You like to drink, and you like to hang out with all 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 Knicks fan who doesn’t like Kristaps Porzingis.
So where do you go when it’s 6pm on a Friday and you and all your work people want to drink away the memories of a terrible week, or when it’s 9pm on a Saturday and all 12 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 Radegast or Houston Hall - here are some other (better) ideas for where you can roll up and drink with a big group.
The Spaniard is the sort of spot where you can meet up with a date, some coworkers, or some 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. 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 five. 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. It’s 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.
A bunch of you got tickets to a Bowery Ballroom show last minute, but didn’t have time to make a plan for post-work/pre-concert, and now it’s 8pm and the last time you went to a show this sober was when you were 14. Head straight for Randolph Beer. It’s a big space with lots of beer and solid food, and just a quick walk to Bowery Ballroom. Saves the day every time.
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.
When you need a backyard the size of a football field, try The Well. You can invite all your friends here, even the ones you don’t like - and, if it’s cold outside, there’s also a big indoor space. This place used to be a factory of some kind, and it’s a great spot to bring a group of people in East Williamsburg. Maybe have a birthday party here. Just be sure to check the schedule online to see if there’s a party or a show that requires tickets or cover.
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.
The main draw of 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 the f*ck 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 crew of 15 during Happy Hour, but at all other times, with its two big rooms and not-soulless atmosphere, The Shakespeare is an actually solid Midtown hang.
If you’re rallying a crew 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 a group at 11pm on a Saturday and it’s like Westway when Westway was cool (RIP). So if it’s 4pm and your group is split between wanting to watch the game, eat something good, be outside, drink beers, drink liquor, and even drink coffee, 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.
d.b.a.41 1st Ave
Looking for a really cool, trendy bar (preferably a speakeasy!) to go to with all your girlfriends on Friday night? DBA is not it. This is as low-key as they come, 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: lots of space to run around, lots of tables, lots of frozen drinks, and lots of people to meet. Yes, it can get packed around 7pm when everyone that works around there congregates, 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 awesome, and this continues to be one of our places for a not-overly-rowdy hangout.
Get 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 only a few blocks away, where you can play bocce ball instead of shuffleboard. And when you take breaks to drink and eat bad-for-you bar food, you can do so in the big leather couches in front of the fireplaces.
Lavender Lake is one of our all-time favorite outdoor summertime hangs, but in the colder months the indoor space is great, too. There are many good things to drink, the food is solid (get the burger and the fried avocado), and it’s in a useful location for people coming from Park Slope and the Cobble/Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens areas. Despite that, though, we promise the place stays pretty stroller-free.
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.
The last time we brought a group 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.