Sometimes a crowded bar is exactly what you’re looking for - like when your friends want to dance, or talk to strangers before ultimately suggesting everyone do tequila shots. But there are also plenty of situations when you want to have some drinks, but also be able to sit down and have a conversation. Whether you’re hoping a couple beers will encourage a client to tell you whether their marketing team actually has money to spend, you’re trying to find out if a date shares your passion for half-melted coffee ice cream, or you’re honestly just kind of tired, it helps to go somewhere with more than just standing room and a few always-taken bar seats. Here are 22 good options (some of which even take reservations).
Hotel Delmano is one of the best date spots in Williamsburg for a few reasons. Most importantly (at least for this guide), the whole space - multiple dark rooms that feel like they haven’t changed since bow ties were worn unironically - is sit-down-only. Whether you sit inside or at one of the tables on the sidewalk in the summertime, you’ll be able to hear each other without trying to piece together words and context clues, and you can drink some excellent cocktails while sharing things like prosciutto and oysters.
Existing Conditions is another sit-down-only spot. This Greenwich Village cocktail bar isn’t quite as date-y as Hotel Delmano, but it’s also not too loud or hectic, and you’ll never have to wait long to order a drink or get another bottled martini from the vending machine in the corner. That said, the waits for a table here can be significant, so try to make a reservation ahead of time.
When the cute owner of that even cuter yellow lab from the dog park asks you if you want to continue your conversation about the pros and cons of high-protein dog diets over a drink, suggest Jadis. This Eastern European wine bar on the LES is a good option whenever you’re not sure if a meet-up is a date. Take advantage of the daily Happy Hour specials at the bar up front, and if it turns out that you have more in common than a shared vet, move to a couch in the back room (which feels like a common room in an old Austrian bed and breakfast).
Plenty of outdoor bars with great views have some seating, but unless you get there when they open or tell a promoter you’re interested in bottle service, you’re probably going to have to stand. Anable Basin is an exception. This outdoor bar in Long Island City is on the East River, but there’s almost always room available at one of the many picnic tables overlooking Midtown. Take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know about it yet, and come here with a big group this summer.
Joyface is a popular cocktail bar in the East Village that feels like the 1970s apartment of someone who partied on the Phish tour bus once or twice. There’s a waterbed where you can sit (or lie down), but if that seems gross or at least a little strange to you, there are also lots of bar seats, couches, and cushioned chairs. You can order any drink you like - or pull the names of random ingredients out of a bowl on the bar and have the bartender make you a cocktail with all of them. That might sound kind of gimmicky, but this is actually a fun spot that feels different from all the other bars in the East Village.
You could offer to have drinks at your apartment, but you run the risk of sounding presumptuous or anti-social, and your bartending skills are limited to opening screw-top wine bottles and making vodka-sodas with that vodka your roommate keeps in the freezer. Suggest meeting at St Ends in Crown Heights instead. This low-key cocktail bar looks like a randomly decorated apartment, with colorful couches, lounge chairs, and mismatched lights on end tables. It’s a comfortable place to hang out, the drinks are enjoyable and affordable (especially during Happy Hour, which goes until 8pm), and there’s a nice backyard with seats around picnic tables.
Gran Tivoli is an Italian spot in Nolita that’s a good place to meet someone for drinks and small plates after work. But if you’re not hungry, or you’re meeting up a bit later in the night, walk past the long bar to the staircase at the back of the restaurant that leads down to Peppi’s Cellar. This cocktail bar feels like a jazz club from a time when jazz clubs were just called bars, and along with bar seating, the dark, low-ceilinged space also has tables and a few booths that work for big groups.
The Ten Bells is a no-brainer if you’re meeting someone who has opinions about different types of corkscrews - this wine bar on the LES has a knowledgeable staff who pour very generous glasses of small-production, organic wines from around the world. But it’s also a great place to hang out if you just want to relax after work, as the multi-room space has lots of bar and table seating, inexpensive small plates, and a Happy Hour every day with $1 oysters and $15 carafes of wine.
Your parents want to go out to a bar with you and your friends, and even though they keep saying they’ll show you all “how it’s done,” you know your mom is going to want to sit down right around the end of her first martini. But you still want a fun spot where you can branch off from the table eventually, so try Porchlight, which works for almost any casual drinking situation.
Primo’s is a good-looking cocktail bar inside a hotel in Tribeca, but it’s still casual enough that you wouldn’t feel out of place wearing jeans and a T-shirt. You can order from servers in the colorful front area at booths, tables, and bar seats, and if you want to stretch your legs, you can also head to the darker back room, which has a DJ booth and dance floor.
You’re picking the place to meet, and you really don’t want the first thing your date says to be something pessimistic about how long it’s going to take to get to the bar. Rather than risking walking around for an hour before finding a decent place to get a drink, make a reservation at Elsa in Cobble Hill. The cocktails are great, and the attractive space, with brown leather booths, marble tables, and Art Deco light fixtures, is ideal for impressing someone without looking like you’re trying too hard.
A lot of outdoor bars have tables where you can sit, but most are either casual places where you drink buckets of 4% ABV beers while eating chicken tenders, or fancy spots where you sip $22 mojitos while taking in the crowds from behind tinted sunglasses. City Vineyard is a rooftop bar overlooking the Hudson River in Tribeca, and while there’s good people-watching around the big horseshoe bar, you can also just drink glasses of wine (which they make themselves and serve on tap) on a couch or one of the many seat-yourself, umbrella-covered tables.
If you want to impress a date on the Upper East Side, but don’t want to have to switch from Equinox to Blink after paying the bill, you should check out 2nd Floor Bar & Essen. This semi-hidden bar above 2nd Ave Deli has booths, bar seats, and tables, and you can reserve seats in the dimly-lit space ahead of time. Go during Happy Hour (5-7pm) and share sandwiches from downstairs with some discounted cocktails, or come here after dinner elsewhere - it’s open until midnight during the week and 2am on weekends.
You hit the dance floor with a ton of enthusiasm, and everything seemed great until a string of Backstreet Boys songs left you gasping for breath and needing a break. This is when you’ll be happy you decided to go to Home Sweet Home. The big dance floor at this Lower East Side bar is surrounded by booths, where you can recover with a drink while picking up moves from (or silently judging) everyone still out there.
Other bars with dance floors and $7 shot-and-beer combos have places to sit, but if you want to avoid being elbow-to-elbow with people making out in between shots of Fireball, then you should probably stay standing. What makes Union Pool different is its huge backyard, which has a bunch of tables and benches where you can hang out. There’s also an outdoor bar and a taco truck, in case you want to stay out there for a while.
There’s no shortage of cool-looking cocktail bars in Williamsburg that work for dates, but most of them get packed by around 9pm. That’s why you should know about Bar Beau. Even though this spot makes great drinks and plays music that’ll be stuck in your head all night, it never gets too crowded. Drink something delicious made with cachaca and smoked cedar at the long marble bar, or sit at one of the many tables and share some natural wine and scallop corn fritters.
The Owl’s Tail is one of the best places to have some high-quality drinks on the Upper West Side. The bar seats are cushioned, and the cocktails - like the one with vodka, cava, and beet and ginger-flavored ice cubes - are all excellent, but this place still doesn’t feel stuffy. Come here with a date after dinner, or a couple friends when you want someplace (a lot) nicer than Jake’s Dilemma and The Gin Mill a few blocks away.
The bar and table seats upstairs at Katana Kitten are usually all taken, but this West Village spot also has a big room in the basement with a bunch of communal tables. Put your name in for some seats when you arrive, and get some Japanese-influenced cocktails, like an excellent martini made with sake, at the bar while you wait. Once you’re sitting down, try some bar snacks, like fried chicken skewers with sweet and sour dipping sauce.
While a lot of bars in the East Village tend to get really crowded for no obvious reason, Drop Off Service is exactly the opposite. Despite having a great beer selection, Happy Hour until 8pm every day, and a space with plenty of tables a block from the 1st Avenue L station, this place is way more low-key than nearby spots like Goodnight Sonny and The Wayland, and you can pretty much always find a spot to sit down.
The High Water is a tropical-themed bar in Astoria that’s a good option for day drinking with a group, or really just anytime you want to order cocktails with names like “Naughty or Nice” and “Drunk Grandma.” It’s a fun spot to drink out of tiki mugs, and there are a bunch of tables where you can sit and eat snacks like guacamole and fried chicken.