In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to recently-opened spots that are actually worth your time and money. We actually get off our asses and scope these places out - just because a place is new, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.
We’re now doing the same thing for bars. We’ve taken on the (very challenging) task of drinking in many of New York’s newest spots for it. Frankly, some of them were empty, and some of them smelled weird - but there were also quite a few we liked a lot, and which we think you should consider checking out. From bars on a barge to bars where you have to serve the beer yourself, check out the Bar Hit List below.
New to The Bar Hit List (as of 12/10/18): Devon
Devon is a new LES spot with obscure drink names (like “The Knowable Universe (compared to the size of a mustard seed)”) and a full menu of upscale bar food. The cocktails (including punches) are the focus here, but they also have beer and wine. And while you might come here mostly to drink, don’t be surprised if you see a grilled cheese and immediately change your mind. Food-wise, everything we’ve tried here is good - especially the monkfish katsu sandwich and the artichokes. Whether or not you end up eating something, Devon is a good place to know about for group drinks or a date in the area, since it’s cool but doesn’t get as rowdy as some of the neighboring bars.
The Garret in the West Village is a speakeasy-type place hidden above a Five Guys, and the Garret in the East Village is one of our go-to first-date spots (it also happens to have a taqueria in the back). Now there’s a third Garret location on Broome Street, and it’s great for when you’re in the general vicinity of Soho or Nolita, and want to grab a drink at a cool place that smells better than Spring Lounge. It’s a little tropical-themed space with a bar on one side and a couple of booths on the other, and it works for small group hangs or dates when you aren’t sure if you’ll want to stay for three minutes or three hours.
Close your eyes and picture your ideal neighborhood bar. If you just imagined a big place with TVs, board games, a couple of pinball machines, and a jukebox, you’re going to like E’s Bar in Morningside Heights. There’s a long bar up front and a big area in the back where you can sit at a table and order from an iPad, and it’s a great place for a beer and a burger with a group. There’s also a dart board for when you have a few drinks and feel like throwing projectiles. You’ll probably appreciate the original E’s Bar, too - it’s about 30 blocks south on the Upper West Side.
The dimly-lit space at St Ends in Crown Heights feels a little like a furniture boutique, with mismatched couches, lounge chairs, distressed mirrors, and side tables topped with desk lamps. But there’s also a 15-seat marble bar, where you can get some of the best cocktails in the neighborhood (like one with rye, campari, and mole bitters). If you’re not in the mood for a cocktail, they serve wine and beer, too, both of which are discounted during Happy Hour until 8pm. Come here with a date and sit on a couch inside or at a communal table on the patio out back.
Off the top of your head, you should be able to name at least one great place where you can get a drink on the Upper West Side. It’s a valuable life skill that’ll come in handy whenever you visit Lincoln Center or start dating someone who lives on 82nd Street. And if you don’t already have a place in mind, use The Owl’s Tail. It’s a new bar on 75th Street that feels like a cocktail party in someone’s living room. The space is on the smaller side, with a bar in one corner and some tables along the wall, and it’s perfect for a casual date night. The staff is friendly, there are candles on the tables, and overall this place is significantly nicer and cooler than your average neighborhood bar. Plus, they serve oysters and some small plates like chicken wings and dumplings.
During the day, Bar Beau is just a little storefront where you can get a cup of coffee. But if you stop by after 5pm and walk to the back, you’ll find a bar that looks like it belongs in a boutique hotel where patrons dress well and the sheets have a high thread count. It has white brick walls, a long marble bar, and lots of small tables where you can sit with a date. It doesn’t get too crowded at the moment, so it’s ideal for when you want to have a cocktail in Williamsburg without having to shout your order or wait for a seat, and they also have a small menu of things you can snack on. The chicken liver mousse is great, and the lamb/beef burger with sambal mayo is a good choice, too.
At the very least, a bar needs to have alcohol. If it has food, that’s a bonus - and if it has good food, that’s like icing on top of an already-iced cake. Windmill is a little bar on the Lower East Side that has great food, which isn’t surprising, considering it’s from the people behind Le French Diner (one of our favorite casual French spots). The menu isn’t very long, but it has things like crudo, foie gras, and various skewers that pair well with alcohol. Don’t come for a full dinner, but if you want to sit in a small space and eat a bowl of sliced scallops over creme fraiche while you have drinks, Windmill is perfect for that.
Katana Kitten is the kind of place that makes you feel about 50% cooler as soon as you walk in. It’s a new cocktail bar in the West Village with Japanese movie posters on the walls, ’60s classic rock playing over the speakers, and boilermaker beer-and-shot combinations with Japanese whisky and sake. The top floor has string lights, a few tables, and a long bar, but the basement is table-seating only. Don’t skip the bar food - the burger and crinkle fries with seaweed flakes on top are really good.
A hotel bar in Tribeca doesn’t sound particularly interesting to, well, anybody, but Primo’s is actually a great new place to drink. This cocktail bar off the lobby of the Frederick Hotel looks like a set from The Life Aquatic, with conch shell lights, colorful velvet furniture, and servers in matching red jackets. Along with a whole page of coffee-based cocktails, they serve classic drinks as well as beachy ones, like the very good daiquiri with grapefruit and lime. There’s also a separate room in the back that opens later in the night, with a bar, DJ, and dance floor.
If you spend time around Kips Bay, you know there are plenty of bars serving pitchers of Harpoon IPA and showing replays of Mets games on 20 different TVs. Stay Gold is not one of them. This is a new cocktail spot on 3rd Avenue from the team behind The Up & Up - an upscale bar in Greenwich Village - but this place is more casual than that one. You can have drinks like a frozen one made with bourbon, IPA, ginger, and lemon, and there’s also a big backyard full of picnic tables and hanging lights.
To get to The Hidden Pearl, you have to find the semi-secret entrance all the way at the back of Wanpaku, a ramen place in Greenpoint. But once you get inside, this place doesn’t really feel like a hidden bar or a speakeasy. It’s just a tiny spot with a skylight and a few nice tables, and the staff is extremely friendly. The Japanese-inspired cocktails are excellent, and you can order snacks like pork buns and tuna on crispy rice. Make a reservation, and bring a date. It’s perfect for that.
Until recently, there was a bar in Williamsburg called Battery Harris that had a big backyard and an inside area where you could dance on weekends. Now, there’s a new bar called The Breakers in the same space, and it basically just feels like Battery Harris got a new paint job and some skateboards on the walls. They serve food like some very large fish tacos and a great fried chicken sandwich, so stop by for a snack in the big backyard, or come for a late-night dance party.
The Polynesian is a hotel bar near Port Authority that is worth a trip to Midtown. Yes, you read that right. This tiki-themed rooftop cocktail bar from the people behind Carbone and The Grill kind of looks like a spot where Jack Sparrow would hang out if he ditched the pirate stuff and got a job in finance. There’s a big wraparound patio outside with views of the Empire State Building, as well as a bunch of tables and booths inside. They serve cocktails in glasses shaped like skulls, treasure chests, and sailboats, and bar snacks like shrimp dumplings and mini bacon bbq burgers that are way better than the $31 kobe beef sliders you’ll eat on other rooftops nearby. All of which is to say, The Polynesian is impressive - take a third date or some out-of-town clients here.
Broken Shaker is a rooftop bar, but it isn’t a place where you’ll have to shout over loud music while someone spills vodka Red Bull on your new shoes. It gets busy, sure - but it feels less like a typical rooftop bar and more like a house party in a nice beach-themed apartment that you somehow scored an invite to. It’s on top of the Freehand Hotel on 24th and Lexington Ave, and there’s a big indoor space with plenty of tables and bars on either side, as well as a large wraparound terrace with even more tables. You can either sit and order food (like a burger with yucca fries and a tray of uni), or you can just grab a drink at one of the bars and enjoy the views. That said, you should get here early, or mentally prepare for a long wait. The good news is, it’s worth it.