Transparently, we could not agree on a title for this bar guide. “The Coolest Bars In NYC?” No, what does “cool” mean, anyway? “NYC’s Hottest Bars For Girls Who Just Want To Have Fun?” Obviously, that didn’t get very far in the editorial process. Plainly speaking, use this list of NYC bars the next time you’re looking for an exceptionally good time.
Orchard Street on the Lower East Side has remained a public parade of drunkenness throughout the entirety of the pandemic. So now that all adults are eligible for the vaccine and the temperature regularly surpasses 60 degrees, the area feels even rowdier. Part of the allure of this wine bar’s sidewalk patio is that you get courtside seats to the surrounding scene, while sipping a glass of delicious, potentially-unusual natural wine. Even if you know next to nothing about wine, the condensed list of options and friendly staff will help you find something exciting without paying a ton of money - most of the glasses cost around $14.
The rooftop patio at this cocktail bar is one of our long-standing favorite outdoor drinking options in Williamsburg. If drinking several margaritas under a galaxy of string lights sounds nice, make Night of Joy your go-to for getting drinks with friends in the neighborhood. There are usually a few big groups celebrating something up on the roof, so it tends to get a little rowdy after 9pm. But on the first floor of the bar, you’ll find a few paisley-printed loveseats, a fireplace that looks like it’s been there since the ’30s, and several quiet corners for when you need to hear yourself think.
The Bonnie in Astoria is a perfect reminder that bars don’t need to be flashy, located on a roof, or brand new to be a destination worth seeking out. (If you need evidence of the bar’s legacy, please enjoy this 2015 New York Times piece about summer partying in NYC. There’s a big backyard with picnic tables, as well as some better-than-average bar food. It isn’t really where you go to take shots and have a night you’ll forget about later, but it’s always busy on weekends (especially during the day).
Zona De Cuba
The view from your living room includes a brick wall and a few rain gutters, so it’s possible you’ve been looking for a fun bar with a view. Zone de Cuba has a live salsa band, plenty of socially distant tables, and more life-size props than a Disney ride. This huge Caribbean spot in the Bronx has a terrace where you can drink daiquiris and snack on things like yuca frita and ceviche underneath a palm tree. And if you want a little bit of privacy with a group of friends, they also have individual igloos you can reserve for private groups.
If your ideal bar set-up involves frozen cocktails and saxophone solos, this live music spot in Crown Heights might already be on your radar. But just in case you haven’t made it to Wild Birds yet, this is a hint to stop by their outdoor patio to catch a live set sometime soon. It’s one of the only bar/venue hybrids we know of that’s completely outdoors and hosting different bands every day at the moment. Check out their menu of cocktails and snacks, plus their current schedule for spring performances here.
It’s a neutral, irrefutable fact that the area between 42nd-ish and 110th-ish Streets in Manhattan has a shortage of “going out” bars. But Nobody Told Me on the Upper West Side is an exceptional spot to know about if you like places with neon signs, sake popsicles, and picnic tables out front. In addition to cocktails and a pretty impressive range of bar food, Nobody Told Me also runs a daily Happy Hour where you can get a glass of wine or a dirty martini for $10, a frozen spritz for $12, and beer on tap for $6.
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.
You know how some European cities are littered with quaint cafes that have woven chairs out front? Dante is the NYC version of those places. This Greenwich Village cocktail bar is always busy, because their aforementioned European-esque sidewalk setup is one of the most charming in Manhattan. Plus, they make reliably delicious negronis and we once saw Rami Malek sitting in a corner booth with someone we presume he was trying to seduce. Arrive early to grab a table for your group of two or four.
This West Harlem cocktail bar is owned by the same team that runs Harlem Public and At The Wallace, and it’s the kind of place where you’ll want to bring a date and sit until it’s far later than you realized. The back garden looks like a music video set, complete with greenery, string lights, tassel-laden throw pillows, and mismatched outdoor furniture. In case that’s full, know that The Honeywell also has a sidewalk patio where you can watch everyone coming in and out like you’re the bar’s very own slightly-tipsy gargoyle. Make a reservation ahead of time here.
You possibly know Clandestino as the bar where you hung out while waiting for a table at Cervo’s or Kiki’s years ago (or last week, if you are a Dimes Square community board member). That’s because, and we mean this in the most flattering way possible, this is a normal bar with moderately priced martinis that happens to be in a great location. Remember Clandestino the next time you’re looking for a cool-but-not-rowdy place to drink. On weekends, they put their tables out into the blocked-off street as if it’s Paris, only with congregations of 22-year-olds wearing bucket hats and Thrasher t-shirts.
A vineyard, but on a roof. That’s essentially what you’ll find at this outdoor-only wine bar in Brooklyn Navy Yard. It’s filled with rows of grapevines you’ll want to touch but aren’t allowed to, hammocks you’ll want to lay in and are allowed to, and picnic tables where you’ll likely drink copious amounts of rose on a Saturday afternoon. Rooftop Reds is one of the most unique rooftop experiences you can have in the city. And if you’d like to stop by, you’ll have to book a time slot on their website. Just in case you’re planning on inviting someone who considers wine a sedative, they also serve beer.
If you walk the perimeter of Tompkins Square Park on a nice night, you’ll notice that getting drunk in the East Village is still very much a NYC pastime for a self-selected group. For all those looking to initiate themselves into said self-selected group (even just for a night), we’d suggest heading to this cocktail bar that opened in the spring of 2020 on East 6th Street between A and B. The Pineapple Club sticks pretty close to its tropical theme, which means you should come here expecting to drink colorful rum drinks (they use one of our favorite brands, Ten To One Rum). In addition to a greenhouse-like indoor area, Pineapple Club has a sidewalk patio that’s always busy on weekends.
For anyone who believes activities are intrinsically linked to fun nights out, Madame Marie’s should be your default destination in Astoria. Hanging out here feels witnessing a dive bar meet a beer bar and figure out they both love Trivia, Drag Nights, and Musical Bingo. Plus, you can bring your dog to their massive backyard space, or simply admire an array of fluffy companions from your dog-less table.
Heaven Or Las Vegas is the ideal venue to finally wear those red hotpants you stress-bought at some point during the last year. This queer-friendly spot opened in February 2020 from the same team behind another historically fun bar in Bushwick, Mood Ring. The dimly-lit space has umbrellas stuck to the ceiling, neon accents, and sultry red lighting to make you feel like the protagonist in an early 2000s music video. They’ve got a bunch of picnic tables outside and a few spaced-out booths inside where you can belt love ballads and strut your stuff until midnight.
When it’s warmer than 65 degrees, people tend to make their way to this huge outdoor bar in Ridgewood. It’s especially worth a visit for a DJ set, movie screening, or simply to have some drinks at a picnic table, sit in a heated yurt, or hang out around a fire pit.
Elsewhere was once the place to go for rooftop dance parties and great views of the sunset in Bushwick. But last summer, the bar transformed its open-air dancefloor into a terrace - making this an ideal spot to drink mango margaritas and catch a live DJ set. The outdoor bar area will officially reopen for spring on April 30th with a bunch of socially distant tables that you can reserve for free on the bar’s website. They’re already booking up, but Elsewhere will still save a few two-tops for walk-ins.