photo credit: Alex Kikis
The Best Bars In The West Village
Whether you're looking for a divey piano bar or bartenders in lab coats, use this guide to find a good place to drink in the West Village.
There are many reasons to love the West Village. It’s cute and convenient, and all of the charming townhouses make up for the fact that you'll have to dodge a few guided tours as you walk down Bleecker. Also, it’s one of the best places to drink in the city. There are all kinds of bars in the area—from a speakeasy in a basement to a place where you can sing show tunes—so here’s a guide to help you figure out where to go.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
If you want a great cocktail in the West Village, but you don’t want to have to go to a speakeasy, head to Katana Kitten. This is a Japanese bar on Hudson Street, and the drinks here are excellent. They’re made with things like salted plum, sansho pepper, and Japanese whiskey—and we especially like the house gin and tonic, which comes in frosty mug lined with shiso leaves. You can either hang out at the bar upstairs or grab a drink in the darker basement area, and there’s a short menu of Japanese-influenced bar food, too.
The Happiest Hour
The Happiest Hour is a spot we’ve come to rely on for its combination of fantastic burgers and strong, good drinks. If you’re looking to talk to strangers and possibly meet someone you’ll date for a month or two, this place is great for that. The retro atmosphere and big open space tend to draw a crowd, and you’ll usually see at least one person celebrating their 25th birthday here.
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Employees Only opened in 2004, and it was one of the original craft-cocktail spots in the city. Now that every other bar serves drinks in fancy glassware, this isn’t necessarily a place you cross town for—but if you’re in the West Village looking for a 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 need to eat something.
St Tropez is the perfect place to go if you have a first date in the West Village and want to seem like the sort of person who reads books and has concrete plans for retirement. It’s a wine bar with floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of little tables where you can sit with a date, and they serve some solid French small plates as well. Have an order of meatballs with whatever you’re drinking. The entire wine list is French, and there are some relatively affordable options if you don’t feel like spending your utilities budget on fermented grapes.
The Garret is a speakeasy in the sense that it’s hard to locate. To get here, you walk into the Five Guys at 7th and Bleecker, then walk up a hidden staircase in the back. Upstairs, you'll find a small room 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 extremely busy, and they play loud music. Your friends have probably heard of this bar, and they probably want to go, so if you want to impress someone, bring them here—and come early to get a seat.
We have no idea why this place is called the Spaniard. It isn't Spanish in any discernible way, but it is a good-looking gastropub, and it’s a nice spot to hang out in a booth and eat a burger while look for new people to talk to. This bar is also pretty big, and it’s great for a group hang as long as you don’t mind crowds. Make a reservation, or you'll be forced to linger by the bar until a few seats open up.
The Otheroom isn’t where you go to have a wild night out. It’s where you bring a date or a friend who won’t be weirded out by the fact that everyone else here is on a date. The space is dark and candlelit, and it’s on a nice, quiet street in the far West Village.
This Italian wine bar feels like a thumbnail version of its sister restaurant, L'Artusi, and it’s a wonderful place to have a cocktail or a glass of wine while you share a few small plates with a friend or date. The menu is mostly geared towards snacking, with options like tuna crudo, steak tartare, and an aguachile that tastes like a deconstructed shrimp cocktail.
photo credit: Oleg March
Due West is sleek and loungey, and it feels like it should be in a neighborhood like Tribeca or the Meatpacking District. But it’s actually on West 10th Street, and you’ll find it useful if you have to plan a nicer date or grab drinks with some clients in the West Village. The space has white brick walls and velvet banquettes, and at night it gets pretty dark and crowded. They also have a little dinner menu with things like crab dip, oysters, and a pretty good burger. Just be aware that this isn’t a huge place, and be sure to make a reservation if you want to play it safe.
This is the oldest operating gay bar in the city, and it shows. 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’. It’s cash only, and there’s a little kitchen in the middle of the room where you can get a burger and onion rings.
Little Branch was an early pioneer of the speakeasy scene, and you can still find it behind an unmarked door on 7th Avenue. The 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.
Anfora is a very good and very useful wine bar. You’ll find solid cocktails and small plates here in addition to the wine, plus 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 another one.
The Blind Tiger is the West Village’s most popular beer bar, where people come to either geek out over things with ample amounts of hops or just drink something good while they watch sports. If you can deal with crowds, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent selection of uncommon draft beers and very solid bar food.
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. This place would be 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 calm oasis on weekends when all the other nearby bars are full of people trying not to slur their pickup lines.
This is NYC’s best-known lesbian bar. If you just came out, or if you’re visiting NYC, someone will inevitably bring you to this small, cash-only, kinda-divey place where the ceiling is always completely covered in seasonally-appropriate decorations. It stays pretty low-key during the week, but on weekends it’s packed, and you should expect a line.
Marie's Crisis Cafe
One day, one of your seven or eight children will ask you what Marie’s Crisis was like. And 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 year-round, and someone is always playing show tunes on an upright piano. Everyone is invited to sing along, and every once in a while a server will sing their own solo. Marie's 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 as straightforward a bar as you’ll find in the city. Classic rock, beers, and well drinks are the key components here—and that’s a good thing. WXOU is the perfect spot 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.
If you want a cozy glitter-and-rainbows gay bar experience with our favorite drag shows in NYC, go to Pieces. Their generous Happy Hour lasts from 2-8pm on weekdays, and the weekend “liquid brunch” lasts just as long and involves $8 Long Island Iced Teas that will give you the courage to finally do something about that crush you’ve been harboring for months. There’s a drag show every night at Pieces, and yes, they have themes. We especially enjoy Balls to the Wall Bingo.
This is the bar where you go to watch sports on TV and drink a Stella. Because sometimes that’s all you need. The Village Tavern can get packed on weekend nights, but few things in life are as depressing as an empty sports bar.