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17 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


169 Bar

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.


The Commodore

Brooklyn , Williamsburg
366 Metropolitian Ave.

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.


Belle Reve

305 Church St.

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).



138 Division St

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

Nights and Weekends

1 Bedford Ave

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.


The Wren

344 Bowery

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.)


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.


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.


The Levee

212 Berry St

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.


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.


Union Pool

484 Union Ave

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

The Garret

206 Avenue A

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.


El Cortez

17 Ingraham St,

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

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.


Battery Harris

64 Frost St

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

Lure Fishbar

142 Mercer St.

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.


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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