The Best Lower East Side Bars

13 of our favorite places to drink on the LES.

So you’ve decided to go out in the Lower East Side. If you can avoid all the obnoxious, wasted people who just graduated from college and moved to NYC (step one: don’t go to Piano’s), you’re in for a fun night. That is, if you know where to go. Which is what this list is here for.

The Spots

The Flower Shop is a restaurant on the Lower East Side that happens to have a very large bar in the basement - and that’s really why you come here. The whole place is 70’s-themed, but not in a tacky sort of way. It mostly just feels like a cooler version of the rec room in your grandmother’s house, complete with a pool table and a fireplace. You can expect a pretty decent crowd on weekends, although it isn’t where you come to dance. Mostly, you’ll just find a bunch of models and/or people who think they’re models hanging in the sunken seating area in the back or mingling by the bar up front.

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The Magician

$$$$(212) 673-7881
Hours:MONDAY5:00PM to 4:00AM
Perfect For:Big Groups

The Magician isn’t fancy, but it isn’t exactly a dive bar. It’s mostly just a normal place. Which is strange for the Lower East Side. Usually, people come down here to dance, take shots, drink fancy cocktails on a rooftop. But at The Magician, you just get a beer and drink it at an old round table with your friends in a surprisingly spacious room. So if you just want cheap drinks and a place to drink them, come here. Note: it’s cash only.

Black Crescent is a little bar on the Lower East Side that’s a little more grown-up than most of the other places in the neighborhood, and it’s a good spot to go when you want to grab a drink and a snack instead of dancing and/or doing sake bombs. Along with oysters, they serve small seafood plates like octopus and ceviche, but you shouldn’t plan on eating a full dinner here. Maybe just bring some people from the office for an afterwork happy hour. They have cheap beer and dollar oysters from 6-8pm, and your coworkers will be impressed that you know of such a place.

Garfunkel’s feels sort of like what a person from the 90’s thought a cool bar in the 2000’s would be like. It’s a speakeasy behind a door that looks like a safe, and it’s filled with furniture upholstered with suede and crushed velvet. That said, it’s a good place to know about if you want a cocktail on the LES, but you don’t feel like being surrounded by recent college graduates taking shots of raspberry vodka. Plus, you can drink while sitting in an armchair - which is nice if you’ve been working all week and the voodoo doll you made of your boss hasn’t been living up to expectations.

Kind Regards is a little cocktail bar that becomes a bit of a scene on weekends. Come on a Friday night, and you’ll probably find a line outside with a doorman at the front. Once you make it inside, however, you can either hang out in the lounge area upstairs, or head down to the basement and make some new friends. It can definitely get crowded and a just a little bit fratty here, but there probably won’t be anyone yelling “shots,” and the bar at least looks kind of classy. It isn’t busy on weeknights, however, so feel free to meet a Bumble date here on a Tuesday. You can hang out on a couch in back, drink a cocktail, and ask what memes they like.

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Forgtmenot is a dive bar meets a surfer’s living room meets a Greek/Tex-Mex diner. In other words, it’s awesome. This is a great move if you’re waiting for a table at Kiki’s or Dimes or Mission Chinese nearby, but it’s also a worthy destination on its own. Your evening may start out innocently enough with just drinks, but once you see the ridiculously huge menu, you’re going to want to get in on the kebabs, nachos, and breakfast tacos (yes, even at night).

This shop/bar is a craft beer nerd’s dream (the walls are lined with fridges of six-packs), but it’s a fun place to hang even if you don’t know the difference between an I.P.A. and a Pilsner. We also appreciate any bar that takes its hygiene seriously – Top Hops marks each draft beer with the date that the line was last cleaned. Which basically makes us never want to drink draft beer anywhere else.

The Lower East Side is full of bars perfect for people who either want to forget that they just graduated or drink until they forget that they’ve been out of school for eight years. Bar Goto is not one of those bars. This is a tiny, beautifully-designed, relatively quiet Japanese spot where real, live Adults can congregate over fancy drinks and small plates (the wings are top-tier).

So you want to go to a bar that wasn’t made for ants? Shocking. The Late Late is by no means huge, but it’s a nice-sized, two-layer spot that’s one of your best options in the LES for a group larger than two. Also, there’s a tiny “grocery store” inside stocked with Irish treats. Buzzed shopping is fun shopping.

Like many LES hangs, the entrance to Sel Rrose is barely marked, and the space is somewhere between an art gallery an industrial loft. The cocktails are very solid, as are the burger and the raw bar selections. Go during Happy Hour for $1 oysters.

Dinosaurs, dumplings, and texting in your drink order. No, this isn’t the 2037 remake of Jurassic Park, it’s 169 Bar. Our pick if you’re looking for a good and weird time in the (lower) Lower East Side. Every time.

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Hours:MONDAY6:00PM to 4:00AM

Just when we were really getting tired of the nearly-impossible-to-find-and-even-harder-to-get-into speakeasy cocktail bars, Attaboy went and made them feel cool again. Makes sense, since it occupies the space of the OG speakeasy bar Milk & Honey, and is run by two of its veteran bartenders. You can’t make reservations – so come early or be prepared to wait – but the cocktails and atmosphere inside is actually worth it. Also: ring the doorbell to get in, and know there’s a good chance you’ll be standing as there are only a few seats.

photo credit: Emily Schindler

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The Ten Bells

Hours:MONDAY5:00PM to 2:00AM

“Where can my friend and I get a glass of wine after work where we can hear each other speak, and maybe eat something too?” is the question of the century. And if you’re in the Lower East Side, our answer will more often than not be The Ten Bells. Nice bar, great wine list, and a good, fun crowd. You’ll like it even more if you can make it for $1 Oyster Happy Hour, until 7pm daily.

Mr. Fong’s tends to be filled with white-overall-wearing people who look like they don’t have normal jobs. That said, the place has surprisingly inclusive vibes, friendly staff, and great music. The Chinese-inspired cocktails – like the salty plum old fashioned – will only set you back $9, which is basically like stealing these days. Our favorite time to hit Mr. Fong’s is early in the evening (be warned, it gets crowded later on).

Got your dad in town from Michigan? Marshall Stack is the kind of chill bar where he’d (almost) fit in. Even if you don’t have anyone over-50 in tow, it’s a great, casual, unpretentious oasis in an area filled with sceney spots. This is a great place to catch up over a few beers.

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Suggested Reading

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Kiki’s is a Greek place on the Lower East Side that’s packed every night and serves good, affordable food.

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169 Bar

A classic dive on the Lower East Side, 169 Bar is always a fun choice.