taste, take a gander at the ceilings, which are lined with thousands of clay pipes that once belonged to patrons. | 72 W. 36th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Midtown West | 212/947–3636 | www.keens.com | Station: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St./Herald Sq.
The elegance of cocktail culture from another era is alive and well at Lantern’s Keep, an intimate lounge tucked behind the lobby of the Iroquois Hotel. Reservations are recommended for this watering hole, where plush seats are huddled around a fireplace. There is no standing room here, resulting in a luxurious, leisurely vibe. Cocktails are works of art and bartenders are helpful at identifying your perfect poison. | Iroquois Hotel, 49 W. 44th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/453–4287 | www.iroquoisny.com/lanternskeep | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park.
Morrell Wine Bar and Cafe.
The vibrant Morrell takes its grape products very seriously, with one of the city’s best selections of wine by the glass and an epic array of bottles. In summer you can sip, slurp, or chug the stuff at outdoor tables in the heart of Rockefeller Center. | 1 Rockefeller Plaza, at W. 49th St., Midtown West | 212/262–7700 | www.morrellwinebar.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
Forty Four at the Royalton.
The dimly lit, wood-dominated Forty Four is the comfortable lobby bar of this boutique hotel. Though not quite as fashionable as it once was, it can still be a great spot to gear up or wind down after a Broadway show. | Royalton hotel, 44 W. 44th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., Midtown West | 212/944-8844 | www.royaltonhotel.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St./Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
The Rum House.
A bar beloved by locals in Midtown may be an urban legend, but consider the Rum House the exception to the rule. Among the glittering lights of Broadway theaters, this is a destination bar for their attention to the craft of mixing cocktails. The sister property to downtown favorite Ward III, this bar has nightly live piano music and creative libations in addition to all the classic cocktails. | 228 W. 47th St., between 7th and 8th aves., Midtown West | 646/490–6924 | www.edisonrumhouse.com | Station: N, Q, R to 49th St.; A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Russian Vodka Room.
Forget Russian Samovar across the block—here’s where the serious vodka drinking goes down, along with (almost) everything that goes along with serious vodka drinking. The Vodka Room features a glowing, sophisticated front room with nightly piano player (and the superlative Dmitri Kolesnik on Monday, free of charge), a more sumptuous back room, a generous Attitude Adjustment Hour (that’s Russki for “Happy Hour”), and more exotically infused vodkas (horseradish! ginger! pepper!) than you can shake a babushka at. For those who crave variety, a vodka tasting menu is available, as are culinary standards like borscht. | 265 W. 52nd St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., Midtown West | 212/307–5835 | www.russianvodkaroom.com | Station: 1, C, E to 50th St.
Salon de Ning.
Take a break from 5th Avenue shopping at this glass-lined penthouse bar on the 23rd floor of the ritzy Peninsula Hotel. Drinks are pricey, of course, but what isn’t in this neighborhood? The views are worth it, especially from the rooftop terraces. | Peninsula Hotel, 700 5th Ave., at 55th St., Midtown West | 212/956–2888 | www.salondening.com | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
“The theater is certainly not what it was,” said a forlorn feline in the musical Cats, and the same could be said for this Broadway legend. Still, hardcore theater fans might consider making time for a drink in one of the red-leather booths, which are surrounded by caricatures of stars past and present. | 234 W. 44th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., Midtown West | 212/221–8440 | www.sardis.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St./Port Authority.
Xai Xai Wine Bar.
The only trouble with hitting this delightful South African sanctuary is developing an addiction to ostrich carpaccio. That ostrich dish is joined by other favorite munchies from the Transvaal, not to mention nearly 100 different wines from Capetown, Jo’burg, and everywhere in between. Xai Xai also sports foresty decor and one of Manhattan’s liveliest hosts. Also, just in case you’d like to sample some wines from beyond South Africa, look no further than Vintage, a wine bar right across 9th Avenue. | 369 W. 51st St., at 9th Ave., Midtown West | 212/541–9241 | www.xaixaiwinebar.com | Station: C, E to 50th St.
Caroline’s on Broadway.
This high-gloss club presents established names as well as comedians on the edge of stardom. Janeane Garofalo, David Alan Grier, Colin Quinn, and Gilbert Gottfried have all headlined. | 1626 Broadway, between 49th and 50th sts., Midtown West | 212/757–4100 | www.carolines.com | Station: N, Q, R to 49th St.; 1 to 50th St.
Chicago City Limits.
This crew toutthemselves as performing in the longest-running improv show in the city. Heavy on audience participation, the improv shows take place Friday and Saturday (with stand-up comics taking the stage the rest of the week) and seldom fail to whip visitors into what the comics might call a “phun phrenzy.”|318 W. 53rd St., between 8th and 9th aves., Midtown West | 212/888–5233 | www.chicagocitylimits.com | Station: C, E to 50th St.
Dance Clubs and DJ Venues
Maybe you’ve been to the exclusive Pacha clubs in Buenos Aires, Ibiza, and London. But the jewel in the crown of the Pacha empire may well be here. Assuming you pass muster to enter, you find four stories’ worth of high-tech fittings (blinding lights, go-go girls, humungous sound), plus celeb DJs and celeb customers. | 618 W. 46th St., between 11th and 12th aves., Midtown West | 212/209–7500 | www.pachanyc.com | Station: C, E to 50th St.
Lest you think that Hell’s Kitchen has no fine gay lounges, Posh has walls covered in fine canvases by local artists, trophies over the bar, ample room for kibitzing and dancing, plenty of neon décor, and hours that are “4 pm to 4 am GUARANTEED.” Who says nothing is certain anymore in these confusing times? | 405 W. 51st St., at 9th Ave., Midtown West | 212/957–2222 | www.poshbarnyc.com | Station: C, E to 50th St.
With slate floors, wood-paneled walls, and a small stone-filled pond, the design at this spacious lounge in Hell’s Kitchen is as upscale as its mostly male clientele, which includes older uptown professionals and the twenty-something hipsters who love them (and vice versa). Hungry? There’s a solid menu of small dishes. | 348 W. 52nd St., between 8th and 9th Aves., Midtown West | 212/397–1700 | www.therapy-nyc.com | Station: C, E to 50th St.
This place gets its name from saxophone great Charlie “Yardbird” (or just “Bird”) Parker, so expect serious musicians such as John Pizzarelli, the Dave Holland Sextet, and Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (on Sunday night). The dining room serves moderately priced American fare with a Cajun accent. | 315 W. 44th St., between 8th and 9th aves., Midtown West | 212/581–3080 | www.birdlandjazz.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.
For a night of jazz without the pretension, turn to Dizzy’s, an intimate club with Manhattan skyline views and Southern-inflected cuisine (okra, fried chicken, catfish) and cocktails. Late night sessions are ideal for an after dinner night cap; some of the drinks, such as the Dizzy Gillespie, are named after jazz legends. | 10 Columbus Circle, Midtown West | 212/258–9595 | www.jazz.org/dizzys | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
This cozy, top-drawer club is a sure bet for big-name talent like the David Murray Black Saint Quartet and Michael Wolff. The sight lines are good, and the sound system was designed with the help of Les Paul, the inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, who used to play here every Monday night. The rest of the week sees a mix of artists like Chuck Mangione and the Eddie Daniels Band. | 1650 Broadway, at 51st St.,Midtown West | 212/582–2121 | www.theiridium.com | Station: 1 to 50th St.; N, Q, R to 49th St.
Connolly’s Pub & Restaurant.
This Cheers-like tri-level Irish pub often hosts terrific live music including Irish bands, both traditional and with a modern edge. Top off your night with a shepherd’s pie. It rocks here; one bite and you’re really in the spirit. | 121 W. 45th St., between Broadway and 6th Ave., Midtown West | 212/597–5126 | www.connollyspubandrestaurant.com | Station: B, D, F, M, to 47-50 Sts./Rockefeller Center; N, R, Q to 49th St.
Live Music Venues
B. B. King Blues Club & Grill.
This lavish Times Square club is vast, shiny, and hosts a range of musicians, from the Harlem Gospel Choir to George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. It’s also where surviving rock legends like Little Richard and Chuck Berry play as well. | 237 W. 42nd St., between 7th and 8th aves., Midtown West | 212/997–4144 | www.bbkingblues.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority; 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
UPPER EAST SIDE
You might tell from the name that this isn’t exactly your granddad’s UES drinking establishment. Bicycle tires, golf clubs, and other castoffs cover the walls and ceiling, ensuring that the 20-year-old Trash, a sanctum of sleaze, merits its descriptive name. Eight plasma TVs, three video games, a defiantly rock ‘n’ roll jukebox, and a pool table keep the neighborhood crowd (as well as stray bikers who hate them) busy. Some nights local bands play classic rock. | 1471 1st Ave., between 76th and 77th sts., Upper East Side | 212/988–9008 | www.americantrashnyc.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Auction House.
This Victorian-style lounge brings a touch of downtown chic to the sometimes suburban-feeling Upper East Side with candlelit tables, high tin ceilings, and velvet couches. Rap and hip-hop fans should look elsewhere (the only tunes coming out of this joint are alternative and rock), and baseball caps and sneakers are strictly forbidden, as are—at the other end of the spectrum—fur coats. | 300 E. 89th St., between 1st and 2nd aves., Upper East Side | 212/427–4458 | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
The cocktail bar companion to Café Boulud, also in the Surrey Hotel, Bar Pleiades is a livelier alternative to the more staid atmosphere at the Carlyle’s Bemelmans Bar. The design is classic to a fault, employing a black-and-white theme that’s positively Audrey Hepburn–esque. Drinks rotate seasonally, and there are tasty nibbles from the café kitchen. Though it doesn’t have the same drink menu, the rooftop bar is a cozy aerie good for people- and skyscraper-watching. | Surrey Hotel, 20 E. 76th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Upper East Side | 212/772–2600 | www.barpleiades.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
The epitome of a large Upper East Side lounge—sleek, shiny, low lit, and sophisticated—the ever-popular Merchants packs them in mostly because of its splendid downstairs cigar bar, a spacious sultanate of smoke. | 1125 1st Ave., lower level, at E. 62nd St., Upper East Side | 212/832–4610 | www.merchantsny.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
The motto for this upscale-yet-unpretentious bar-restaurant—”If you like us, tell your friends, and if you don’t, tell your enemies!”—isn’t necessary, given its manifold charms: a drop-dead-gorgeous design, plenty of space for canoodling and cavorting, a romantic balcony (though 57th Street isn’t exactly a scenic beach), plus live jazz on Tuesday and Saturday nights. Opia is ideal for couples in full-on infatuation or spouses hoping to remember the wine-and-roses days before kids. | 130 E. 57th St., between Lexington and 3rd aves., Upper East Side | 212/688–3939 | www.opiarestaurant.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
Young patrons and live music (ranging from jazz to blues to funk) set this sizable restaurant and bar apart from others in the neighborhood. If the youth and tunes aren’t sufficient, then the eclectic assortment of tequilas and beers on tap probably will be. | 1359 1st Ave., at E. 73rd St., Upper East Side | 212/517–4445 | www.session73.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Cabaret and Piano Bars
Fodor’s Choice | The Carlyle.
The hotel’s discreetly sophisticated Café Carlyle hosts such top cabaret and jazz performers as Christine Ebersole, John Pizzarelli, and Steve Tyrell. Stop by on a Monday night and take in Woody Allen, who swings on the clarinet with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band. The less fancy-schmancy (though still pricey) Bemelmans Bar, with a mural by the author of the Madeline books, features a rotating cast of pianist-singers. | 35 E. 76th St., between Madison and Park aves., Upper East Side | 212/744–1600 | www.thecarlyle.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
The Comic Strip.
The atmosphere here is strictly corner bar, belying its storied history: Eddie Murphy is said to have discovered Chris Rock here, for example. The famous stage also helped launch the careers of funnymen Paul Reiser and Jerry Seinfeld. | 1568 2nd Ave., between E. 81st and 82nd Sts., Upper East Side | 212/861–9386 | www.comicstriplive.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
Since 1969 this has been an important showcase for prime comic talent like Jay Leno and Jim Carrey. The decor is standard, but prices are reasonable (with no cover during the week and a two-drink minimum). | 1118 1st Ave., between E. 61st and E. 62nd Sts., Upper East Side | 212/593–1650 | www.dangerfields.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R to 59th St./Lexington Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Brandy’s Piano Bar.
A singing waitstaff warm up the mixed crowd at this delightful and intimate Upper East Side lounge, getting everyone in the mood to belt out their favorite tunes. In fact, the Brandy’s scene is so cheerful that some patrons call it musical Prozac, keeping depression at bay. | 235 E. 84th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., Upper East Side | 212/744–4949 | www.brandyspianobar.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
UPPER WEST SIDE
The Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar.
The only thing better than hanging out in Lincoln Center on a lovely night is hanging out a dozen stories above Lincoln Center. Thanks to the radically refurbished Empire Hotel’s sprawling rooftop bar, you can enjoy that pleasure even on nights that are less than lovely. We’re talking thousands of square feet here, most of it outdoors, and heated in winter. | 44 W. 63rd St., between Broadway and Columbus Ave., Upper West Side | 212/265–7400 | www.empirehotelnyc.com | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center.
The padded black walls, large round mirrors, and L-shape bar here make you think you’ve wandered onto a 1940’s movie set. Settle into a banquette and watch the neighborhood bons vivants (and bon vivant wannabes) leap into action. | 477 Amsterdam Ave., at W. 83rd St., Upper West Side | 212/787–7199 | www.hi-life.com | Station: 1 to 86th St.
If you can’t wait until sunset to get your riffs on, head uptown to this lounge near Columbia University, where the music starts as early as 6 pm. Performers include some of the top names in the business, including turban-wearing organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and the drummer Jimmy Cobb (who kept time on Miles Davis’s seminal album Kind of Blue). | 2751 Broadway, between 105th and 106th sts., Upper West Side | 212/864–6662 | www.smokejazz.com | Station: 1 to 103rd St.
With nearly 20 beers on tap, sports on big screens, and bar food that’s anything but boring, it’s no surprise that this neighborhood favorite is packed on weekends. In warm weather an outdoor patio gives you a front-row seat to the scene on Lenox Avenue. | 321 Lenox Ave., at 126th St., Harlem | 212/510–8552 | www.cornersocialnyc.com | Station: 2, 3 to 125th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Ginny’s Supperclub.
Head downstairs from Marcus Samuelsson’s renowned Red Rooster restaurant and find yourself in a glamorous lounge that seems right out of the 1920s. The cocktails are classic with a modern flair and there is live music and/or DJs most Saturday evenings and some weeknights, as well as a gospel brunch. | 310 Lenox Ave., at 125th St., Harlem | 212/421–3821 | www.ginnyssupperclub.com | Station: 2, 3 to 125th St.
A juicy burger, live music, and more than a dozen craft beers on tap makes this the type of neighborhood watering hole every New Yorker wants on their corner. Plenty of stools fill the exposed brick space, along with a scattering of tables on the sidewalk during warm weather. It’s an unfussy spot to raise a glass after a day of exploring vibrant Harlem. | 3612 Broadway, at 149th St., Harlem | 212/939–9404 | www.harlempublic.com | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 145th St.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this small performance venue with a global slant hosts multiple events each night, including live music, DJs, spoken word, and dance. | 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. , between 133rd and 134th sts., | 212/690–7807 | www.shrinenyc.com | Station: 2, 3 to 135th St.
Welcome back. The jazz institution that once featured big-name performers such as Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington has reopened as a sophisticated supper club with a roster of house-band jazz performers and featured musicians. The southern revival food is garnering acclaim (the kitchen is shared with the Cecil restaurant next door). It’s not a cheap night out but worth the splurge. Jackets are required for men. | 206 W. 118 St., near Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem | 212/243–2222 | www.mintonsharlem.com | Station: 2, 3, B, C to 116th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Clover Club.
Long recognized for excellent drinks—both classic and inspired by the classics—and a cozy vibe, this is one of the best cocktail bars in Brooklyn. The whole operation is thanks to Julie Reiner, a passionate mixologist and businesswoman who has long been a leader in the industry. Each quarter, she and her barstaff write a seasonal cocktail list, inspired perhaps by a spirit (Chartreuse, for example) or a classic drink style (like the flip). Weekends get busy; we recommend weekdays in the early evening when you can sit at the bar and call bartender’s choice. Weekend brunch is very good, too, and not just for the bloody mary: the lamb buger is excellent and there’s a nice selection of baked eggs. | 210 Smith St., Carroll Gardens | 718/855–7939 | www.cloverclubny.com | Station: F, G to Bergen St.
The narrow bar and bilevel floor plan might seem a little odd, but friendly service and a convivial crowd transform this renovated warehouse into a welcoming neighborhood spot. The kitchen’s organic menu changes seasonally, but the real action is at the bar, where stiff libations are poured near the popular, orange-felt pool table. | 126 Front St., between Jay and Pearl Sts., DUMBO | 718/243–9005 | Closed Mon. | Station: A, C to High St.; F to York St.
Stop reminiscing about your arcade-loving youth and start playing the more than 30 vintage video games (most cost a mere quarter) lining the walls of this high-spirited bar-arcade. Challenge yourself with favorites like Ms. Pacman or rarities like Rampage. Barcade isn’t just about the games, though: there’s a good selection of microbrews, as well as snacks. | 388 Union Ave., between Ainslie and Powers Sts., North Williamsburg | 718/302–6464 | www.barcadebrooklyn.com | Station: G to Metropolitan Ave.; L to Lorimer St.
Fodor’s Choice | Ides Bar.
Without a doubt the buzziest bar in Williamsburg, the Ides benefits from its privileged position on the Wythe Hotel’s rooftop. Well-heeled patrons from all over the world line up for entry and the jaw-dropping views of the Manhattan skyline. It’s a hot spot on weekends, and crowded—its more than worth it to go early and have that memorable view all to yourself. | Wythe Hotel, 80 Wythe Ave., 6th fl., North Williamsburg | 718/460–8006 | www.wythehotel.com/the-ides | Station: L to Bedford Ave.
Fodor’s Choice | Maison Premiere.
Step inside this buzzy bar and restaurant, marked only by a small “Bar, Oysters” sign, and you’ll instantly feel whisked away to New Orleans. Sip expertly made cocktails at the horseshoe-shape bar, or dine on platters of oysters at one of the café tables (there are full dinner and brunch menus as well). In spring and summer, the back garden is a lush oasis with cast-iron tables amid wisteria and palms. | 298 Bedford Ave., at S. 1st St., South Williamsburg | 347/335–0446 | www.maisonpremiere.com | Station: L to Bedford Ave.
Radegast Hall & Biergarten.
The vibe is boisterous at this sprawling beer garden, with plenty of communal tables that foster a convivial atmosphere. The Central European beers on tap and in bottles pair well with hearty foods like schnitzel, goulash, and delicious hot pretzels. There’s live music most nights. | 113 N. 3rd St., North Williamsburg | 718/963–3973 | www.radegasthall.com | Station: L to Bedford Ave.
You might need to be a beer geek to recognize the obscure names of the more than 100 imported microbrews available here, but the connoisseurs behind the bar are more than happy to offer detailed descriptions and make recommendations. They’ll also help you choose cheese and charcuterie platters to match your beverages. The space is narrow, with limited seating: all the more reason to take advantage of the huge backyard in summer. | 359 Metropolitan Ave., near Havemeyer St., North Williamsburg | 718/963–4140 | www.spuytenduyvilnyc.com | Station: L to Lorimer St.; G to Metropolitan Ave.
Live Music Venues
This steamy, bilevel lounge is Williamsburg’s answer to Miami clubbing, though decorated with salvaged items including an old redwood front door from a New York State winery. The crowd is as eclectic as the DJ-spun beats, from reggae to Brazilian—often accompanied by live drumming. The tropical bar menu gives the place its Latin cred. | 81 S. 6th St., at Berry St., South Williamsburg | 718/387–5389 | www.bembe.us | Station: J, M, Z to Marcy Ave.
Music Hall of Williamsburg.
This intimate, trilevel music venue in a former mayonnaise factory has excellent acoustics, so it’s no surprise that it draws die-hard fans of rock and indie music. There’s balcony seating and an additional bar upstairs. If you love Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, you’ll feel the same way about this venue; it’s run by the bookers at Bowery Presents, so you can expect the same quality lineups. | 66 N. 6th St., near Wythe Ave., North Williamsburg | 718/486–5400 | www.musichallofwilliamsburg.com | Station: L to Bedford Ave.
This former pool-supply store is a funky multipurpose venue, complete with a corrugated tin–backed bar, a photo booth, a small stage for live music, and cheap PBR. It’s a popular spot on the Friday-night circuit, especially for late-night dancing. The back patio has a taco truck and a fire pit. | 484 Union Ave., near Meeker Ave., North Williamsburg | 718/609–0484 | www.union-pool.com | Station: G to Metropolitan Ave.; L to Lorimer St.
BUSHWICK AND EAST WILLIAMSBURG
Fodor’s Choice | Featherweight.
The cocktail list at this small spot is full of the hits you’d expect at a bar run by the experts behind the two Weather Up spaces in Manhattan and Prospect Heights. Part of the allure, though, is that bartenders will mix a cocktail to your precise specifications. Prime time here is late night. Finding the entrance is part of the fun: look for the painted feather and the three-story-tall mural of a boxer. | 135 Graham Ave., at Johnson Ave., East Williamsburg | www.featherweightbk.com | Station: J, M to Lorimer St.; L to Montrose Ave.
This neighborhood standby has something going on just about every night. On the main floor, two bocce courts and a library nook with couches and fireplace are popular hangouts; downstairs, there are smart comedy shows featuring Daily Show and Saturday Night Live regulars, eclectic talks, or DJs spinning. The outdoor patio is open in good weather. The menu of perfectly tasty burgers, sandwiches, and bar snacks (the beer cheese is a highlight) means the patrons tend to settle in for the evening. Events are either free or have a modest cover ($5 to $20). | 702 Union St., at 5th Ave., Park Slope | 718/638–4400 | www.unionhallny.com | Station: R to Union St.
Live Music Venues
Fodor’s Choice | Barbès.
Outstanding regulars like the Django Reinhardt mantle-bearer Stephane Wrembel, western-swingers Brain Cloud, and Slavic Soul Party spin threads of folk and “ethnic” into 21st-century music, while the Erik Satie Quartet keep Satie, Britten, and other classical composers relevant. Performances take place in the back room, where a pitcher is passed to collect the $10 suggested cover. Up front, the somewhat musty bar has a laid-back vibe and a full cocktail menu. | 376 9th St., at 6th Ave., Park Slope | 347/422–0248 | www.barbesbrooklyn.com | Station: F, G to 7th Ave.
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden.
Warm summer nights and cold beers have been savored by locals for over 100 years at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden. With pitchers of beer, picnic tables, live music, and Czech dishes from the kitchen, this sunny garden is an ideal spot for getting together with old friends—or making new ones over big mugs of Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell. | 29-19 24th Ave., Astoria | 718/274–4925 | www.bohemianhall.com | Station: N, Q to Astoria–Ditmars Blvd.
LONG ISLAND CITY
The dark bar and cozy wooden booths at Dutch Kills—a cocktail den with a nod to the neighborhood’s historic roots—serves up finely crafted drinks at a few dollars cheaper than similar Manhattan watering holes. Expect precisely chiseled chunks of ice and skilled bartenders that, with a few queries into your preferences and curiosities, can create a concoction just to your taste. | 27-24 Jackson Ave., Long Island City | 718/383–2724 | www.dutchkillsbar.com | Station: E, M, R to Queens Plaza; G to Court Sq.; 7, N, Q to Queensboro Plaza.