Downtime is important. Isaac Newton never would have discovered gravity if he hadn’t decided to nap off a hangover beneath an apple tree. And while that probably isn’t true, you get where we’re coming from. Take a break, have a beer with friends, then keep doing whatever it is you do to make stuff happen. Try one of these bars. They’re fun, laid back, no-nonsense spots to drink and hang out. And stick to a good session beer like Bronx Banner Ale - because you want to relax and have fun, and that’s the best way to do it. Now go get some beers, then make stuff happen.
There are a lot of pubs in the city, and most of them are cheesy places meant for lost tourists and 19-year olds with fake ID’s. But Bua is the rare pub that feels alright. Sure it’s on St. Mark’s, but, unless it’s a weekend, it shouldn’t get too crazy. They serve a good, simple menu of sandwiches and fried things, there’s a decent cocktail list, and they have some great beers on draft. We suggest you grab a table with some friends and hang out and drink until someone comes up with a better idea. If no one can, that’s fine too.
Chances are you don’t know how to ride a bull, you’ve never held a lasso, and the closest thing you have to a ten-gallon hat is a fedora you’re (rightfully) ashamed to wear. But when you have a beer at Skinny Dennis, none of that matters. This is a country-western honky-tonk saloon in a section of Williamsburg that’s more expensive than most neighborhoods in Manhattan - and it still feels laid-back and genuine. Go with your friends and pretend that you all lead simpler lives as ranchers in Texas who sometimes fight aliens.
Blue & Gold Tavern
Blue and Gold is a cheap, normal bar - and in NYC that’s actually a pretty difficult thing to come by. It feels like bar from your hometown (as long as your hometown’s small), and people come here for all the right reasons. This is the place to chat with friends, have a beer, and play some pool. You don’t come here to party, you come here to hang. Think of this little East Village dive as an extension of your living room, and act accordingly.
It’s too bad The Rusty Knot gets super busy on weekends, because it’s a pretty ideal setup for a low-key hang with your friends. Step inside, and you’ll find a few comfy chairs, a pool table, and even a jukebox. And that’s pretty much all you need from a bar. They also have snacks like pretzel dogs and a drink list with tiki things, but we’re talking about beer - so get a few bottles of something and decide who’s playing who in pool. This little nautical themed bar on the Hudson is a solid weeknight play, and, if you’re looking for a crowd, stop by on a Friday or Saturday night.
This place is old. We’re talking built-in-1864 old. So that whole throwback vibe they’re giving off is not a facade. This is a tavern, plain and simple, and there’s a chance that it’s survived so long because there are few other good options in the Gramercy area. On the plus side, it’s also useful, unpretentious, and a good place to relax. If you’re in the area and you just want to get a beer with friends (and maybe watch game on TV), Pete’s gets the job done.
This place isn’t quite as old Pete’s, but it’s over a century old, and you get the feeling that the vibe hasn’t changed that much since day one. People probably have better hygiene now, and bar fights are probably less frequent, but this is still just a place to grab drink and eat some fried foods in a booth with your friends. Be aware, however, that this place is way too old-school for the whole mixology thing. So, if you’re a cocktail snob, stick to beer. Or get an old-fashioned and don’t complain about the size of the ice cubes. (But probably just get a beer.)
Noho needs more bars like Tom & Jerry’s. Unfortunately, it will not be getting them. Eventually, this (and every other good bar in the city) will turn into a CVS or an H&M. Before this happens, spend as much time as you can at places like Tom & Jerry’s. The cocktail situation is similar to the one at The Old Town Bar, but, somehow, this part of the bar’s charm. It’s like a Wild West saloon in Noho. It’s cash only, there’s no table service, and you should stick to beer and straight whiskey.
Swift Hibernian Lounge
Swift is another one of those Irish pubs that don’t require a steady stream of Jameson in order to remain bearable. It’s also an extremely cozy space with a good amount of seating and large draft beer selection. (There are a ton of Irish whiskeys too, if that’s your thing.) This is one of the best pubs in the city, and if you and your friends want to grab a few beers in a low-key bar populated with people who are probably young and attractive, you could do a lot worse than Swift.
Franklin Park is great - but come when it isn’t crowded. What’s that mean exactly? Well, it means that you and your friends should roll up on a weeknight (or, better yet, weekday), and enjoy the ample indoor and outdoor space. Have a beer. Get a burger. Play some pinball or have an air hockey tournament. We could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon. On Friday and Saturday nights, this Crown Heights bar gets extremely crowded, so take our advice and get all your drinking in before the sun sets.
The Bronx Beer Hall
Here’s an idea for a day trip you probably haven’t done: head up to the Bronx. Go to Van Cortlandt Park, visit the Bronx Zoo, and when you’re good and hungry, stop by the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. There, you can grab a sandwich at Mike’s Deli then check out the nearby Bronx Beer Hall. Bring some friends and catch a game on TV. Chances are, you know all about Brooklyn - but get a local beer up here and see what Bronx pride is all about.
Still hanging out in the Bronx? Consider the commute to Bronx Alehouse. Sure, it’s out of the way for anyone who doesn’t normally hang out on streets with three digits - but if you’re already in the area, it’s worth stopping by. The vibes inside are neighborhood friendly, and there a bunch of TV’s for watching sports. They also have some tables outside, and their house burger comes with pulled pork and an onion ring (on the burger).
Usually when someone builds a bar this nice, they have some sort of ulterior motive. Maybe they want to sell you a twenty dollar cocktail, or maybe they want you to pay a cover to hear some guy with a handlebar mustache pluck an upright bass. Not the case at Three Diamond Door. Just come through with friends, grab a nice leather banquette, and drink cheap-enough drinks until the early morning. This is Bushwick, so pretty much everyone’s going to be younger and cooler than you (in a way that probably isn’t cool), but you can always just have a few beers and dance off any frustration in the lively back room.
N4 - A Tap Room
This place is inside the Williamsburg Whole Foods - but stay with us here. What’s more laid-back than drinking in a grocery store? And how many grocery stores have bars that serve draft beer alongside corned beef and latkes? This is the only one we know of. So the next time you and your friends want to escape the Sunday crowds of your local sports bar and catch a game on TV, check out N4.
What happened to the Lower East Side? It’s like it went out for a pack of smokes one day and came back with an MFA. At least there’s still Marshall Stack. It’s in the northwest corner of the LES, and it’s the final drinking outpost before the eternal frat party of Rivington Street begins. This is where you go when all you really want to do is a have a good beer and talk to someone without having to shout. And if you do have to shout, at least it’ll be over a classic rock soundtrack. Come with a few friends, grab some tables side-by-side, and you’re set.