12 Great Asian-Owned Bars In NYC guide image

NYCGuide

12 Great Asian-Owned Bars In NYC

From the West Village to the LES and Greenpoint.

Over the past few decade, we've noticed a significant uptick in Asian-owned bars in this city, and we encourage you to check out one of these spots (some of which are already classics) where traditionally Asian ingredients and techniques take center stage. Below, you’ll find 12 places to drink that are all Asian-owned and include everything from an award-winning cocktail bar in the West Village to a taproom in Greenpoint where you can sit on a stool and drink a flight of rice wines with a side of dried anchovies.

With Warm Welcome is a community organization that amplifies and humanizes Asian American chefs, restaurateurs, and founders by producing podcasts, crafting meaningful experiences, and collaborating with artists. It’s become ever more apparent that we need to find ways to advocate for Asian-owned small businesses as they’ve been the hardest hit during the pandemic. In partnership with The Infatuation, we’re spotlighting some of our favorite Asian-owned businesses to support now and forever.


THE SPOTS


Katana Kitten imageoverride image

Katana Kitten

$$$$

531 Hudson St, New York
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Award-winning managing partner and head bartender Masahiro, or Masa, Urushido brings his 17+ years of experience to Katana Kitten, located in the West Village. The highballs are always fantastic, and of the signature cocktails, we particularly like the Meguroni #2, which is a spin on the negroni with bitterness from the caffo red bitter, sweetness from the aged umeshu, and a bit of citrus and herbs from the shochu and gin.


Korean-American chef and entrepreneur Esther Choi of Mokbar opened this LES bar as a continuation of her journey in educating Americans about Korean food and culture through Korean-American bar food and cocktails. The Between The Knees is the perfect drink now that summer is basically here, which is Ms. Yoo’s take on the strawberry daiquiri. The strawberries and limes help achieve that perfect balance between sweet and tart, and the ginger preserves give the drink that extra kick.


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In 2018, Chinese-American restaurant owner Jeff Lam and his co-owner Eddy Buckingham opened Peachy’s, a cocktail den situated under their restaurant, Chinese Tuxedo, on Chinatown’s infamous Doyers Street. For a first-timer, Peachy’s can come off as a cool kids club—the space is adorned with pink blossoms and tiger-print wallpaper, and the only lighting comes from hanging lanterns, candles, and pink neon lights in the form of dragons and Chinese characters. (The characters spell out “Land of Peach Blossoms,” which signifies a type of paradise.) But after you’ve ordered a 7 Minutes In Heaven (or two)—their signature cocktail with yuzu and Suntory vodka—and sunk into your seat a bit, you’ll feel like you fit right in.


When we want to go to a bar in the Lower East Side where we don’t feel like we're the oldest ones there, but also like we're still hip enough to know what the new Gen Z diss “dog water” means (look it up), Bar Goto is our go-to. Tokyo-born Kenta Goto got his bartending start at Pegu Club, before opening Bar Goto in 2015 just down the block. Located on a street that’s a bit chiller than the rest of the Lower East Side, this place serves Japanese-inspired cocktails along with sake, shochu, beer, and wine. In addition to drinks, Bar Goto also has small izakaya plates like okonomiyaki and miso wings, which really are the best thing here. The sauce is sweet-tangy and spicy with a hint of miso, and the wings are somehow able to defy science and stay crispy even under all the sauce.


Coffee and lunch spot by day and sake bar by night, Hi-Collar is just one of the many Japanese establishments in NYC owned by Bon Yagi, who is also Japanese. Located in the East Village, Hi-Collar occupies a narrow space where the only seating is the dozen-or-so stools that line the long, brass-countered bar. The bar shelf/wall is designed with sliding doors that remind us of Japanese screen doors and create some fun mystery around the place. Hi-Collar offers an extensive selection of sake, and the bartender will always offer a few suggestions if you’re feeling curious or lost.


Double Chicken Please is the result of an eight-year journey for Taiwanese-Americans GN Chan and Faye Chen, who served drinks out of a traveling vintage Volkswagen minivan across the U.S. before opening their cocktail bar on the Lower East Side. The cocktails are named by number (there are 13 in total, one being a mocktail) and are all fantastic, though our favorite drink here might just be their mezcal shot. It’s mixed with plum and shiso, which soften the edge of the mezcal while adding a touch of tartness and herbaceousness. As hinted from the name, they also serve chicken, in the form of three types of fried chicken sandwiches: salted duck egg, hot honey, and bolognese torpedo, each of which is perfect for drunchies after those three shots you just took. If you're looking for a slightly more formal experience, Double Chicken Please is also now serving a more extensive menu in their back room, with dishes like blue crystal prawn ceviche and chicken liver mousse.


Avi Singh and Rishi Rajpal, who are Indian and Indian Chinese, respectively, opened Greenpoint bar Sama Street in 2019, which serves Asian-inspired cocktails and food. They’re childhood friends and spent the majority of their lives living in and traveling through Asia. “We wanted to highlight the foods and beverages we grew up on, and share these memories... by shining a light on Asian culture and ingredients through cocktails and food,” said Singh. Their extensive cocktail list includes names like Lucy Liu and Bollywood Superstar, which use ingredients typically found in Chinese and Indian dishes such as chili oil (used as a tequila wash) and garam masala. For pre or post-dinner drinks, we recommend pairing drinks with some snacks and lamb skewers—and the pork ribs and steak should truly not be missed. The ribs are super tender and doused in a chili barbecue sauce, and the steak is topped with a sesame chimmi sauce and comes with fries and a side of fish sauce mayo, which is the only way we'll be having mayo from now on.


Latin-Asian fusion bar Pokito is owned by Japanese American painter Jisho Roche Adachi and partner Natasha Otrakji. They opened it in 2015 with the hope of creating an inclusive, collaborative space that highlights the dialogue between hospitality, design, and visual arts, as well as the owners’ various cultural backgrounds. Cocktails such as the Yuz + Me and Lolita are made with Asian-inspired ingredients like yuzu liqueur and butterfly pea flower-infused vodka, and the non-alcoholic section features a yerba mate soda, popular in Latin America.


Reception Bar owner Katie Rue brought her Korean American background to her soju bar located in the Lower East Side, where she experiments with Korean ingredients and spirits to tell a story of what it means to be Asian American. What started as a family-style, multi-course dinner series at Rue’s apartment turned into a community-based bar where she hopes to recreate some of the interpersonal connections between patrons that were so central to the dinner series. The cocktails are made with Korean spirits like soju and makgeolli and incorporate fresh traditionally Asian ingredients like chrysanthemum and osmanthus. We particularly like the Cereal Milk and Melon Dew drinks, which are both makgeolli-based. The Cereal Milk is made with walnut milk, rice orgeat, jujube honey, and chocolate walnut bitters and remind us of the milk leftover from a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, whereas the Delon Dew keeps it simple with honeydew and honey and tastes like a crossover between a Melona bar and a cucumber agua fresca.


Admittedly, we go to the self-proclaimed “Asian speakeasy” 212 Hisae’s knowing that we're going to feel a bit curmudgeonly around the hoards of NYU students who (understandably) flock there for $5 drinks. But we too pay rent in NYC, and knocking (more than) a few bucks off our rent week tab keeps this place in our orbit. Plus, despite the crowd, we know we'll never be the oldest ones here. 212 Hisae is owned by “Grandma” Hisae, who previously owned the first rendition of this bar called Hisae’s Place with her husband. To this day, the East Village legend is a late-night fixture at the restaurant, milling around from table to table chatting with patrons and making sure they’re satisfied with their kimchi fried rice and kabocha dumplings.


We're into astrology-themed Bushwick bar Mood Ring for the same reason we're into Bushwick and astrology in general. It's useful for when you're dating someone new. Ever since Vanessa Li and Bowen Goh opened the bar in 2017, it’s become an essential neighborhood spot for people who are both ironically and unironically into the current position of the moon to convene in their big purple booths, drink the zodiac cocktail of the month, and dance in the dark laser-filled back room to techno imported from Berlin. Queer, BIPOC, and trans people in particular have made this place thrive so much so that Vanessa and Bowen have been able to open up a second spot, a karaoke bar called Heaven or Las Vegas, nearby.

photo credit: Hannah Albertine

Hana Makgeolli review image

Hana Makgeolli

Hana Makgeolli isn't just a bar. It's a resource for anyone interested in learning more about the broad category of Korean alcohol known as sool. Alice Jun and business partner John Limb opened this brewery in Greenpoint around the start of the pandemic, and they now have a taproom up front where they serve a variety of Korean rice wines brewed in house. You can stop by and get a flight of rice wines (such as makgeolli) brewed with organic nuruk, and you can also grab some anju like dried squid and anchovies, dubu kimchi, and Korean fried chicken. The space is bright and airy with a handful of tables and a bar where you and a friend should park yourselves the next time you're in the neighborhood.

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