The Best Bars On The Lower East Side
From wine bars to dive bars, these are our favorite places to drink on the LES.
So you’ve decided to have yourself a night on the Lower East Side. Will you encounter some intoxicated people who just graduated from college and moved to NYC within the last few months? Yes. Are some places sceney in an annoying way? Of course. But you'll still have a fun night—if you know where to go. That's what this guide is for.
photo credit: Collin Hughes
If you care about wine and talk about it often, you’ll like hanging out at Parcelle. There’s no actual bar here, but you'll find leather couches, corduroy chairs, and a communal table where you can ask potential new friends how the chilled light red from Portugal is. Around 10 wines by the glass are available, and you have access to Parcelle’s full inventory of bottles as well. (They’re also a wine retailer.) Although there’s a full food menu, we prefer using this place for pre-dinner drinking. The vibe is casual and unpretentious, but don’t be surprised to see people who get paid to look bored in Balenciaga ads pop in throughout the night. You’re in Dimes Square, after all.
Lobby Lounge, in the Nine Orchard hotel, is a fancy cocktail bar from the Estela team set in a former bank’s most ornate room. The scene here is more button-downs than crop tops, which is different for the neighborhood, but it’s worth coming to take in the beautiful, impressive space. Food-wise, you won’t be having a full dinner here, but try the ibérico ham, cheese plate, or shrimp cocktail if you need a snack.
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The Dancer is a small cocktail bar deep on the Lower East Side from the same people behind Eastwood. Along with a big, plush, red booth, there’s a bar with about 10 seats. They make a few house cocktails and serve bar snacks like falafels and grilled cheese using pita bread. It works for an after-dinner drink or as a more low-key alternative to other bars in the neighborhood.
photo credit: Kirsten Francis
"Let's go to Ray's," said every single person on the Lower East Side at some point in the last two years. This place might look like your average faux-retro neighborhood dive (that isn't really a dive), but it's actually a small clubhouse where you pack yourself in next to others and drink a tequila soda. One of the owners is a cast member of Succession, and you'll probably see people trying to spot him. But it's not like you care. All you want to do is enjoy some whiskey and french fries under a framed picture of dogs playing pool. (Right?)
Le Dive is in the middle of Dimes Square—the Lower East Side micro-neighborhood where fashion trends go to live fast and die young—and it’s exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find there. This natural wine bar is cute and buzzy, and it attracts the sort of people who wear slip dresses and loafers. The French cafe-inspired space is pretty small, but there’s a big outdoor patio with additional seating. They don’t take reservations, so it might take an hour for a table to open up—but if you’re looking for a scene, a glass of wine, and some above-average small plates, this place is worth a wait.
photo credit: Qualls Benson
The Grand Delancey
The Grand Delancey falls in the category of massive bars where people hang out at 3pm on Sundays and drink craft beer while their kids run around chasing each other with bubble wands. There are 50 beers on tap, with an impressive mix of stuff from New York-based breweries, Europe, and places like Vermont, Iowa, and Virginia. You can also bring any food from any of the surrounding vendors and snack while you drink an IPA or sour.
If you’re looking for a bar that has house-party energy, frozen dole whip cocktails, and a playlist that feels like it was made by your friend who’s a self-described “crate-digger,” head to Lullaby. This basement bar has couches, low ceilings, and lots of people dancing even though there’s no formal dance floor and the space is pretty small. This is the kind of place that feels like a compromise between going out to a club and going to a cocktail bar. You can drink something better than a watery vodka soda, but you can also hang out in a space that feels like a B-list celebrity’s birthday party that you happened to stumble in on.
photo credit: Qualls Benson
Right next to The Grand Delancey, the folks at Wildair run this wine shop that's also a wine bar. Despite the fact that the open-air space looks out onto an Ample Hills stall, Peoples feels a lot cooler than your average spot that’s in the basement of a food hall. This place is especially great if you want to try something you’ve possibly never heard of. Whether you’re looking for a bottle of orange stuff from Austria or just a solid, under-$20 chilled red, they’re always selling and pouring new bottles you likely won’t find at most other bars.
Parkside Lounge is the king of LES dive bars. It’s a great place to watch sports, play some pool, have a drink outside, or see live music and other performances any night of the week. They also do trivia on Wednesdays and are open until 4am every day, but we like this bar best on quiet weeknights when we can sip on a High Life and catch up with a friend. Even though the space is pretty big (with Christmas lights hung up everywhere), it gets crowded on weekends, but the crowd never gets too rowdy.
photo credit: Abigail Faelnar
Double Chicken Please
If you like both drinking and fried chicken sandwiches (who doesn't?), Double Chicken Please is the perfect spot for you. Get the hot honey sandwich, which is sweet, spicy, and herbaceous, and if you know how to count to 15, then you’re already equipped to order any of the cocktails on tap. Try the #5 for a honey-sweetened whisky-and-tequila drink or the #6 that's reminiscent of V8 juice. The cocktails don't taste very strong at first, but they’ll sneak up on you and put you in the right (fun) mood for when this place inevitably gets crowded and pumps up the music.
photo credit: Flynn McGarry
Most places either feel like bars (where you can also maybe eat) or restaurants (where you can also maybe drink). Gem Wine is that rare, perfect middle ground. You can order from a frequently changing menu of small plates, as well as more substantial options like fried soft shell crab with an arugula purée. There's no wine list, which means you'll have to discuss what you're looking for with your server. The space is pretty small, but it never feel too crowded here, and you should know that this spot is only open Monday through Friday.
The Flower Shop
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 '70s-themed, and the downstairs area feels like a cooler version of the rec room in your grandparents' house, complete with a pool table and a fireplace. Expect a crowd on weekends, and maybe even a line outside if you arrive late on a Friday or Saturday.
The Magician isn’t fancy, but it isn’t exactly a dive bar. Mostly, it's just a normal place to drink—and that's a surprisingly hard thing to find on the Lower East Side. Here, you just get a beer and drink it at an old round table. The room is surprisingly spacious, and you won't have to shout in order to have a conversation.
Kind Regards is a little cocktail bar that becomes a scene on weekends. Come on a Friday night, and you’ll probably find a bunch of interns waiting on line outside. Once you make it inside, 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 just a bit fratty), but the bar at least looks kind of classy. It isn’t busy on weeknights, however, so feel free to meet a Hinge date here on a Tuesday. You can hang out on a couch, drink a cocktail, and ask what memes they like.
Forgtmenot is a cross between a dive bar, a surfer’s living room, and a Greek/Tex-Mex diner. In other words, it’s awesome. This is a great option if you’re waiting for a table at Kiki’s or Dimes, but it’s also a worthy destination on its own. You might just come here to drink, but once you see the ridiculously huge menu, you’re going to want to get some wings, dips, and breakfast burritos (yes, even at night).
The Lower East Side is full of bars that are 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 you can congregate over fancy drinks and small plates. (The wings are top-tier.)
Dinosaurs, dumplings, and texting in your drink order. No, this isn’t another remake of Jurassic Park. It’s 169 Bar. All of the decor here seems to have come from a yard sale, and that's part of what makes this bar a classic. This spot is unpretentious, there are plenty of places to sit, and you should come here when you’re looking for a good and weird time on the lower part of the Lower East Side.
Attaboy makes nearly-impossible-to-find-and-even-harder-to-get-into speakeasy cocktail bars feel cool. You can’t make reservations, so you'll probably have to wait to get in—but the cocktails and atmosphere are worth it. 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
The Ten Bells
“Where can my friend and I get a glass of wine, hear each other speak, and maybe eat something too?” If you’re on the Lower East Side, our answer to this question will most likely be The Ten Bells. Here, you'll find a nice bar, a great wine list, and a good, fun crowd. Try to make it to the $1 oyster Happy Hour, which runs 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. A few of the cocktails—like the salty plum old fashioned—will only set you back $10, which is basically like stealing these days. Our favorite time to hit Mr. Fong’s is early in the evening, but it gets more fun (and crowded) later in the night.