The Best Bars For Big Groups
You like to drink, and you like to hang out with (most of) your friends. But sometimes it’s hard to do those two things simultaneously. In NYC, big spaces are about as hard to come by as a season when the Knicks make the playoffs.
So where do you go when it’s 9pm on a Saturday and all 10 of your friends have been too lazy to make a plan, but now everyone wants to go out? You don’t need us to tell you about The Standard Biergarten or Houston Hall—here are some other (better) ideas for where you can claim some space and drink with a big group.
photo credit: Ainslie
If the area where you're hanging out with your group starts to get a little too crowded, there are plenty of other nooks to move to at this Italian wine bar and beer garden in Williamsburg. The space—converted from a warehouse—has an outdoor patio, a rooftop deck, and a ton of tables spread across multiple levels, and it's open until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. If four more friends want to unexpectedly join you for some arancini, gnocchi pomodoro, and wood-fired pizzas, it probably won't be an issue.
photo credit: Versa
Everywhere you look at this fifth floor bar in the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel, there are places to sit and hang out. An indoor area flows into a huge outdoor space with a retractable roof and terrace filled with tourists taking in views of the Empire State Building. There are multiple bars to order drinks from, and the food is surprisingly decent. You'll be within a few feet of a TV no matter where you are here, so if your group wants to watch grown people who get paid a lot of money to play with balls for a living, Versa is a good spot to do it.
Social Drink and Food is a rooftop bar in Midtown that feels kind of like an elaborate hostel, except it’s much nicer and you won’t see any bare feet or Eli Roth with a chainsaw. With its big tables and wrap-around couches, this is a great spot for groups, and it’s where you should go to finally talk to that person you share the elevator with every morning at your Midtown office. You should also check their Instagram for fun group events. On any given day, they might break out foosball tables or host a rooftop movie night on the huge open terrace.
Evil Twin’s first-ever taproom is in Ridgewood, and it’s a great spot for gathering everyone you like in one place—especially when you don’t know how many people are coming. Just note that there’s no food here, but you can bring your own snacks (a whole pizza, for example) or stop by the taco truck parked out front. When it’s warm, you can step outside of the greenhouse-like space and take advantage of the outdoor picnic tables.
photo credit: Simmer Group
Oscar Wilde is very much not like other bars. And that’s mostly due to the theme. This bar was inspired by the life of, you guessed it, Oscar Wilde, and it feels like a wing of an old-timey Irish castle converted into a drinking space for young professionals. It’s spacious, the ceilings are high, and the bar is filled with stained glass windows, a marble fireplace, and about 40 different kinds of light fixtures. Weekends at this Nomad spot get extremely busy, and you can expect to find lots of people mingling and getting kind of sloppy.
Even if you’re one of those people who stays in touch with freshman year roommates and the kid who lent you pencils in homeroom, you can bring everyone you know to Bohemian Hall. This beer garden in Astoria is bigger than most NYC parks not named Central, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon drinking steins of Czech beer and eating bratwursts with a bunch of friends and a thousand strangers.
Nowadays feels more like a park with non-existent open-container laws than a bar. The massive outdoor space at this Ridgewood spot has picnic tables, fire pits, grassy areas, ping-pong tables, and booths with drinks and food. Most of their tables seat 10, and they take reservations for up to 29 people. This is a casual place to day drink with a group (or your dogs), and they often host fun shows and parties, like one called Mister Sunday. (It happens on Sundays.)
The Spaniard is the sort of spot where you can meet up with a date, some coworkers, or all the people from your intramural dodgeball team. It’s a big pub with a slight nautical theme, a giant U-shaped bar, and a bunch of leather booths that are perfect for when you want to camp out for a couple of hours. It’s a cool space, they serve a full brunch and dinner menu, and it tends to stay pretty lively here. Plus, there’s a semi-private back room that you can reserve if you’re one of those people who plan things in advance.
After a long day at a soul-sucking conference at the Javits center, you and your co-workers deserve a very stiff drink or three. Same rule applies if you and your friends just got out of the somewhat awesome but mostly traumatic experience that is "Sleep No More." So where do you go? The answer is Porchlight, serving excellent drinks and upscale bar food to an otherwise desperately empty corner of the city. This is your only real option in the area, but the good news is it’s an excellent one.
If you think about it, Treadwell Park is sort of like a daycare center for adults. It’s an indoor beer garden with ping pong, pinball, and TVs for watching sports. There are plenty of large picnic-style tables, so if you need a place to meet your summer camp friends on the UES, it’s great for that. This place is also a little nicer and cleaner than your average beer garden, and they serve a ton of German/American bar food. You should, however, expect a crowd if you’re coming at a peak time like brunch.
If you want to have an extremely casual group hang in Soho, you don’t really have that many options. Fortunately, there’s Sweet & Vicious. This place isn’t quite a dive bar, but it also isn’t really “nice.” Mostly, it’s just a big room with semi-cheap drinks and some lighting fixtures that might have been salvaged from a medieval dungeon. This place is usually a good time, and on Fridays during the summer you’ll find groups of coworkers packed onto the back patio drinking frozen margaritas and saying things they’ll regret the next morning.
Lot 45 is the Bushwick equivalent of the Jane Hotel. It isn’t quite as put-together as the Jane (it’s more of a warehouse), but there are some couches and chandeliers and, on weekends, you can get some dancing done here. At night, there are DJs, with occasional themed dance parties. So if you’re looking for a place to get a little rowdy with a group but you don’t want to have to go to a Manhattan bar and deal with a line of half-drunk people who claim to know the DJ, try this place. Just be aware that there might be a cover.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
The main draw at Harlem Tavern is the big front patio. It’s huge, and it’s covered in tables. If you happen to come here during one those months when the sun is purely decorative, however, you should know that there’s a big indoor space as well. They also have solid bar food and plenty of TVs for watching sports. Try this place for a guys night or a big group brunch when at least half of your group wants to drink beer and watch football.
You love your college friends, but why do they still want to go to Houston Hall? It’s been five years since you graduated. It’s time to move on. The next time they try to hijack the group text with a Houston Hall plan, counter with The Brooklyneer, a spot located about 12 feet away. Persuade them by promising you can go next door if they’re not feeling it. Don’t worry. That won’t happen. This place is casual and easy, with good beer and food—kind of like a more civilized version of Houston Hall.
“Want to hang in Midtown?” is a question no one deserves to have directed at them. But if you’re looking for a place to meet Sam and Josh and Chad in between their apartments on the Upper East Side and yours downtown, The Shakespeare is a great middle-ground option. We wouldn’t suggest you bring a group of 15 during Happy Hour, but at all other times, with its two big rooms and not-soulless atmosphere, The Shakespeare is an actually nice Midtown hang.
If you’re rallying a group for daytime drinking on the Upper East Side, you should be pointing them in the direction of The Jeffrey. We like it for nighttime drinking activities, too, but try to roll in with some friends at 11pm on a Saturday and it’s like Westway when Westway was cool (RIP). So if it’s 4pm and some people in your group want to watch the game and others want to drink beer outside and eat good food, bring everyone here.
A German beer hall that wins points simply for being an alternative to Houston Hall, but also for its big space, big pretzels, and great Lower East Side location. It has a pretty extensive food menu, too, so if you have a few too many boots of beer there are plenty of options to soak them up.
Looking for a really cool, trendy bar to go to with all your friends on Friday night? DBA is not it. This place is as low-key as it gets, with two key features that make it worthwhile: a big indoor/outdoor space and a huge craft beer and bourbon list.
Right under Chelsea Market is The Tippler, or Manhattan’s version of a drinking playground. This bar has lots of space, lots of tables, lots of frozen drinks, and lots of people to meet. Yes, it can get packed around 7pm when everyone who works in the area congregates here, but at pretty much all other times there’s plenty of room for your group.
Opened by the same team as The Jeffrey, you can also count on Fools Gold for an excellent beer and whiskey selection, as well as some bar food that’s much better than it needs to be. Use Fools Gold to please everyone from beer nerds to the two friends in your group who still feel the need to go to Piano’s every weekend. For everyone else, Fools Gold is in that perfect spot on the border of the LES and the East Village, so your crawl possibilities are endless.
There are two things separating Royale from its other “chill” sports bar peers: the burger and the patio. And yes, if it’s cold outside, the former is still 100% enough of a reason for you to steer your group here. Royale is never too crowded, the burger is consistently great, and this continues to be one of our places for a not-overly-rowdy hangout.
Did you drag your crew all the way out to Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club only to be told the wait for a court is three hours? Be the hero and lead your people to Union Hall (a few blocks away), where you can play bocce ball instead of shuffleboard. When you need to take a break to drink and eat bar food, you can do so on the big leather couches in front of the fireplaces.
Pretty done with alternating group hangouts at Radegast and Berry Park? The next time you and your people are looking for a place to drink beer, head to Spritzenhaus instead. In the winter there’s a fireplace, and in the summer they open up the big garage doors so it feels like an indoor/outdoor hang.
Ramona is permanently closed
The last time we brought friends to Ramona, they refused to believe the place wasn’t a restaurant. Ramona is so big (two levels, ridiculously high ceilings), and so pretty (marble everywhere, many sconces) that it looks like a trendy restaurant that would probably serve seasonal small plates. All that said, don’t come to Ramona hungry, because this is a straight-up cocktail bar. And an excellent one at that.