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.
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).
An unpretentious, never-too-crowded craft cocktail bar in the LES? Yes, this is a real thing. Hill & Dale flies under the radar – we blame the off-putting Subway next door – but that makes it an even better choice for your mid-week low-key friend hang, or for when your coworkers want to go someplace “fun” that’s not a big production. Also important: Happy Hour goes until 8, except for Mondays, when it lasts all 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.
The Leadbelly never lets us down. Why? It’s sexy without trying too hard, it’s laid-back yet cool, the oysters are fantastic, and it’s the elusive, perfect first/early in the game date spot. That said, you could really come here with any human and have a great time.
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.
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.
Another hard-to-locate speakeasy that makes this list is Nitecap, located in the basement beneath a restaurant (Schapiro’s). Unlike Attaboy, you don’t have to be let in by a host/gatekeeper, so despite the equally-expensive cocktails it feels like the more casual of the two. It can get packed, but if you can manage to snag a roomy booth it’s a great time for a group.
“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.