If you’ve ever walked through the East Village, you’re aware that there are an outrageous number of bars. 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.
Drinking in the East Village can be kind of intense. There are crowds, college kids, super famous places you can never get into, and a particularly special mix of garbage smells and rats. But Mace feels like it’s far away from all of that. Not just because it’s on Avenue C - but because it’s a beautifully-designed temple of cocktails that always feels strangely calm. At peak times, there are crowds, but civilized ones. You’re likely not getting alcohol spilled on you here, but if you did, you’d probably at least get an apology for it.
Deep in Alphabet City is Mona’s, a little bar where you can hide from the world and hear live music (often jazz, sometimes bluegrass). It’s a good, divey spot to know about when you need a low-key drink, but you also need to not be in your apartment.
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.
Basement bars often feel...basement-y. If there isn’t actually a smell of feet and/or sweat, then they tend to look like there should be that smell. Not Lovers of Today. It’s a small cocktail bar below ground that’s perfect for a quiet date. On weekends, it gets busier, but somehow this place has stayed fairly under-the-radar. Remember it the next time someone suggests cocktails at Please Don’t Tell but you’re not in the mood to wait an hour for vodka tonight.
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.
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.
Good Night Sonny
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.
Partly because there’s room here to move your limbs, and partly because the waiters here aren’t wearing suspenders or monocles, Pouring Ribbons is a speakeasy that doesn’t feel like a speakeasy. It’s on the second floor above a liquor store on Avenue B, and thanks to that deep East Village location, it’s also nowhere near as slammed as Death & Co. Come on a date when you want impressive cocktails, but you also want to hear each other talk.
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.
Sometimes you just need a regular bar. A place where you can fit a few of you, for a last-minute hang, where some people can drink wine and some people can have cocktails and others can have beer. It sounds like a simple idea, but the regular bar is a rarity. Drexler’s is one of them, and it’s great for work drinks, friend group drinks, first date drinks - most regular situations. And probably some irregular ones too.
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.
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.
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.
Everyone needs to know about a bar like Drop Off Service. A place where, even if it looks busy, you’ll always find a seat. Even at Happy Hour, which in the case of Drop Off Service lasts for several hours (3-8pm on weekdays, 1-8pm on weekends). This place is mostly a craft beer bar, but they also serve well drinks and some wine, and it’s a place you should keep in your back pocket for most situations involving a need for a casual drink.
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.
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.
DBA 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,” DBA.’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.
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.