The Best Bars On The Upper East Side
Our 15 favorite bars in the neighborhood.
If a friend asks you to get drinks tonight and you recommend going out on the Upper East Side, the most likely response will be seven mostly random emojis followed by a, “Seriously, where should we go?” But this neighborhood has plenty of good options for any type of drinking situation. Whether you’re looking to have a few cheap shot-and-beer combos, a high-quality cocktail, or something in between, here are the best places to drink on the UES.
photo credit: Melissa Hom
Keys & Heels
Keys & Heels is a speakeasy disguised as a locksmith and shoe repair shop. Inside, you’ll find lots of bistro tables, a disco ball, comfy couches, and well-made cocktails with names like Barefoot & Topless and Late Night Lover. It always feels busy here, but you’ll never feel packed in like sardines, and they occasionally host events like magic shows where someone will guess both your birthday and the code to unlock your phone (which will genuinely make you feel uncomfortable).
Ethyl's Alcohol & Food
Walk into Ethyl’s Alcohol And Food, and you’ll feel like you’re in Times Square in the 1970s. The walls are covered in ’70s memorabilia, the bathrooms are filthy, and there’s a disco ball. Also, the whole place smells like incense, the walls are lined with mirrors, and pretty much all the music you’ll hear was made before 1980. It’s a charming place, and it’s where you should be drinking whiskey when you’re in the mood for something on the divier side. They often throw parties here, so check their IG to see what's coming up.
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Ryan’s Daughter is a sports bar with much to offer: pool, an impressive beer selection, live music, etc. But you’ll have the most fun here hosting a mini tournament with their basketball arcade game. Turns out, adults are capable of getting excited about even a single arcade game, as long as there's booze involved. This place has the look of a pub but the feel of a spacious dive bar, with semi-divey prices ($9 cocktails). They are, however, popular enough to take reservations. Make one.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
2nd Floor Bar & Essen
2nd Avenue Deli is a classic spot for corned beef sandwiches and matzo ball soup, and they have a very cool bar hidden above their space at 75th and 1st Avenue. It’s up a flight of stairs behind a door with a little neon sign, and it’s one of the best places for a date on the UES. The bar is filled with candles and antique light fixtures, and it feels like something from the 1920s.
The Penrose is from the same people who own The Wren, and like that Noho bar, it pretty much always has a crowd. This nice-looking pub is one of the few spots on the UES where you’ll find something resembling a scene, so it’s perfect for when you want to have a good cocktail and wind up talking to a stranger who went to school with your cousin. There are plenty of food options, including fried pickles, a burger, and fish tacos.
The East Pole
The East Pole is a consistently crowded restaurant on the Upper East Side that works for everything from date nights to fun group dinners, but the bar area up front is also useful when you’re just looking for drinks. They serve really good cocktails, as well as some good wines by the glass and beers on tap. You wouldn’t spend the whole night here, but it’s a solid option for after-work drinks or low-commitment dates.
Earl’s feels like it could be a small-town bar. It’s divey, but more in an “everyone’s wearing their intramural basketball team T-shirts” way and less in an “everyone smells like well whiskey” way. There’s naturally an excellent beer selection, and there’s also a lot of food that involves cheese.
The Subway Inn is not the kind of place for a fancy cocktail or a glass of dry riesling. It’s a place for a beer or a whiskey soda. Sometimes, it’s refreshing to drink at a place that doesn’t give a sh*t about bitters or designer tonic. Especially when that place has been around since 1937. It might have gotten a new location a couple years ago, but The Subway Inn is still one of the more iconic bars on the Upper East Side.
“You can’t be all things to all people.” That statement is mostly true, unless you’re The Jeffrey. This place is great for craft beer people, outdoorsy people, sports people, food people, coffee people, and fancy cocktail people. And most importantly, it’s great for people who often find themselves near the Upper East Side or Midtown. Come by yourself to watch a game, or come with a crew of 15 people who all want different things. Everyone will be happy.
Jones Wood Foundry
This British pub is a full-blown restaurant, and a good one at that, but there’s also a sizable front area with plenty of seating and even some TVs. Do you call soccer “football”? If so, you’ll like it here. Stop by to watch a game on TV while you eat some fish and chips or bangers and mash.
The Upper East Side is full of Irish pubs, but Biddy’s isn’t just another place for televised sports and cheap drinks. Well, actually, it is. But it’s so much more than that. Sort of. We aren’t really sure why Biddy’s feels special. Maybe it’s because of the size. This place is tiny, so it always seems lively. Or maybe it’s because all the regulars get the Olive Garden treatment. There’s also the weekly martini night, when $7 apple pie-flavored beverages flow like tap water. Stop by to make some memories and a hangover.
Five Mile Stone
Five Mile Stone is essentially an overachieving Irish pub. It has two floors and some very nice wallpaper, and it feels like an old-timey house where all the furniture and appliances were replaced with a couple of bars and a bunch of tables. It’s a great place for some casual drinking with a group, there’s a huge menu of all your standard bar foods, and it gets pretty loud and busy (in a fun way) on the weekends.
Doc Watson's is a useful place to know about because it works for almost any type of casual drinking situation. It’s open from noon until 4am every day, and the sidewalk seating and backyard work if you want to drink outside while the sun is still out. If, on the other hand, you want to hole up with a dark beer and drink away your sorrows while watching any New York sports team you may support, there’s a long bar and a dining room with a lot of TVs.
The Upper East Side has an excess of places where you can get a relatively cheap drink and watch sports on a big flat screen TV, but Duke’s is one of the most fun. From the outside, it looks like a big, cheesy sports bar—and that’s because it is. But it has plenty of room and lots of TVs, and you can eat a big plate of buffalo wings while you watch Duke play some other team in basketball.
The Milton NYC
As you’ve possibly gathered by now, the Upper East Side has a good number of pubs that serve good beer and cocktails. The Milton is another one. Use it if you’re in the 90s and want to grab a drink and perhaps watch soccer on TV someplace with super friendly bartenders.
Bemelmans isn’t a place you’re going to visit every day. The drinks are over $20 each, there’s live music, and the walls are covered in fancy painted gold wallpaper. Make of all that what you will. But this bar inside the Carlyle Hotel is a New York classic, and it's a place worth visiting at least once, for a special occasion.