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 out these places - 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.
This Noho spot used to be a gin bar called Madam Geneva, but now it’s tequila/mezcal bar with an objectively better name. It’s still a little one-room space, only now there are a bunch of red Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling. The cocktails average out at about $14, and they do some bar food like nachos and ceviche. Overall, we’d say this is a good place to start your night. You won't do any dancing here, but they do have a drink involving a Mexican ice pop. You'll probably order it.
Jupiter Disco is a theme bar in Bushwick. It was modeled on all those bars you see in science fiction movies where the hero gets into a fight and everyone starts shooting everyone with lasers. It’s dark inside with colorful, tube-shaped lights and a few TVs that play their cocktail list on a loop. The bar itself is pretty small (basically just a bar and a few booths), but it also doesn’t feel as cheesy as it should. If you live in the area and you’re a sci-fi enthusiast, this should be your Cheers.
This East Williamsburg space used to be a Korean takeout place, and while we were sad to see it go (RIP Brooklyn Seoul), Little King is great for other reasons. It’s a quiet, dark little cocktail bar with food ranging from a grilled cheese sandwich to a rotating crudo. The staff is also friendly, and there isn’t really anything else like this in the neighborhood. It looks like the sort of place you'd find in Tribeca, but it has laid-back, Brooklyn vibes. One disclaimer, however: it's tiny.
Sweet Polly is on the dividing line between Park Slope and Prospect Heights, which means the big windows look out onto Flatbush Ave. Other than the beautiful traffic views, the people here have done a good job of making their cocktail spot a comfortable place to hang. There’s a shiny marble bar, and there are couches and high top tables to gather around, and there are the requisite vintage-y touches like a tin foil ceiling, old-school desk lamps, and portraits of strangers in big gold frames. The cocktails are also very good, and they serve some small plates (though we can’t vouch for them yet). Sweet Polly is one of the more upscale drinking spots in this part of Brooklyn.
Westlight, the rooftop bar on top of the brand new William Vale hotel in Williamsburg, could have gotten away with a lot. Rather, it could have gotten away with doing very little - it’s 22 stories up, and its views of the Manhattan skyline would draw crowds on its down. But Westlight does the other stuff right too: the drinks are great, the bar bites (particularly the burger) are good, and the space - both outside and in the floor-to-ceiling window-covered bar - is stunning. Lines are unsurprisingly already a thing here, so if you don’t want to wait, we’d suggest you get here on a weeknight and make a reservation to be safe.
We’re already at least a couple years past peak speakeasy saturation, but Karasu is different. It’s a Japanese spot (that you access through the back of Walter’s in Fort Greene), and it doesn’t feel old or tired or like it’s trying too hard. The space is beautiful and not-cramped, there’s plenty of seating, and the vibe is laid-back and neighborhoody. If you care about fancy cocktails, but don’t want to have to deal with a pretentious environment to get them, this place is for you.
If you care about fancy cocktails, and also enjoy ridiculously over-the-top environments, you’ll like Blacktail. It’s a Cuban Prohibition-themed spot from the same people behind The Dead Rabbit, and it takes itself pretty seriously: the staff all wear fedoras, the cocktail list is a literal book full of 50-ish drink options and many pages of longform prose, the design looks like a 1950’s Havana drug lord’s mansion, and on the night we stopped by there was a live Latin band. Even you’re not the type that enjoys drinking in adult theme parks, the cocktails and the service are great. Expect a wait - but you can grab drinks and snacks at Pier A Harbor House next door while you do.
Do or Dive used to be a restaurant called Do or Dine. It’s in the same Bed-Stuy location, and the awning’s still there, but now there’s a “v” taped up where the “n” used to be. Now there are red vinyl banquettes, vintage beer ads, a stuffed goat's head, and an electronic poker game. There’s also a jukebox, a giant plastic shark, and a machine churning boozy frozen coffee. Get a five-dollar 32-ounce Bud in giant plastic cup, or try the frozen coffee. That brain freeze is your body telling you how you’re gonna feel in the morning. And we bet you’ll order a second.
Fresh Kills Bar161 Grand St
Planning a date? There’s no better new bar for it than this one. Fresh Kills’ space is small and simple, but highly attractive, with plenty of two-top tables and a few booths in addition to the bar. But the drinks are the real reason you’re coming here - the cocktails are creative riffs on classics (like an Old Fashioned that also tastes like cold brew iced coffee), and they're excellent. This is a place to bring someone you really like - you’re going to want to stay a while.
Why aren’t curly straws used in all drinks everywhere? It’s a question you’ll be forced to consider at Super Power, a new tiki bar in Crown Heights. Not only are there exclusively curly straws here, but each island-y drink is also topped with all kinds of fun surprises - kind of like a Happy Meal toy, only happier, because alcohol. They take the tiki theme pretty seriously (the bartender was wearing a Hawaiian shirt in a not-ironic way), but Super Power has a real laid-back, neighborhood feel to it. Not necessarily a place you need to travel for, but an excellent spot to grab a fun cocktail if you’re in the area. (Make a one-two punch out of it by hitting King Tai a couple blocks away afterwards - it’s another excellent Crown Heights drinking hang.)
From the nondescript outside, you’d have no idea that Falcon Laundry is actually an impressive two-story bar and restaurant with an excellent roof. It’s giant, and while the design is a little all over the place (it feels like it could be a cross between a mirror store, an art store, and a plant store) - the vibe overall is quite pleasant. We haven’t tried the food yet, but would recommend you have a drink on the roof here before everyone else finds out about it. North Williamsburg has been feeling pretty stale lately (and especially tourist-filled), but Falcon Laundry feels like a solid breath of fresh air.
Paloma Rocket is a self-serve beer bar, and here's how it works: 1. Buy a beer "card" from the bartender. 2. Place your card into the tap of your choice. 3. Start pouring. It'll record how much you pour, and deduct the amount from your card. 4. Wash your glass. 5. Try another beer. Ultimately, it's a fairly labor intensive process, and feels like a place you would go on a How About We Date, but it can be fun if you're looking for a little novelty. There's also a somewhat endearing old movies theme, with posters as the wallpaper.
A new spot opening on the Upper East Side is a big deal. But an actually-cool new spot opening on the Upper East Side is even more important. And Eli’s Night Shift definitely qualifies as the latter. Given that this is the UES we’re talking about, the crowd here is a mix of older people who have been married for thirty years who felt like checking out the “hot new spot” and actually young people who glad to have a nearby place to eat fried mac and cheese balls and drink a good cocktail.
Black Crescent was a spot we'd had on our lists about a year and a half ago, when they suddenly had a fire that shut them down for quite a while. Fortunately, they've reopened, and what you'll find is a very relaxed, low-key cocktail bar serving some absolutely excellent oysters.
Summer means BBQ means you’re probably going to Hometown sometime soon. In any case, it’s time you made it back to Red Hook, and when you do, make a stop at Seaborne. It’s a cool little cocktail spot that was owned by the guy who basically invented modern craft cocktails (who passed away suddenly) - so you can expect high-quality drinks along with the kind of sexy atmosphere.
One of the fancier new bars we like, The Bennett is the kind of place where you ring a buzzer when you're ready to place your order. Expect the post-work Tribeca suit crowd, but also expect great drinks and an atmosphere that feels special but not stuffy.