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.
A summer power player, the roof at the Park South Hotel is perfect for grabbing a drink with a coworker, or a boss, or a client - as long as you don’t mind sharing space with every other nearby digital agencies’ happy hour. And if you get hungry, there are plenty of snacks to keep you from saying something you’ll regret in the morning.
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.
Hell’s Kitchen: land of theater, mediocre restaurants, and many tourists. It’s also, inconveniently, a land where the need to grab a drink comes up quite often. Aria Wine Bar’s second location is one of the few excellent options in the area for this situation - it’s an airy room with big windows that open up in summer, the space is cozy but not cutesy, and the food’s pretty good.
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 on Avenue A. The drinks are big and sweet, and the snacks – like tuna 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.
Wassail specializes in cider, which is great if A) You love cider, or B) You know nothing about cider but think it might make for an interesting conversation topic. They do regular cocktails too, and there’s even a full menu – but we’d stick to the bar snacks. The Jalapeño Fritters are like tiny spicy cheese-filled tater tots and they’re amazing.
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.