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 you finally agreed to let your chiropractor set you up with his nephew?
Your best move for navigating any of these slightly tricky situations is to go to a bar that serves good 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 expected, this solution also ensures you won’t have to bail when you realize you haven’t eaten since noon. These spots have your bases covered either way.
If you’re meeting someone who gets excited about wine (or someone you want to impress with your own excitement about wine), head to Ruffian. This 19-seat bar in the East Village has over 250 wines - most of which are natural options from small producers in southern and eastern Europe - and a very knowledgeable staff that’s happy to discuss fermentation methods, or to tell you what’s “funky as f*ck,” depending on your preference. Along with great wine, this place also serves excellent small plates, like octopus over spicy mole and a tartine with smoked ricotta and bacon.
The huge rooftop bar at City Vineyard is one of the best places to grab an outdoor drink downtown. It’s off the Hudson River running path in Tribeca, with great views of FiDi and the Hudson, and the big selection of wines here includes a bunch of affordable, on-tap options made nearby at City Winery. To go along with the views and wine, there’s solid bar food like fried calamari, oysters, and a burger with gruyere and tomato aioli.
Windmill is from the same people behind Le French Diner - one of our favorite casual French spots in the city - and it has two key things in common with its sister spot: They’re both tiny spaces on the LES, and they both serve great food. Windmill is more of a bar, so we wouldn’t recommend it for a full dinner, but it’s an excellent option for drinks and high-quality small plates like sliced scallops over creme fraiche.
This is a 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 the weekends. There’s also a large menu with some sandwiches, oysters, and small plates. So if you’re looking for a bar near St. Marks that isn’t overrun with people who are younger than Windows 95, try Good Night Sonny. Remember Windows 95?
If you want to drink too much and go dancing on the LES, head to Pianos or Home Sweet Home. 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 that does some very good appetizers, including excellent spicy miso chicken wings. Just get here on the early side if you don’t want to wait - it’s very small and there’s no real standing room.
The Breakers looks like the industrial loft of a skateboarder who just got his first big endorsement deal, and the brightly-colored space is fun for drinks with a group in Williamsburg. Whether you’re here to day drink or to hang out when the tropical-looking back patio turns into a late-night dance party, order some food at the counter-service window inside. They serve healthy options like mixed salad bowls, but the best things here are the fish tacos and the very large fried chicken sandwich.
Leyenda makes some of the best cocktails in Brooklyn, and the mezcal, tequila, and cachaca-based drinks are reason enough to come to this Cobble Hill bar. But this place also serves some very good Latin food, like pork tacos with pineapple and enchiladas topped with thick mole. All of the above is best enjoyed on the patio out back.
We can’t quite figure out if Bar Beau is primarily a cocktail bar or restaurant, which, for the purposes of this guide, actually works out quite nicely. This Williamsburg spot has a long marble bar that’s nice for cocktails with a date, but there are also a bunch of tables, and you should grab one of those if you plan to order food. Definitely get the spicy-mayo-topped burger, which is made with a mix of lamb and dry-aged beef.
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, and you’ll find some excellent Japanese-American dishes in addition to top-notch cocktails here. If you’re into Old Fashioneds, try the cocktail with bourbon, banana, and cold brew - and no matter how you feel about Old Fashioneds, split a plate of fried chicken with someone. By all means, bring a date (Karasu is perfect for that). But get here early or make a reservation. And if you have to wait, grab a drink at Walter’s first.
If you’re going for top-notch drinks and next-level bar food in a feel-great, upscale environment, the NoMad Bar is a good choice. 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 dive into the dry-aged burger or bacon-wrapped hot dog with black truffle in front of your drinking companion.
Terre serves natural wine along with cheese and charcuterie, which sounds about as unusual as Georgetown hats in Kips Bay. But what sets this Park Slope Italian spot apart is in the details, like the fact that over 100 wines are served by the glass, and the large number of options you have when it comes to imported meats, cheese, and olive oils. Terre also serves housemade pastas and a few entrees, but you should primarily keep this place in mind for glasses of obscure, often-funky wines and small plates at the bar with a date.
Donna is a very attractive cocktail bar that’s a great spot to get drinks with a few friends or a date in Williamsburg. If you want some food to balance out your draft Old Fashioned or mezcal cocktail, order chips and guacamole or tacos, like the ones with braised lamb and dark mole or pork belly and avocado. Come here for Happy Hour (until 8pm), and then either hang around when DJs come on later in the night, or head to Baby’s All Right a couple blocks away.
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.
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 10 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. And if you want to keep things casual, sit in the bar area up front.
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.
People can’t resist an alcoholic 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 fried chicken sandwich and Old Bay waffle fries, though.
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.
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 the tiny space does fill up quickly at night, 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.
If you like the idea of pairing high-quality cocktails with some very good seafood, then you should try Grand Army in Boerum Hill. They have an excellent raw bar as well as some other dishes, like fluke crudo and a charcuterie platter with shrimp sausage, that will make you want to eat a full dinner here in the very near future. The airy, bright space is a great backdrop for a hangout of any variety.
Epistrophy is casual enough that 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 space 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.
A cocktail bar first and restaurant second, The Happiest Hour is where you go when you need an A+ cocktail and something tasty to soak it up. This place gets packed and always feels like a party, so don’t bring anyone who might inhibit you from enjoying some tiki drinks and one of our favorite burgers in the city.
Alameda serves interesting cocktails along with a small (but very good) food menu of things like black bass crudo and a mushroom tartine with ricotta and a poached egg. The best part about this Greenpoint spot, though, is the atmosphere: 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.
There are a lot of reasons you might end up at Station House for a drink. It’s a short walk from Forest Hills Stadium, it serves good cocktails and draft beers, it has a bunch of TVs playing sports, and it draws crowds almost every night. Whatever your reason for being here, you should order some food - like a massive burger topped with melted cheese, fried onions, and braised brisket, or the poutine, which is especially enjoyable late at night (they serve food until 1am on weekends).
Blondies shows football games on lots of TVs that are turned up so you can actually hear them, and it’s often packed with people flipping between happy bear-hugs and profanity-laced tirades about underperforming quarterbacks. But just because it’s a serious sports bar doesn’t mean you can’t also get some good food here. There’s standard bar food like burgers and waffle fries, but you’re really here for the crispy buffalo wings doused in hot sauce, which are some of the best in the city.