If you’ve ever walked through the East Village, you’re aware that there are an outrageous number of bars. Truly. Sometimes we feel like the East Village should start a bar relocation charity, for neighborhoods in need of good drinking establishment. Toss a couple of those random places on 1st Avenue up to Midtown East! We’re sure they’d be glad to have you.
Until that happens, there are a lot of bars to sort through. Whether you’re looking for a quiet wine bar, a place to play darts, a place to drink craft beer, or a place to simply get wasted, we’ve got you covered. Here are our favorite places to drink in the East Village, just updated with more bars.
There are dive bars, and there are cocktail bars. But sometimes it can be hard to find the in-between: a normal bar. A place where you can get a beer/shot combo or a cocktail (that won’t cost $17 or include anything involving “shrubs”), where the setting is nice without feeling overly fancy, and where you could just as easily have a first date as a friend group hang. Maiden Lane is one of these places - a normal bar, done really well. Even better news? They serve solid seafood as well. Crab dip tastes even better when you’re tipsy.
There are several situations in which you might find yourself at Scratcher: You work in Noho/The East Village and you’re having a “bonding” beer with coworkers (whom you’re not quite ready to get drunk with). You live or work in Noho/The East Village and you want to meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while where you can talk (and maybe get drunk together, TBD). You live or work in Noho/The East Village and you need a place to kill time before your next plans start (and probably not get drunk). What we’re getting at here is that you don’t need to go out of your way for Scratcher, and it’s definitely never going to be your final Saturday night destination - but it’s an excellent neighborhood bar for a low-key drink or two.
Need a bar with lots of action? The Garret East is waiting for you. Unlike the original West Village Garret, this spot has tons of space - a big bar area, booths, and a back area covered in sofas - and it usually feels like a party. Your next Saturday night final location: found.
A lot of bars claim to be “speakeasies.” And while none of them actually warrant that title - alcohol has been legal for a long time, guys - Please Don’t Tell is about as close as you can get to experiencing the real thing. You enter not just through the hot dog shop Crif Dogs, but through a vintage phone booth within Crif Dogs. Which means that once inside, along with the excellent cocktails, you can also enjoy a hot dog (or a few). The space is small - come with a date you’re trying to impress, and make a reservation beforehand if you can.
The Wayland has been our longtime go-to for great drinks, good food, and a scene that can be anywhere from date night-ready to straight-up rowdy. Goodnight Sonny is the newer spot opened by the same people, and lives up to the standards set by that establishment. But while The Wayland is far, far away on Avenue C, Goodnight Sonny is on a prime 1st Avenue corner. Versatility and convenience (and a little sexiness) is a tough combination to beat.
Holiday Cocktail Lounge has been around pretty much forever (Leon Trotsky apparently used to hang out here, if an establishment’s Marxist pedgiree is important to you). After closing for a while, the classic dive bar was recently revamped, and now makes very legit cocktails as well as some tasty bar bites. Despite the mixology thing, this place still has a dark, classic feel.
On one side, The Immigrant is a wine bar. On the other side, a beer bar. Choosing which side to sit in is kind of like picking a pill in The Matrix, except there aren’t really any consequences. Both sides are charming, quiet, and usually not too crowded.
Boilermaker is a utility play: they have a solid happy hour, a decent burger, it’s good for groups, and it’s located right above Houston, should you want to keep things in the southern part of the neighborhood. Get a “white trash negroni.”
The 6th Street speakeasy is actually just as good it was when you went on a date there four years ago. Bonus feature: the food’s pretty good too.
East Village Social kind of sounds like an East Village-themed bar in Pensacola. Instead, it’s a cozy, casual spot for a low-key drink.
The Wren gets crazy on weekends, and is a favorite of the white button-downs tucked into khakis crowd. But don’t forget that this is actually a very nice bar. On weeknights, it’s a generally comfortable and fun place to drink whiskey.
Ace Bar is all about games: pool, darts, pinball, skee ball. It’s great for big groups, especially if your big group is the sort that’s better suited to throwing darts at a wall than carrying on polite conversation.
Our friend once ordered a gin and tonic at Amor y Amargo, and the bartender said, “Sure.” He then delivered what was actually a gin cocktail with club soda and grapefruit bitters and quinine syrup. That’s because this is a “bitters tasting room” and all the cocktails on offer are made accordingly, with bitters. No bottles of Schweppes here. It’s small and standing room only, but it’s a very cool spot to stop for a drink on your way. Stick to their menu for the most part, but to be fair, the invented gin and tonic drink was very good.
If you want something cool that does have seats (very comfortable ones, in fact), check out Amor y Amargo’s sister bar, Cienfuegos. Located on a second floor, this Cuban-inspired spot is famous for its rum punches. It’s good for both dates or groups.
d.b.a. has two key features that draw most of its fans in: a large and excellent beer selection, and the also large and also excellent backyard patio. Unlike most East Village “backyard patios,” d.b.a.’s is not simply a dark alley with two broken lawn chairs where the bartender puts out the trash at the end of the night. This is a real patio. In the colder months, there’s also an enclosed greenhouse space – and the inside is perfectly pleasant as well.
Royale is a fine place to hang out and have a beer and maybe watch sports, but the real reason you’re coming here is for the burger – a perfectly griddled, straightforward masterpiece.
Avenue C is filled with fun bars suited for everything from a nice date to being trashed at 2 am. The Wayland is one of those places that manages to do it all. We like it for a drink on a weeknight, day drinking on a Saturday, and for 2 am rowdiness as well. The space is nicely arranged, and the cocktails are excellent. There’s a margarita with kale juice, and you should get it.
One more Avenue C pick, and one you possibly haven't heard of yet. Lois is an awesomely designed little wine bar that looks like it could be in Copenhagen, where all the wines are served on tap. They also serve a short menu of really solid food. Avocado arepa? Yes please.
Head down the stairs past that flashing "On Air" sign and you'll end up in a graffiti-covered cave of sake. Tables fill up quickly here, so don't come with a big group, but this is one of the coolest and most unusual rooms in the city.
Attached to the back of Momofuku Ssam, Booker and Dax does crazy things with cocktails. Liquid nitrogen is frequently involved, as is plenty of other stuff we don't understand because we didn't pay enough attention in science class. The vibe isn't much to speak of, but it's worth trying the cocktails, at least once. Or more often, if you're the kind of person who actually knows how to balance a chemical equation.
Right off the 2nd Avenue stretch of some pretty terrible bars, Jimmy's is a refuge. The beer selection is excellent, and the space feels like a medieval tavern or somewhere weary travelers would drink on Game Of Thrones. Yes, there are antlers on the wall.