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 $17 cocktail in some booth in the corner, nor places with dancefloors that feel like extreme group fitness classes. They’re bars where you can actually expect to meet new people. How it goes from there is up to you.
Rocka Rolla is a loud bar under the BQE with cheap shot and beer specials, torn leather booths, and bathrooms that we endure personal discomfort to avoid. But whether it’s the $3 High Lifes or the desire to experience what Williamsburg was like before the riverfront felt like Daytona Beach, this place always draws crowds of people looking to drink a little more and stay out a little later than usual.
Asking if someone likes waterbeds isn’t a great icebreaker. Unless you’re at Joyface in the East Village, which has one in the corner. If the waterbed angle isn’t working, then you can try bringing up the cocktail bar’s tiger paintings or disco ball. Or you could just listen to the DJ and not comment on the ’70’s-themed interior design.
Along with Via Carota and a premiere at the IFC, The Spaniard is just about the toughest place in the West Village to walk into on a Friday or Saturday night. But if you get here early enough, you’ll be in good company. Nobody wants to leave once they have a place around the big horseshoe bar, and when the very good cocktails eventually turn the word “Wednesday” into a tongue-twister, you can balance it out with some high-end bar food, which is served until 2am.
If you like the idea of table service at a club, but don’t want to pay $500 to pour your own mixers in what looks like a set from Bar Boys II, just claim a booth at Ponyboy in Greenpoint. Even if you don’t get a table, the big dancefloor underneath the disco ball and long bar are both good spots to have some drinks and listen to the extremely enthusiastic DJ jumping around in the corner.
The whole space at The Flower Shop could pass for a ’70s house party, but if you want something that feels less Dazed And Confused and more Almost Famous, you should head to the bar area downstairs. If you make it down before a line forms, you can drink vodka sodas on the crowded dance floor with a stranger who thinks you’ll really love their band.
The Wayland has live music during the week, so it’s a good spot to say, “This band is good, right?” to a bunch of different strangers on a Tuesday night. The constantly packed East Village space replaces bands with playlists on weekends, but it’s never too crowded to get a drink or too loud to go up to people and say, “This place is cool, right?”
Walk down the steps to Peachy’s, a cocktail bar underneath Chinese Tuxedo, and you’ll see a pink neon sign that says, “no photos, no fighting.” The latter is simple enough, but expecting people to abstain from pictures when they’re surrounded by hanging flowers, neon signs, and cocktails served in Buddha-shaped mugs might be asking a little too much. But this isn’t just a place to celebrate your Midwestern cousin’s 22nd birthday. This Chinatown spot has very good cocktails and lots of seating in red leather booths, and when everyone starts roaming around at 10 or 11pm, you can strike up a conversation with someone who’s trying to be sneaky about taking pictures of the wallpaper.
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.
There are a couple ways to meet people at Berry Park. You can wait until the soccer team they’re rooting for scores, and then go over and repeat something the commentator on the giant projector screens just said. But since that might take a while (or never happen at all), you could also go up to the roof of this Greenpoint bar and chat with all the people who’ll inevitably ask you to take their picture with the Manhattan skyline in the background.
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, well, 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.
Sauced is a Williamsburg wine bar that doesn’t have a wine list. When you go up to the bar to order a drink, the bartender asks what kinds of wines you generally like, and then pours you tastes of some of the 20 wines available by the glass based on that. Find someone who shares your passion for wines that taste like kombucha in the bar area up front, and then go hang out by the disco ball and DJ booth in the back.
From Space Jam to the ISS, a lot of cool things happened in the ’90s - not that the crowds at Mood Ring remember. They may have been in pre-preschool during millennium parties, but they turn this Bushwick bar into a party almost every night. Get a seat at the long bar up front, and drink cocktails inspired by your zodiac while a DJ plays by the dancefloor in the back.
Heaven Or Las Vegas is from the people behind Mood Ring, and you should use these two Bushwick spots interchangeably. One of the three rooms here is just a big dance floor where DJs play house or reggaeton until 4am. It gets more and more packed as the night goes on, and when you want a break, walk under the stuffed animals and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling to the main bar room up front.
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. 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.
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.
Jungle Bird is tropical-themed and some of its taps are shaped like golden peacocks, but generally, it’s just a nice, casual cocktail bar in Chelsea. And that’s what makes it special. In an area very short on normal bars, this is your best option. Share some large-format drinks in a booth, and watch your newly-single friend talk to strangers, “when you know, you know.”
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. A better plan is to find someone else who’s doing the same thing, divide and conquer, and when one of you wins, both of you win.
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 opened in 2015, and one that (for reasons we’ve never exactly figured out) attracts lots of different 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).
Union Pool is a big Williamsburg bar with three distinct spaces and three distinct atmospheres. It’s equally useful whether you’re looking to dance on the booths in the bar area (you’ll be asked to stop), have tacos at a picnic table in the outdoor area, or embarrass yourself on the dancefloor.
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 1950s thing happening, so when you walk inside, you feel like you’ve been transported back to a time when meeting people actually happened in real life. If all else fails, know that there’s an excellent burger waiting for you as the best kind of consolation prize.
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.
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.
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 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.)
The Penrose is one of the best places on the Upper East Side to meet people whose names you forget mid-conversation. It’s a large space, with good beers and cocktails, and you can treat it like The Wren’s cousin that lives uptown.
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 passed on going out to a club a few blocks north in Meatpacking.
Bearded Lady is a friendly neighborhood bar in Prospect Heights with a 1960s feel. The colors are bright, the barstools are comfy, and the small, open space encourages socializing. Stop by for some oysters and a tiki drink, or any one that’s served with an umbrella in it.
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. The objectively attractive space 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.