Do your plans tonight involve meeting a former coworker you haven’t had a real conversation with in a few months? Or maybe a college friend who recently quit her job and suddenly wants to catch up? Or maybe someone you swiped right on last night?
Your best move for navigating any of these slightly tricky situations is to go to a bar that serves food. It’s the ideal noncommittal setup that allows you to meet for a drink, and if that’s all the time you need, be on your merry way without any awkwardness. If you end up having a better time than you expected, this solution also ensures you won’t ruin the good vibes with your hangry-ness. These spots have your bases covered either way.
If you want to drink too much and go dancing on the Lower East Side, head to Los Feliz or Chloe 81. But if you want to relax, have a nice drink, and eat some stuff, check out Bar Goto. It’s a little Japanese-inspired cocktail bar on the LES that does some very good appetizers. Come here the next time you have to meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile. If you both get hungry, try the miso chicken wings. Although you should get here on the early side if you don’t want to wait - it’s very small and there’s no real standing room.
Lois looks like a store that would sell candles and granola in Palm Springs. It’s a wine bar, but you won’t see any bottles here - everything is on tap. They also don’t have any glasses with stems, and gratuity is included in their prices. It’s a streamlined experience, but it also fills up quickly at night (it’s tiny), so stop by in the early evening if you want to grab seats. Share a carafe of wine with someone, and try the sausage rolls or whatever salad they’re serving.
Achilles Heel is a little bar in northern Greenpoint that has much better food than you’d expect. It feels sort of like a cabin in the woods, and you wouldn’t guess they serve things like clam toast and fermented carrots. The menu changes frequently, but every night you’ll find a small list of dishes you probably haven’t tried. And while the food is very good, this place is still definitely a bar. So you can hang out and drink for a while, or you can find a table and have a pretty substantial meal.
Good Night Sonny is a surprisingly good cocktail bar on a busy stretch of First Avenue. It’s an ideal place to meet up for a low-key drink after work, and it gets just a little bit rowdy on weekends. They also have a large menu with some sandwiches, oysters, and small plates. So if you’re looking for a bar near St. Mark’s that isn’t overrun with people who are younger than Windows 95, try Good Night Sonny. Remember Windows 95?
There aren’t a lot places in Murray Hill or Kips Bay where you actually want to get a drink and hang out for more ten minutes. But Cannibal Liquor House is one such place. It’s from the people behind The Cannibal, and it’s part restaurant and part bar - a pretty ideal set-up for drinks and light snacking. Have some brussels sprouts or onion rings while you catch up with someone over a tiki drink. If you want to keep things casual, sit in the bar area up front.
ROKC is a restaurant/bar in Harlem where they take their drink presentation very seriously. Want a cocktail that’s partially on fire? How about one that’s served in a lightbulb? Or maybe you prefer a miniature lawn scene on the top of your glass? They do all of that. Plus, the drinks are actually good. If you’re going on a date and you don’t want to commit to a full meal, come here and have a fun drinks.
The entrance to Karasu is hidden in the back of a restaurant in Fort Greene called Walter’s. It’s like a speakeasy, but less pretentious. They also do some excellent Japanese-American dishes in addition some top-notch cocktails. If you’re into old fashioneds, have the cocktail with bourbon, banana, and cold brew, and split a plate of fried chicken with someone. By all means, bring a date. (Karasu is perfect for that.) Just be sure to get here early or make a reservation. And if you have to wait, grab a drink at Walter’s.
When you’re “meeting someone for a drink,” you often have very little idea how your night is going to play out. You could hit it off - or you could awkwardly talk about the weather and your upcoming travel for 45 minutes before someone makes up an excuse to leave. It’s stressful. Which is why you need a place that will mitigate that stress - not add to it with weird lighting, or a room that’s too crowded to hear each other talk, or $22 cocktails. Enter Maiden Lane, a bar that’s particularly good at just being a normal bar - with crab dip at the ready.
Meeting someone who gets excited about wine? Or someone who you want to impress with your excitement about wine? Ruffian is a great, unpretentious little East Village spot serving interesting wines and funky small plates. It’s impressive in its own right - so spare your friend the wine trivia you learned while watching Somm.
Silly name, highly useful spot. With its affordable small plates and never too crowded space, Excuse My French is a great back-pocket pick for any casual grab a drink and maybe eat something situation.
You rarely find a good cocktail bar with a great burger. But a good cocktail bar with a great burger, on the Upper East Side? That’s something special. Use Eli’s for anything from a first date to a professional hang.
This all-day cafe was basically made for casual meetup scenarios. It’s also not the kind of place where you’re going to be tempted to eat until you’re stuffed – not because the food isn’t good, but just because it’s more of a meet up for a drink spot than anything. We recommend it for pretty much any kind of company.
A cocktail bar first and restaurant second, The Happiest Hour is where you go when you need an A+ burger and an A+ cocktail. This place has a fun, party-time vibe – don’t bring anyone who might inhibit you from partaking in tiki drinks and getting down with a meat sandwich.
Weather Up’s our go-to in Tribeca for a nice, comfortable cocktail spot with small plates. The vibe here veers slightly towards the date-y, and on a weekday a lot of people here are going to be in suits, but it’s also casual enough for a platonic hang.
A bright, funky tiki-themed lounge with vegan Polynesian food on Avenue A. The drinks are big and sweet, and the snacks – like mango poké – are pretty good. It’s a nice change of pace from the endless dark, wood-paneled whiskey bars.
The cafe out in front of The Standard right on Bowery is an easy go-to if you’re not even sure if drinking is on the table. No one will bat an eye if you order a coffee and the hummus plate. They also won’t bat an eye if you order a shot of vodka at 5pm.
This been-around-for-forever place was recently revamped by some cocktail experts. It still has some of its St. Marks Place divey vibes, but with quality drinks and a lack of beer stench. It’s a good time without any pretentiousness. The food menu is limited but definitely snack-worthy.
Though The Wren gets completely overrun during peak weekend hours, it’s pretty ideal for a weeknight after-work drink meetup. The British pub-style menu has both snacks and entrees, and surprisingly enough, there’s plenty of seating.
The Boilermaker is a great, inexpensive option for fun drinks and straight-up bar food. Happy Hour’s until 8pm, during which you can get a classic selection of cocktails for $8 each. They also have a drink called a White Trash Negroni, so.
People can’t resist an alcohol slushie (or three), and Mother’s Ruin knows it. In addition the rotating selection of frozen drinks, they also serve wine on tap. This place gets loud, so don’t plan to have a super intimate heart to heart. Do plan to order the spicy fried chickpeas, though.
Epistrophy is casual enough you wouldn’t feel weird about showing up in workout clothes, but not so casual that you’d feel weird about meeting up with your former boss there. Its laid-back vibe makes it pretty perfect for most kinds of hangouts, and in addition to classic cocktails and a solid wine list, they also have a lengthier menu (Italian) than most of the other spots on this list. Go ahead and order that burrata.
The Mulberry Project is hidden behind an unmarked door on a Little Italy street full of stores selling THE WORLD’S BEST CANNOLI and mini FUGHEDDABOUTIT license plate keychains. Kind of cool, kind of gimmicky, but once you get inside you’ll find a very nice bar, particularly if it’s warm enough for the back garden to be open. It’s one of those places where you say you like tequila, and the bartenders surprise you with a drink. You can choose your own food though – the chips and guac or tacos are solid.
Sel Rrose does a great oyster happy hour, which is the main reason to come here. Other reasons: a cool, concrete space and strong, fancy cocktails.
Another oyster-focused establishment, this one has been a longtime Infatuation first date fan favorite. Order some cocktails and maybe some crudos and enjoy the non-offensive frequent live music.
If you’re going for top-notch drinks and next-level bar food in a feel-great, upscale environment, the NoMad Bar’s your move. While you can (and should, at some point) have a full-on meal here, you can also definitely get by with just snacks should you not want to assault the burger in front of whomever you’re with.
Alameda pairs creative cocktails with a limited but well-executed menu. Where it really excels is vibe: it’s a pretty space that makes even casual drinks feel a little more special. It gets first-date approval, but works really well for strictly-friendly situations too.
Part cocktail bar, part raw bar – plus lots of other fancy-food small plates (in other words, you’re going to want dinner after a trip here). The airy, bright space is a great backdrop for a hangout of any variety.