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.
Kind Regards isn’t a club, but on weekends it sort of feels like one. So if you have some friends who want to go to 1 Oak, but you’d rather have a large dog bite you in the face, suggest this place instead. Upstairs, there’s a lounge area and a bar, and downstairs there’s a room with pink couches and a disco ball where you should be able to make some new friends who don’t try to go to 1 Oak. Just know that if you arrive late on a weekend, there will probably be a line.
Holiday Cocktail Lounge is on stretch of St. Mark’s where mostly tourist and college students hang out - so it’s surprising that this place isn’t actually the worst. It’s a cross between a dive and a cocktail bar, and it almost feels as if it was airlifted in from the outskirts of Las Vegas. In terms of crowd, you’ll find people of all ages, with lots of different groups standing around talking. The space is pretty small, and the busy location ensures a steady stream of people, so you’ll inevitably share words with someone you don’t know. Just don’t expect to find a seat.
Jupiter Disco is just one little space-themed room, and people typically come here with the purpose of having fun. Sure, you could say the same thing about any bar, but it actually gets a little too loud and dark in here to do anything other than stare around the room, see who looks interesting, then try to stand next to them. On weekends, there’s a DJ, but there might also be a line of people trying to do drugs in the bathroom. So maybe just go the bathroom before you come here.
Left Hand Path serves dumplings and instant ramen. Other than that detail, it’s really just a nice neighborhood bar - the sort of place where you’d go for a beer or a cocktail with a friend or two on a Thursday night. It kind of looks like a cross between a cabin and a big wooden boat, and there’s also a big backyard where you can usually infiltrate a birthday party. So the next time it’s decent outside, head out there and try to make friends. Then go get some dumplings. They serve them until 2am on weekends.
If you’re on the Upper West Side, and you need a place to eat a burger and play Jenga, go to E’s Bar. It’s a big, long space with a bunch of tables, a jukebox, and a stack of board games. Also, there’s alcohol. And, if you get hungry, there’s a menu of things like burgers, nachos, and tacos. The bar itself is a little divey - but not in a smells-like-feet kind of way - and you’ll always find a good crowd here.
If you live in Gowanus, there’s a decent chance that Halyards is your Cheers. It’s really just a nice, normal bar with some dart boards and a pool table, although it gets pretty crowded on weekends, and it’s the sort of place where you can start a conversation with a random person without seeming too weird. Some nights, there’s a DJ. And, while you probably won’t dance, it’s nice to know that you can. Mostly, people just stand around talking to each other here, so if you need some company, stop by and grab a beer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bearded Lady is a friendly neighborhood bar in Prospect Heights with a 1960′s feel. 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 an umbrella in it.
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.
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.
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.
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 newer 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).
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 atmosphere makes 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.
If you use the word “yopro” in casual conversation, you’ll fit in at The Wren. On weekdays after work, it’s the go-to spot 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.)
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.
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 an excellent burger waiting for you as the best kind of consolation prize.
Union Pool484 Union Ave
Union Pool is an OG Williamsburg meeting-people party. It has three distinct spaces, with three distinct atmospheres - 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 there’s a good chance that you won’t remember the last drink that you order.
Fast forward to around 9:30pm 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.
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.
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.