Have you found yourself on the Upper East Side? Have you found yourself on the Upper East Side and in need of a stiff cocktail, a quality beer, or a simple glass of wine?
Whether you need a dive, a classy cocktail bar for a date, or something in between, here are the best places to drink on the Upper East.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who lived there, The Penrose’s opening a few years ago proved that actually-cool drinking establishments could in fact succeed on the Upper East Side. It’s no longer the neighborhood’s only quality drinking spot for people under the age of fifty, but it’s still pretty much always slammed nonetheless. But that’s because The Penrose delivers on everything the people want: good drinks, good beer, good vibes, lots of action. And fried pickles.
“You can’t be all things to all people.” That statement is mostly true, unless you’re The Jeffrey. It’s great for craft beer people, outdoorsy people, sports people, food people, coffee people, and fancy cocktail people. And most importantly, it’s really great for people who often find themselves anywhere near the Upper East or Midtown. Come by yourself to watch a game, come with a friend to catch up, or come with a crew of 15 who all want different things. Everyone will be happy.
At 6pm every night, Eli’s Essentials - a daytime cafe on 79th - turns into Eli’s Night Shift, specializing in cocktails and craft beer. Lots of bar seats, a few big tables, a well-designed space, and a solid menu of snacks make this place an excellent post-work or pre-dinner drinking situation.
This British pub is a full-blown restaurant, and a good one at that, but there’s also a sizeable front area with plenty of seating and even some TVs. Do you call soccer “football”? You’ll like it here.
Earl’s feels like it could be a small-town bar: it’s divey, but more in a “everyone’s wearing their intramural basketball team t-shirts” way and less in a “everyone smells like well whiskey” way. There’s naturally an excellent beer selection, and there’s also naturally a lot of food that involves cheese.
A highly narrow (“cozy”) space, red brick (“cute”), leather seats, and an always-killer playlist all make The Guthrie Inn an excellent choice for cocktail consumption. Start your next casual one-two punch date night here, then head next door to Earl’s for tipsy grilled cheese eating.
With a vaguely art deco-inspired theme and frequent live music, The Gilroy is one of the better date night spots on the Upper East. Expect good cocktails and classy bar food.
The Subway Inn is not the kind of place you come to drink a fancy cocktail or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a place you come for a beer or a whiskey soda (or whatever your preferred liquor + mixer combination is) because sometimes it’s pretty 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 places to drink on the Upper East Side.
Even more impressive than being open since 1937? Being home to the original TGI Friday’s. We can’t say the place has quite lived up to that heritage, but it is a pub that people use for eating wings, watching sports, and getting very drunk.
Very necessary New Orleans vibes come uptown at Infirmary, a bar and restaurant on 90th and 2nd. Come for the weekday happy hour from 4-7, featuring both drink and food specials.
Need a serious sports bar on the upper Upper East? Manny’s has 40 TVs. And good wings.
A nice, low-key hang on 85th, Bondurants has an impressive selection of beer and whiskey.
As you’ve possibly gathered by now, the Upper East Side actually has a decent number of modern British-themed pubs with good beer and cocktails. Another one is The Milton. Use it if you’re in the 90s around 2nd Avenue.
The Auction House kind of feels like a reenactment of Eyes Wide Shut. Red velvet couches, paintings of naked ladies, candles and chandeliers, dim lighting. Except, imagine that without any of the pretentious, weird vibes. This is actually a nice, relaxed hang.
Bemelman’s isn’t a place you’re going to visit every day: the drinks are well over $20 each, the walls are covered in fancy painted gold wallpaper, and sometimes Woody Allen is playing jazz. Make of all that what you will. But it’s a New York classic, and a place worth visiting at least once, to celebrate a special occasion.