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24 NYC Bars Where You Can Actually Meet People

PHOTO: Noah Devereaux

It's a Friday night, and dinner is winding down. What now? "Where do people even go out these days?" someone groans.

We're here to help. These aren't places where you'll quietly sip a $16 cocktail in some booth in the corner, nor places that are a complete drunken mess (for the most part), but rather bars where you can actually expect to mix it up with other humans and have an all-around good time.

the spots

1

Mother's Ruin

Nolita
18 Spring St
MAP

Mother’s Ruin isn’t behind a secret door, and it isn’t at the bottom of dark set of stairs. It’s just right there on Spring Street, and that’s why we like it. You can get a good cocktail here, but you don’t have to jump through any hoops like you do at those speakeasy-type places. Just pop into the narrow little room, order something like a Gin Gin Mule, then accidentally drop some photos of a dog in front of a stranger. You don't need to own the dog, but you should say that you do. That’s how you meet people.

2
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Mr. Fong’s is an island, although not literally. It’s a little bar all by itself on a quiet street near the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge, and as far as nightlife goes, it’s the only game in that part of town. So it doesn’t get a lot of random foot traffic. When you’re looking for somewhere to go on a Friday night that’s cool but not incredibly crowded, try this place. The clientele will be young, and you probably won’t be the most attractive one there. The way we see it, that's a plus.

3

Ace Bar

East Village
531 E 5th St
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Ace Bar feels like the basement of a frat house, but mostly in a good way. Up front there’s a long bar, and in the back you’ll find darts, skee ball, and pool. The only way to get any privacy is to tuck yourself way back into a booth, so chances are you'll talk to a stranger. That’s twice as true on weekends, when the crowd is thick and actively seeking company. Stop by for cheap drinks and a conversation that will cost you very little but might pay dividends.

4

The Johnson's

Bushwick
369 Troutman St

The Johnson's is the cleaned-up sister bar of the hole-in-the-wall LES dive Welcome to the Johnson’s. This place isn’t a dive, but the drinks are still cheap, and you’re still going to find a crowd looking for a good time. Grab a drink and talk to someone. This is Bushwick, so it's likely that whoever you talk to will look like they just ran away from a small town where nobody shared their taste in music (and made a pit stop at a vintage store). Weekends are crowded but manageable.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
5

Sisters

Clinton Hill
900 Fulton St.
7.7
MAP

Technically this is a restaurant, but the room in back feels more like a bar, and the whole place has a good energy at night. It looks like the sort of place Al Pacino’s Scarface would’ve partied at if he’d gone to art school instead of going all-in on the drugs thing. The ceilings are high, it’s objectively attractive, and it feels like one big hangout.

6

Bearded Lady

Prospect Heights
686A Washington Ave

Bearded Lady is a friendly neighborhood bar in Prospect Heights with 1960’s vibes. The colors are bright, the barstools are comfy, and the small, open space encourages socializing. This is also the rare laid-back, casual cocktail bar that feels less like a house of beverage worship and more like someone’s living room. So stop by for some oysters and a tiki drink. If it’s freezing outside, that’s all the more reason to have something with a umbrella in it.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
7

Come on a slow night, and you’ll still find a decent crowd here. You’ll also find a little jar with hair ties on top of the single toilet, despite the fact that people really only puke on weekends. Boobie Trap is, possibly, the most Bushwick of all the Bushwick bars. It’s kitschy and boobie-themed, and if you want to play Hungry Hungry Hippos, you certainly can. Stop by to hang out with a mostly-neighborhood crowd, and bond with someone who also quoted Morrissey in their high school yearbook. There’s a chance your bartender will be dressed as a cheerleader.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
8

169 Bar

Lower East Side
169 E Broadway

Many, many nights on the Lower East Side end at 169 Bar. Some of them even start here. Any time of night, 169 features disco balls, dinosaur heads on the walls, and a leopard print-covered pool table. This bar does have the distinct feature of letting you text drink orders from your table, but hang out for a few minutes, and you'll probably end up taking a shot of whiskey with a stranger. 169 is that kind of place.

9

The Commodore

Brooklyn / Williamsburg
366 Metropolitian Ave.
7.9
MAP

Trying to get a table at Commodore will inevitably result in one of two outcomes: you will make enemies or you will make friends. When you’ve put in your drunk-food order of four plates of fried chicken and are looking for a place to sit and eat it, you’re going to have some stiff competition. Here’s the power play: find someone else who’s doing the same thing, divide and conquer, and when one of you wins, both of you wins.

10

Belle Reve

Tribeca
305 Church St.
7.5
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When you first walk into Belle Reve, you might think, hmm, seems like a random Tribeca bar that's been around forever. In fact, it's a new spot, and one that for reasons we've never exactly figured out, attracts a crowd of eclectic people looking to party. Depending on the time and day of the week, you may find yourself surrounded by anyone from suited Citibank employees to guys in their 50s taking shots to a Russian bachelorette party to a group at a nearby ad agency just looking to get trashed on a Friday night (all true stories).

11
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The Lower East Side is filled with bars where everyone’s pretending to be too cool to even acknowledge one another. Forgtmenot isn’t one of those places. The beach-shack living room vibes make you feel right at home, and the infinite menu of drunk food possibilities make you feel alive. Want to make friends fast? Order a couple rounds of nachos for everyone around you. Shared food leads to shared nights.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
12
7.4
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When you take away the hordes of brunch-hungry humans, Five Leaves at night is actually a pretty great place to hang out. But what’s even more important to know is that Nights And Weekends, directly across the street and owned by the same people, has the same cool vibe, with a much more local (i.e. low-key) crowd - so post up at the bar here and prepare to chat with your neighbors. The bar snacks are also pretty tasty, should you want to save yourself from drunken embarrassment in front of your new friends.

13

The Wren

NOHO
344 Bowery
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If you use the word “yopro” in casual conversation, you’ll fit in at The Wren. Because on weekdays after work, it’s the go-to for young professionals who work in Noho. Plan your next Happy Hour outing accordingly. (But also know that this place can be a total sh*tshow on weekends.)

14
7.1
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On any given night, it's likely that half the patrons at Wilfie & Nell were on the lacrosse team at a small college, class of 2006. It's essentially The Wren's older, drunker sibling.

15
7.5
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Looking to mix it up on the Upper East Side? Such things are possible, and The Penrose is a pretty safe bet for doing so. It's a large space, with good beers and cocktails. This one's basically The Wren's cousin who lives uptown.

16
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The Levee is always packed, thanks to the overflow of people who either didn’t want to wait in line at Radegast or got really tired of being at Radegast. It’s a pretty dirty dive bar, but the vibe is always friendly - probably because people are happy about the free cheese puffs and Twizzlers and cheap drinks. If you’re looking to play Buck Hunter or hang with someone’s dog on the back patio, this is a good spot for it.

17
7.5
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We’re not going to make any promises, but there’s a pretty good chance that you will leave the Happiest Hour with someone’s number. It has a retro 1950’s thing happening, so when you walk inside, you feel like you’ve been transported back to a time when meeting people actually happened IRL. And if all else fails, know that there’s a bangin’ burger waiting for you as the best kind of consolation prize.

18

Union Pool

484 Union Ave
MAP

Union Pool is an OG Williamsburg meeting-people party. It has three distinct spaces, with three distinct vibes - so whether you’re looking to hang in the bar area, have tacos in the outdoor area, or get down in the dance area - you have lots of opportunities to mix it up. Everyone is generally always having a good time at Union Pool, and you probably will too.

Photo: Ashley Sears
19

Fast forward to around 9:30 pm any night of the week, and the bar at The Garret East is packed with party people. The drinks are very strong, and while there are some booths to the side, the action collects mainly around the bar area. If you're looking for a new East Village spot, add this one to your rotation.

20

El Cortez

Bushwick
17 Ingraham St,
7.5
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El Cortez is definitely cool: it’s deep in Bushwick, it looks like something out of That 70s Show, and there are ironic photos of the tiki drinks on the menu. But despite all of that, it’s not too cool. Lots of action at the bar - or if you want a built-in social setting, go on Tuesdays for karaoke.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
21
7.5
MAP

All the way over on the Westside Highway, you don’t just stumble into The Rusty Knot - you make it a point to go there. And it’s that location (plus some kitschy nautical paraphernalia) that makes it feel like it’s on its own island - people are clearly here to stay a while. So settle in, get yourself a few strong drinks, and be grateful that you’re among people who also hard-passed on going out to some terrible club in Meatpacking.

22

Battery Harris

64 Frost St
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Were we to ever open our own bar, there would most certainly be alcoholic slushies. They’re tasty, and they get people not-sober quickly. Meaning more drink orders, and more tipsy conversations with new people. Battery Harris has a chill vibe at all times of day, but like to use it for social day drinking hangs.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
23

Lure Fishbar

SoHo
142 Mercer St.
8.2
MAP

You probably think of Lure Fishbar primarily as a restaurant with lots of action during weekday lunch and a steady dinner crowd. But during happy hour, the large bar has plenty of action. It's one of the better places to hang after work in Soho, a neighborhood that's actually a bit light on bars.

24
7.2
MAP

Employees Only has one important feature: it's extremely narrow. As a result, action at the long bar is built in. There's a good reason this place has remained packed for so many years.

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