The Best NYC Bars For Your Birthday
photo credit: The Last Call
There's an art to choosing the right birthday bar. Just like a birthday restaurant, the place you pick should be a crowd-pleaser. It needs to be fun and relatively casual, and, unless you want to shed a few friends, drinks shouldn't cost $20 each. Depending on what sort of party you want to have, other criteria may include dancing, shuffleboard, or jello shots paired with live piano karaoke.
photo credit: Motel No Tell
Motel No Tell looks like a poolside lounge from 1960s Miami. It’s a bit much for a casual weekday drink, but if you’re looking for a spot where you can drink with 20 people who might show up two hours late smelling like White Claw, it’s perfect. Claim one of the booths or high-top tables in the middle of the room, and drink some piña coladas beneath the light of a disco ball. Should you get hungry, Neapolitan pizzas are available.
The Last Call has dancing, wonton nachos, and a great backyard. It feels like a cross between a dive bar and an izakaya—with a small dance floor and a handful of tables spread throughout—and it’s perfect for a fun hang in Williamsburg that might last until 2am. The music is always good and loud, and if you come by on the weekend, you can catch a DJ playing vinyl.
photo credit: Ms. Kim's
If you want to celebrate your birthday with a small group and possibly belt "Dancing Queen,” reserve a private karaoke room at Ms. Kim’s in Flatiron. A small room costs $120 per hour and fits up to eight people, and there are other options that can accommodate up to 22. One of the more upscale karaoke options in the city, this place has snacks like karaage and garlic soy chicken wings, as well as cocktails, wine, and bottle service.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
So you’d like to go out on the Lower East Side, but you don’t necessarily need to take shots with interns while listening to EDM remixes of Carly Rae Jepsen. Try The Ten Bells, a cave-like wine bar with a few semi-private rooms in the back that you can book for events. The wine list is enormous and all-natural, and the tapas-style food is all pretty solid, particularly the meatballs and empanadas.
When someone asks where you're going for your birthday and you tell them House of Yes, you’ll get a response like, “Oh wow, you're going to have a night.” And they’ll probably be right. Between the cage dancers, cabaret, live music performances, and themed parties, this club in Bushwick is never a low-key scene. If you’re looking to dance, drink, and maybe wear Christmas lights as a fashion accessory, you can have a lot of fun here.
From the folks behind Bed-Stuy venue C’mon Everybody (another respectable birthday option), Good Judy is a Park Slope queer bar with jello shots and fun events. Get a group together, and come by for some bingo, a dance party, or live piano karaoke. The bar has multiple floors, as well as a little backyard that’s great for summertime parties.
This Caribbean spot in the South Bronx has a live salsa band, a colorful dance floor, and more life-size props than a Disney ride. Whether you decide to hang out inside or on the massive outdoor rooftop, you can get items like ceviche, yuca frita, and mojo-marinated pork chops. If you throw enough hints that a birthday toast is in order, one of your friends might buy you a bottle of champagne.
Bandits is about the size of a tool shed, and, like every other West Village bar, it gets packed on weekends. But, thanks to its small size, this place doesn’t feel like a zoo, and if you loiter near some folks who look like they’re about to get up, you should be able to snag a booth. All of your friends will appreciate the quality cocktails, ‘70s decor, and loaded tater tots.
For house-party energy, frozen dole whip cocktails, and a playlist that feels like it was made by your friend who’s a self-described “crate-digger,” head to Lullaby on the LES. It’s in a basement on Rivington (below a sushi spot), and it's a loud, dark place with couches and low ceilings. Despite the small space, you'll find a lot of people dancing here.
Twins Lounge is a two-floor spot in Greenpoint that’s like a pool hall and disco bar rolled into one. On the ground floor, there's a corner full of pool tables, in addition to a long bar and a few booths where your friends can order you shots as a gesture of goodwill. Upstairs, you’ll find a much brighter area with fuzzy rugs, a disco ball, and floral print couches.
With a massive outdoor space where you can hang out with your dog and listen to live DJ sets, Ridgewood's Nowadays is unique by NYC standards, and it’s the perfect place to gather with a huge group. If it's cold outside, you can also hang in the big indoor space, where they host dance parties on the weekends. Tickets usually go for around $20.
This Bed-Stuy spot is heavily themed around the late-night roller rink parties you may have attended as a child. There’s an entire room dedicated to retro arcade games, a second-floor balcony, glowing neon lights, and a jukebox playing music you legally must dance to. Despite all of the fun decor, we feel the need to clarify that there is no actual roller skating to be done at All Night Skate.
Harlem Hops on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard serves a lot of hard-to-find beer, specifically from small-batch breweries and businesses owned by people of color. So if you want to spend your birthday trying a bunch of new beer with friends, this is the place to do it. Even if you don’t really care about the different flavor notes in East and West Coast IPAs, you’ll at least appreciate the backyard.
If you’re into beer, you already know about Evil Twin’s taproom in Ridgewood, a block from the Halsey L stop. It’s a great spot for a daytime birthday party when you don’t know how many people are coming. Just note that there’s no food in here, but you can bring your own snacks or stop by the Guatemalan pop-up that's present on weekends. When it’s warm, you can step outside of the greenhouse-like space and take advantage of outdoor picnic tables.
Royal Palms is about the size of a small airplane hangar, and there are infinite ways to entertain yourself here. If come to this Gowanus bar with 10 or more people, you can book a shuffleboard court in advance—or you can just wait for one to open up, and play any number of board games in the meantime. There are also several bars, so if games aren’t your thing, just get a drink and have your friends post pictures with captions that explain how much they value you.
You’re trying to get a big group together, and since you’re a nice person, you want to pick a place where everyone can have a good time without spending $100 each. Holiday Cocktail Lounge excels at people-pleasing: They serve good cocktails and buckets of beer, the soundtrack is classic rock, and the crowd is lively without being obnoxious. Try to grab a few tables in the back.
Even weeknights feel like weekends at Rogers Garden. The huge patio at this rum bar on the border of Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Flatbush has lawn chairs, turf, and murals galore, with tons of special programming beyond the cocktails and snacks on the menu. Check out their Instagram page so you don’t miss one of their special pop-up nights or live music events.
photo credit: North Bar
Need somewhere to drink with your parents, roommates, coworkers, and boss? Go to North Bar. Located on a quiet cobblestone street in Tribeca, this nautical-themed spot draws a truly random crowd, and, while it isn’t exactly the hottest bar in the city, it’s a useful spot for casual group drinks. You can hang out up front where there’s plenty of standing room, or you can have some snacks and cocktails at a table in the back.