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 as mythical a concept as Santa or Donald Trump's hairline.
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.
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.
So 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? Take a deep breath, and 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.
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 great 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 vibes, The Shakespeare is an actually solid Midtown hang.
If you were you to stumble upon King’s Cross on a Tuesday at 8pm (which would already be difficult, as it’s down some nondescript stairs), you’d wonder how it’s been able to stay in business. This is not the kind of place where you go for a casual drink with a friend after work - it’s usually weirdly empty. King’s Cross is, however, a place you end up with a crew after you’ve already been at it for hours and you realize that you either need to find a place with good music to dance to or go to sleep. The former is always the right answer.
If you’re rallying a crew for daytime drinking on the Upper East Side, it doesn’t get much better than 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.
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.
Opened by the same team as The Jeffrey, you can also count on Fools Gold for an excellent beer and whiskey selection, as 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.
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 shuffle club (spoiler alert: it’s more fun anyway) and drink all the alcohol and eat all the bad-for-you bar foods you could ever want.
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 awesome things to drink, the food is very good (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.
Sick of alternating group hangouts at Radegast and Berry Park? The next time you and your people are looking for a place to grab some beers and/or brats, set your sights on Spritzenhaus instead. In the winter, the place is warm and cozy (yes, there’s a fireplace), and in the summer the big garage doors open out to give the place a great indoor/outdoor feel.
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 gives off the vibe of 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.