Some bars serve french fries and mozzarella sticks, and others have things like oysters, steak tartare, and foie gras in various forms. But maybe you don’t like being restricted by a menu of things someone else decided to make - you’d rather drink with your friends, and eat whatever you want. At all of these places, that’s exactly what you can do. Pick your bar, then start making the infinitely more difficult decision of where to go for takeout.
Getting food from Han Dynasty or Joe’s Pizza while drinking a keg with friends may sound like one of those confusing dreams that mixes current life circumstances with college ones, but at Finnerty’s, you can make it a reality. Both of those restaurants are about a block from this East Village sports bar, which offers the option to reserve a keg of anything from its massive beer list.
Mercy offers cheap Happy Hour specials on weekdays until 8pm, it’s about a block off Union Square, and it’s one of the few bars in the area with outdoor space. Despite all that, it’s rarely swamped, probably because it’s at the base of a brownstone on a side street, and when you first walk in, it just looks like a small dive. Order delivery or bring in sandwiches from Daily Provisions, and use this place when you need a convenient spot to meet friends coming from different parts of the city.
Greenwich Treehouse has a lot going on - Star Wars paraphernalia on the walls, sports on TV, a room with a dance floor, and a small lounge that looks like someone’s private library. This second-floor bar in the West Village also has a bucket of delivery menus in case you need ordering inspiration (or you’re too busy taking advantage of Happy Hour - every day until 8pm - to go out for pick-up).
If you work late or don’t enjoy drinking before Jeopardy airs at 7pm because you play to win, it can be hard to find a Happy Hour you can actually attend. But Local 138 does a Happy Hour until 9pm daily, and they also let you bring your own food. So if you want to plan an affordable dinner date with yourself, pick up some dinner from Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop or Patacon Pisao, and eat it in this dark, divey LES bar while you drink a $4 beer and check the r/mildlyinteresting subreddit on your phone.
After impressing your ex by posting pictures at MoMA PS1, you’re ready for comfort food and cheap drinks. Get some burnt ends and mac and cheese from John Brown Smokehouse, and eat it at LIC Bar while drinking Happy Hour well drinks or shot and beer combos. If it’s nice out, sit in the back garden, where there’s live music every weekend during the summer.
If we’re getting a drink in a Bushwick, The Three Diamond Door is the first place that comes to mind. This is probably because it feels like a neighborhood bar where people would hang out in a sitcom about Bushwick, and if you stick around late enough, it’s a great place to meet strangers. It has a long bar, big booths, and a space in the back that turns into a dance floor on weekends. They also let you bring in your own food, and there are lots of good options nearby. If you want a burger, for example, get it from BK Jani. Or if you want some pizza, pick one up at Archie’s.
Dive 75 both looks and feels like the common area of an unsanctioned fraternity near a moderately-sized state university, so it makes perfect sense that you can have a beer and eat takeout here. There’s a big fish tank in the middle of the room, the decor consists of things like a Steve Zissou poster and boar head mounted on the wall, and you can either sit at the bar and watch some sports while you eat your dinner or hang out on a couch in the corner. There are also a bunch of board games, if you like to do competitive things while you eat.
Another BYOF option on the Upper West Side, Bob’s Your Uncle is a little bit bigger than Dive 75, and it feels slightly less like the home of several 20-year-olds who might own lava lamps. It’s just a big open room with brick walls and a shuffleboard table, and it’s perfect for when you just want a normal place for a low-key drink. They also serve jello shots, which are technically food - but the appropriate move is to go to Saiguette (half a block away) and pick up a banh mi.
Standings is a serious sports bar. If that phrase conjures images of Jets fans spilling beers on each other while missing aggressive high-fives, you’re not far off. But if you’re OK with (or excited about) a place where the entire focus is on the games on TV, then this is one of your the best options in the city. The small space has eight TVs, which almost always play volume, and a rotating selection of high-quality beers. It’s in the East Village, so you have a lot of BYO food options, but we recommend getting buffalo wings from Dan And John’s two blocks away.
If you’re used to ignoring (or giving in to) dogs as they stare up at you during meals, then you’ll be comfortable eating food in the backyard at D.B.A. in the East Village. If you’d rather not give every fourth bite to a particularly manipulative golden retriever, just eat at the bar inside. Either way, take advantage of the excellent and unusual beer selection or huge whiskey list here.
You’re drinking with a group around Crown Heights and people are getting hungry, but you don’t want to have a sit-down dinner or settle for over-breaded buffalo wings at a sports bar. Grab a few $6 plates of really good jerk chicken and some $1 festivals (basically long, sweet hushpuppies) from Peppa’s, and bring it all to Nostrand Avenue Pub, a block away. Sit at a picnic table in the big backyard or hang out by the bar, and if you come before 7pm, take advantage of Happy Hour discounts on wine or any of the beers on the solid draft list.
Ace Bar is where you go when you want to drink something with a maximum of two ingredients and play some darts with a couple of friends who don’t expect you to entertain them or even make quality conversation. It’s a big divey bar in the East Village, it has a couple of pool tables and skee-ball in addition to dart boards, and it gets pretty packed on weekends. So either come here on a Saturday if you want to meet some people, or stop by on a weeknight with some takeout from the nearby Bobwhite Counter and play a few games while you eat fried chicken.
Your kids are really into buttered pasta and extra crispy hot dogs this week. If you live near Park Slope, bring their current favorites with you to Strong Rope Brewery. The casual space has room for kids to run around while you ask the bartender to customize you a flight of the rotating house beers.
Diamond Dogs is a casual bar in Astoria with good beers on tap and “cans of the week” that’ll cause beer nerds to make the weekend N/W look like the L at rush hour. If you’re bringing in food, you have two great options that are both about a block away. In the winter, eat a bowl loaded with meatballs and pork rinds from Pye Boat Noodle at the bar, and when the weather is nicer, eat some burnt ends and smoked wings from Butcher Bar in the backyard.
We like that Kettle Of Fish has board games, a couple of dart boards, and a jukebox that actually works. We also like the fact that you can sit here and have a pizza delivered to you. Or you can get something else from one of the many restaurants in the area. (Maybe stop by Faicco’s and pick up a sandwich on your way over.) Just be sure to avoid this place whenever the Green Bay Packers are playing an important game - unless you're a very enthusiastic Packers fan yourself.
You don’t need to go to Napa or even Long Island to find a vineyard where you can picnic and drink wines next to the grapes themselves. All you need to do is head to Rooftop Reds, a big vineyard/rooftop bar in the back of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (it’s all outdoors, so FYI, it’s closed in the winter). Along with picnic tables, there are games like cornhole, plus hammocks overlooking downtown Manhattan.
A picnic on a boat is a luxurious experience on par with having a subway car to yourself or wearing a bathrobe to brunch. Unfortunately, you usually have to own a boat in order to do this - unless you go to The Honorable William Wall. This is a houseboat anchored in the Hudson near Ellis Island, and in order to get here from Manhattan, you have to buy a $20 ticket and take two other boats. That might sound inconvenient, but it’s actually a nice little trip, and you’ll appreciate the fact that you can bring as much food as you want. So stop by the store and get a few whole lobsters, several loaves of bread, a bushel of apples, and bunch of hard-boiled eggs. Or whatever it is you bring on your picnics.