There are many reasons to love the West Village. It’s “cute,” it’s charming, and it has cobblestone streets. Beyond those benefits, it’s also one of the best places to drink in the city. Its huge selection of bars means you can always have pretty much any kind of night – from quiet cocktails to divey hangouts to general sh*tshows. That being said, there are some that deserve your time and money way more than the rest.
So here’s the best West Village bars, according to us. And when you’re ready to plan your whole night, don’t forget to check out our list of the best restaurants in the West Village.
Why this place is called The Spaniard, we have no idea. Then again why is the The Wren called the The Wren, and why is The Penrose called The Penrose. The Spaniard is from the same owners, and the vibe here is similar to both of those spots. It’s a good-looking gastropub in the West Village where you can hang out in a booth and eat a burger or loiter at the bar and try to convince someone to not throw away your number immediately after you give it to them. This bar is also pretty big, and it’s a good place for a group hang as long as you don’t mind being around a bunch of young professionals who might be hitting Catch later.
If you can get a seat at Bar Sardine, it’s one of the best places to drink in the West Village. They have excellent cocktails, great food, and in the summertime they open their huge windows (so it’s almost like you’re drinking outside). Thing is, it’s really small - as in, fifteen counter seats, two tables, and no-standing-room small. So don’t come here with a group, but feel free to bring a date. Especially when you aren’t sure if you’re going to eat. You can sit at the bar and have a few cocktails, or you can settle in and have some oysters and a burger (which is highly recommended).
Employees Only is over a decade old at this point, which officially makes them an OG craft-cocktail place. Now that everyone does cocktails, this isn’t necessarily a bar you cross the city for - but if you’re in the West Village looking for fun night out, it’s one of your best options. It still gets busy, the bartenders still wear white lab coats, and you can still get some bacon-wrapped lamb chops after you have a third Manhattan and realize you’re getting way too drunk, way too fast.
Automatic Slims is, above all, a very normal bar. It isn’t divey, but it isn’t especially nice, and it never really gets too crowded. It’s a place that would be pretty unexceptional if it were anywhere other than the West Village. But here, it’s great. It’s only few blocks below the Meatpacking District, and it’s like a little oasis on weekends when other bars nearby are full of people trying not to slur their pickup lines. It’s small, but there are a few little tables to hang out at, and the soundtrack is always pretty decent.
Blue Ribbon is a low-key restaurant empire. They have a few brasseries, some sushi spots, a fried chicken place, and a couple of bars like this one on Downing Street. It’s tiny and probably the most neighborhood-y of all the Blue Ribbon establishments. On busier nights, it can be hard to find a seat here, but it’s the perfect place for a few drinks and a snack (like steak tartare or a cheese plate). Try it for a second date when you want to keep things casual but impressive, or stop by on a 200th date when you want to have wine somewhere other than your couch.
One day, far in the future, one of your seven or eight children is going to look up at you and ask what Marie’s Crisis was like. You’ll want to be able to answer that question. This is an old, divey basement bar in the West Village where there are Christmas lights up year round and someone is always playing show tunes on an upright piano. Everyone is invited to sing along, and every once in awhile a waitress will set down her tray and hit a solo. This place is cash only, and if there’s a particular song you want to sing, try throwing some money in the fish bowl on top of the piano.
This is the oldest operating gay bar in the city, and it shows. Mostly in a good way. They use barrels for stools, there are wagon wheels hanging from the ceiling, and there’s a whole wall of framed black and white photos. The crowd here skews a little older, but it’s also a good place to spot random celebrities. So if you’re looking for a divey, low-key, West-village institution, stop by Julius. Just know that they’re cash only, and there’s a little kitchen in the middle of the room where you can get a burger and onion rings.
Walk into The Happiest Hour, and you’ll find a second bar, Slowly Shirey, down a set of stairs. The vibes are old Hollywood, and it feels like the sort of place where you’d ask a private eye to look for your missing husband before double-crossing him. There’s a lot of wood and dark brown leather, and it’s surprisingly spacious for a basement bar. Tiki-inspired cocktails are the main thing here, but you can also order food from upstairs. (Have a burger.) Just know that this speakeasy-type place gets busy. Nights and weekends tend to be packed, so expect a wait or come early.
The Garret is a speakeasy in the sense that it’s hard to locate. To get there, you walk into the Five Guys at 7th and Bleecker, then find a hidden staircase in the back. Upstairs, there’s a casual cocktail bar with a few skylights and some windows looking out on the street. It isn’t as stuffy or expensive as some other cocktail bars, but it does get busy, and they play top-40 just a little too loud. It’s a good place to bring someone who’ll be impressed by a place hidden above a burger joint.
The Otherroom is not where you go when you want to party. It’s where you go on a low-key date, or with a friend who won’t be weirded out that everyone around you is on a low-key date. It’s not covered in rose petals or anything, but it is dark and candlelit. Also, there’s no hard liquor. In conclusion, if you want wine or beer or are going on a date or a non-date, this is a solid choice.
Stand up. Walk four steps to your left. You’ve now walked the entire width of Virgola, which may very well be the smallest bar in New York City. Don’t let its stature deceive you – this Italian wine bar deserves a spot on your roster. It’s dark and vibey, and has $1 oysters all day.
The sister bar to dell’anima, Anfora is another very good and very useful wine bar, with solid cocktails and small plates, and a great happy hour. At this point, you’re probably catching on to the fact that the West Village is full of spots that are perfect for dates. This is one of them.
Little Branch was an early pioneer of the speakeasy scene. Its underground space is limited to a strict capacity (first come, first served), which keeps the mood inside pretty intimate and perfect for a date or small groups. They also have live jazz sometimes, which either gives you another good reason to go or makes you want to head straight for whatever club in the Meatpacking is playing The Weeknd.
Given its extreme West location, Rusty Knot is either where you start your night, or where you end up late. Regardless of whether you can remember your experience the next morning, chances are you had a good time. The Rusty Knot’s nautical vibes, strong drinks, and fun crowd are its main draws, but it also serves a pretzel dog that has saved our life on several occasions.
The Happiest Hour is a place we’ve come to rely on for its winning combination of fantastic burgers and strong, good drinks. But if you’re looking to get into some Action At The Bar, this is an excellent place to find it. Both its front section and subterranean level are dedicated to bar space, and its throwback tiki vibes draw a crowd that always feels like it’s someone’s 25th birthday.
Highlands is a Scottish bar that serves – you guessed it – Scotch. But not in a sedate, sip from a tumbler in a leather chair way. The Highlands is more of a party, and it can often get crowded. Think of it as the West side version of The Wren.
Daddy-O’s is a true neighborhood bar – nicer than a dive, but not a fancy cocktail bar by any means. That middle ground can be pretty hard to find, and Daddy-O does it well. The cocktails are unexpectedly good, as is the bar food. You’d probably be pretty happy to hang out here any night of the week. Bring friends.
This is as straightforward a bar as you’ll find in the city. DGAF attitude, Dad rock, and beers & well drinks only are the key components here – it’s all familiar, and that’s a good thing. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the routinely expensive, sceney, and packed bars that you keep going back to. You’ll leave wishing you had this place on your corner.
The Blind Tiger is the West Village’s most popular beer bar, where people come to either geek out or bro out. If you can deal with crowds, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent selection of uncommon draft beers and very solid bar food.
Part coffeehouse, part craft beer bar, The Upright Brewhouse is a true utility spot that works for all times of day and all kinds of activities, from studying to group hangs. If you manage to get bored here, there are even pinball machines downstairs.