Bushwick is big. Really big. We wouldn’t be surprised if you told us it was the size of Los Angeles. And just like Los Angeles, that size can make it hard to know where the best sh*t is.
But if you’re going to let its size intimidate you, or cause you to end up at the same two places every weekend, then you’re missing out on a whole lot of great drinking opportunities. Sure, you might not be able to bounce down one street all night like you can do in some other neighborhoods, but there also isn’t a whole lot of adventure in those other neighborhoods. Going drinking in Bushwick is essentially an alcoholic scavenger hunt. Let’s play.
The Johnson’s looks like what would happen if you picked up a dilapidated country club/drug den from 1969 and stuck it in the middle of Bushwick. There’s astroturf, swinging wicker chairs, furry rugs, and a pool table, and it basically always feels like a party here. Come for the daily till-9pm happy hour, stay for the (extremely strong) alcoholic slushies and $2 beers. And if you have a few too many slushies? There’s a burger window at the front.
There are no gimmicks at Three Diamond Door - no wacky theme, no cheesy decor, no arcade games, and no skeeball machine. It’s just a nice bar with cozy leather booths, a good number of beers on draft, and some reasonable beer/shot specials. It’s also pretty versatile. Sit in the front for a standard bar feel, or head to the back room for more loungey vibes. On weekends it gets packed, and it’s a good place to seen and be seen by some young people who probably don’t see so well (because alcohol).
Yes, Duck Duck is technically in East Williamsburg. But we don’t really believe in East Williamsburg as a technical term. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on to telling you why, if you haven’t already been hanging at Duck Duck, you’ve been missing out. It’s been open since 2001 (when there was no East Williamsburg), and over the years it’s established itself as an excellent place to drink cheaply, dance freely, and make some new friends. They recently remodeled, and now there’s even more space for the giant 3am dance circle you and your friends always end up in.
Meeting that friend of yours who would be happiest if they could only drink fancy cocktails for the rest of their life? Direct yourselves to The Narrows, one of our all-around favorite spots in Bushwick thanks to excellent cocktails, a great back patio, and an intimate vibe. This is also a great date spot - there’s a short but solid menu here, or you can make this place the second stop on a one-two punch evening (Roberta’s, Momo Sushi Shack, Tutu’s, and Bunna are all close by).
If you are a fan of any of the following bars, you will likely also be a fan of The Topaz: Sisters in Clinton Hill, Ramona in Greenpoint, Donna in Williamsburg, and The Wayland in the East Village. We recently discovered that all of this city’s most attractive bars were designed by the same people, and while possessing that knowledge makes us kind of uncomfortable, it also makes a lot of sense. The Topaz is the newest notch in that group’s beautiful bar belt, and it’s also the only place of its kind in this area. Go here if your priorities lie in aesthetics - and also try to get here before their excellent daily happy hour (until 8pm) ends.
Do you not mind being sweaty outside in the summer? Do you love layering up and pretending it’s not freezing outside in the winter? Do you cry tears of joy and work hard to resist the urge to run around naked on those 13 yearly days of actually-perfect weather in NYC? Then you should be spending more time at Forrest Point, which has some of the best patio real estate in Bushwick. If you hate the outdoors, there’s also plenty of indoor space.
You can eat at Hi Hello, but we like it more for low-key drinks. If you’ve convinced a friend to make the L train trek to Bushwick, start your evening here - it’s directly above the Jefferson stop, so before they can even start bitching about their commute just push a drink in front of them. The small space is attractive - we might even call it cute, were we not in Bushwick.
Syndicated is a movie theater. But it’s also a restaurant, and it’s also a bar. The theater is at the back of the hangar-like space, but at the front is a giant open space centered around a square bar. There are often movies or TV shows projected onto the huge walls, there’s plenty of bar and table seating, and there are always a good number of people there to hang out. If you’re looking for a laid-back place to get drinks with friends on a Tuesday, or a place to drink and maybe eat something before a night out, Syndicated feels like a nice change from your average bar setup.
Pearl’s Social is the default bar in the area. It’s where you go to meet your friends (who are probably drinking there), and it’s where you loiter outside as if it were your stoop. How did it get this way? Who knows. But this is where you go when you want to drink and chat and stand shoulder to shoulder with other Bushwick folk. It’s a pretty small room, but there are some tables, a bar, and some window seats where you can hang out, check out the old-timey knick knacks on the wall, and decide what you’ll do with the rest of your night.
If Ashton Kutcher is good for one thing, it’s teaching us that the 70’s were a very good time. El Cortez, a 70’s themed bar that looks like a desert chapel from the outside, is also a good time. The giant tiki drink menu is printed with pictures so you can easily select your chosen route to tomorrow’s hangover, and there’s often a DJ. Get a cheeseburger or any of the actually quite solid Tex Mex food to make that hangover a little less painful.
Happyfun Hideaway feels DIY. It’s like a drunk person decided to open a bar, so they signed a lease, found a pinball machine, and acquired a few boxes of Franzia. And yes, you can really get Franzia here. You can also play pinball on a machine with a young Alec Baldwin’s face on it. There’s a vaguely tropical theme to hole-in-the-wall Happyfun Hideaway, but most of the decor looks like it was found on the street, so that’s probably just how it came together. Did we mention drinks are cheap and there’s a backyard?
The Rookery is a little more grown up than the other bars around it. Even on weekends, there’s room to move around, and they do brunch, dinner, and a late-night menu. This might not be the place to let loose, but it’s a good spot to sit for a while and recharge. Want to have a laid-back hang with a big group of friends? Go to The Rookery. Want to sit down (inside or outside) for a beer and a patty melt and still be within walking distance of several other bars where you can get sweated on by other young people? This is the place.
Speaking of getting sweated on by young people, ever been to Bossa Nova? This is a dance club, but you won’t hear Top 40, and there won’t be a guest list. Depending on how late you get here, there might be a line and cover - but you shouldn’t let those things get between you and a night of dancing very poorly (but enthusiastically) on a dance floor that’s usually covered in fog. Disclaimer: this is closer to a dive bar than it is to a club in Manhattan, and the only music they play is electronic.
In the vein of Three Diamond Door, plus a bit of 1950’s cruise ship flair, is the all-purpose bar Starliner. The space is absolutely massive, and could easily fit your group of 30 - or if you’re looking for your next birthday venue, this spot’s birthday booth (which is reservable in advance for a group of 10) might be perfect. Starliner is not a place you come for a rosemary shrub cocktail, but it is a place you come for affordable drinks (including cocktails, but especially beer and shots), good vibes, and the guarantee that if you’re just looking for a comfortable place to sit and drink, you’ll find it here.
Birdy’s looks like it should be on the outskirts of a small town, sandwiched between a strip club and a bowling alley. Instead, it’s on a corner in Bushwick. This place is 70’s themed, and there are some retro hanging lamps, abundant wood panelling, and a few strings of Christmas lights hanging over the bar. Also, the soundtrack is rock and roll (so if you want to hear Taylor Swift, head to Williamsburg). Come here for cheap drinks, comfy booths, and the opportunity to feel nostalgic for a decade you were probably not even alive for.
This place is a coffee shop during the day, and a bar at night. They also offer ballet for toddlers and heavy metal yoga. Why wouldn’t they? The Cobra Club is sort of like a community center for people who drink heavily (i.e., young adults living in Bushwick), and it definitely has an inclusive, neighborhood vibe. It’s also definitely a dive - but they still care about the quality of the stuff they serve. Come in the morning and get a coffee and a Dough donut, or stop by at night for an eighties dance party and have a well-made cocktail named after a Misfits song.