Ah, Soho. Land of stores, that guy who walks around with a cat on his head, and surprisingly... not as many great bars as you’d think.
There are some good bars in Soho and in the bordering Nolita area, so we’ve paired them together to serve your south of Houston Street drinking needs.
There are three main things you need to know about (and order at) Mother’s Ruin. They are: alcoholic slushies, wine on tap, and fried chickpeas. This relaxed Nolita bar is cool without being too cool. There isn’t a ton of table seating and standing is often necessary, so this one is better suited to stopping in with a small group than it is to a date.
The Brooklyneer is a Brooklyn-themed bar, in Soho, that takes soccer seriously. Ponder that for a second. But not for too long, because this is actually a very useful hangout, with very good food. Use it if you want to catch some futbol, or if you need to escape the fraternity mixer that is next door at Houston Hall.
Ever heard of The Ship? Probably not. This cocktail bar on Lafayette has stayed relatively under the radar, possibly because it’s located underground, accessed through an almost-hidden door. Fittingly, there’s a boat theme going on, but it’s more “fancy barge” than polo shirt in Nantucket. It’s a big space, great for either a one-on-one drink at the bar or a small group gathering in one of the booths.
Spring Lounge smells like a sock and a hot dog on most nights, but don’t the best dive bars? If you’re waiting for a table at Rubirosa, here’s the place to drink a beer.
You know the bars where the bartender is like, “Just tell me what you like, and I will make you a CURATED COCKTAIL suiting your tastebuds”? The Randolph is not like that. This is a modern cocktail bar, in that there’s a cocktail list with $15 drinks that have names like “Pom Selleck,” but without so many of the pretenses. It’s always relaxed but lively, and is a good place to stop into on a Friday night.
Botanica looks like a cross between a dive bar and the Central Perk cafe from Friends. That is not meant to be a joke - it actually does look like that: velvet couches, but also grimy floors. It’s an ideal place to gather a group, especially before 8pm, when well drinks are $4 and everything else is very cheap too.
This is the best wine bar in the area, and not just because it has a fancy name. In addition to a large wine list (obviously), La Compagnie has tons of seating - whether you want to sit at the bar, at a small table, or gather a group around some couches in the back. The wallpaper also looks like a very cool science project, which is another plus.
Located under Chalk Point Kitchen, The Handy Liquor Bar is a cocktail bar and jazz lounge of the “let’s pretend Prohibition just ended” theme. There are almost no bars of this sort in Soho proper, so keep this one in mind when you need a spot west of West Broadway.
The Ear Inn is located in way, way far west Soho, practically in the Holland Tunnel. But it’s worth diverting over here to drink in this extremely old school spot with an extremely cool history (it used to be the home of an African-American revolutionary war veteran). Open since 1817, it’s arguably the oldest bar in New York - and happens to still be a very good one.
Probably the most nondescript, bar-iest bar listed here, Broome Street Bar is a classic spot that checks off all the boxes: lots of space, good beer list, and... yeah, that’s basically it. But don’t underestimate it - this is the only bar of its kind in the heart of Soho anymore.