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The NYC Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now

PHOTO: Noah Devereaux

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.

the spots

Elsa

136 Atlantic Ave
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Elsa used to be in the East Village, but they moved their operation to Carroll Gardens, and it’s essentially the same setup. There’s a little bar up front, plenty of two-person tables for date night, and the whole place is very well designed. Which is to say, you’ll want to hang out here and drink a cocktail. They don’t have much food, but the drink menu is pretty extensive, and, if it’s warm out, you’re probably going to want their salted watermelon frozé. They serve the same stuff at Ramona in Greenpoint (because the bars are owned by the same people).

Mad Tropical

Bushwick
236 Troutman St
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Tandem was a divey neighborhood bar in Bushwick where you went to dance or accidentally make out with someone or both. But that place closed, and now it’s called Mad Tropical. Thing is, it feels pretty much the same. The only real differences are a few more houseplants and a kitchen serving tacos. So stop by for a dance party in the back room (Thursday through Saturday), and expect to find a bunch of young people dancing like they heard that’s how you stay young. Or come on a weeknight with a few friends. It should be pretty quiet then.

Photo: Noah Devereaux
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In the summer, all you really need is a drink, a seat outside, and maybe something to eat. Parklife has all three of these things. It’s a little bar with a taqueria and a big yard filled with picnic tables. For an afternoon hang with friends, this place works perfectly, and if you bring a board game you could probably make a day out of it. You’ll have to travel to Carroll Gardens in order to get here, but it makes a great alternative to the other outdoor drinking spots in the area (Threes Brewing, Lavender Lake), and you should take advantage of it while it’s still under-the-radar.

Speakeasies tend to take themselves too seriously, but Mezcaleria La Milagrosa mostly avoids this. Yes, you have to enter through a freezer door in the back of a fake bodega in Williamsburg, but once you get inside, it’s pretty laid-back. You just order at the bar then find a place to sit or stand. The space isn’t huge (so don’t come with more than three people), but there is a nice (tiny) dance floor by the DJ booth, and we could see ourselves bringing a date here.

Another new hotel rooftop, The Crown at 50 Bowery is where you’ll want to go if you want good views but don’t want to be surrounded by humans. At least right now, this place is still surprisingly free of crowds - it’s simply a good-sized, simple space to have an (admittedly overpriced, but you’re on a hotel rooftop) cocktail while looking uptown.

Bar Moga

128 W Houston St
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If you often find yourself wanting cocktails in Greenwich Village, and you basically pay rent at Dante, there’s a new option available to you. Bar Moga is a Japanese-inspired cocktail spot that’s part bar and part restaurant, and it’s a good option for grabbing a drink before or after dinner nearby. The cocktails are made well (get the Queens Park Swizzle) and the location is convenient - just be warned this place does get packed.

Photo: Kuo-Heng Huang

Harold's Surf Shack

SoHo
231 Hudson Street
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Lately, people have been asking us where you can get frozen rosé. And since we aren’t going to be doing a list of the Top 10 Places To Drink Frozen Rose any time soon (and we definitely aren’t going to start calling it frozé, so don’t even try), we’ll go ahead and give you one spot: Harold’s Surf Shack. It’s the summertime pop-up on the top of Arlo Soho, and they have a few frozen drinks along with whatever else you might want - beer, wine, a little kiddie pool, and also a big patio where you can sit with some friends at a picnic table. This is is a downtown rooftop, but it isn’t too sceney (although you should expect crowds on the weekends).

Diamond Lil

179 Nassau Avenue
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There are a lot of good bars in Greenpoint, but the newly opened Diamond Lil already stands out as one of the better spots. It’s hard not to appreciate a place with velvet bar stools, a giant portrait of a person reading behind the bar, and a good number of booths in which to hang out. Come here for a low-key cocktail or an early-in-the-game date. It’s a good mix of casual and classy, and the soul/funk soundtrack should make you seem like an overall more romantic person.

Photo: Jackie Roman

Attaboy is the hidden LES bar where you ring a doorbell to get in, and the bartenders make you a surprise drink based on a few questions. Diamond Reef is from the same owners, and, like Attaboy, they make good cocktails. But it’s a lot more casual. It’s also tropical-themed, and it’s a great place to get a few good drinks with friends. You can either order one of the house cocktails (we like the slushy with scotch), or you can just hang out and have a beer. There aren’t a ton of seats, however, so either come early or be willing to stand. Although if it’s nice out, you can hang in the backyard.

The Flower Shop has two-floors, and, as far we know, you can’t buy any flowers here. There’s a ground-level restaurant and a bar in the basement, and the whole place has retro 70’s vibes. It’s like a cooler version of your grandmother’s house. The downstairs bar is a great spot for a relatively low-key hang, although you can expect a crowd on weekends (when it feels like a party in the basement of a very nice house that hasn’t been renovated in decades). It isn’t somewhere you’re going to dance, but it’s definitely a see-and-be-seen sort of place. So maybe comb your hair. Or if that sounds exhausting, put on a nice hat.

The Lately

Chelsea
357 W 16th St
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The Lately is a new bar just above the Meatpacking District, and we aren’t really sure what theme they’re going for. It smells like incense, there’s a jar of rocks on the bar, they play classic rock, and there are some shelves with wooden ducks on them. Also, the whole place has some vaguely Nordic vibes. Confusing theme aside, it’s still a good spot to grab a casual drink in a neighborhood that desperately needs more bars like this. There are plenty of stools and a few couches, and there’s even a second floor where you can book a table. So make The Lately your go-to when you need a fun place to hang near the Meatpacking District but you don’t necessarily want to be surrounded by drunk versions of everyone you’ve ever seen on Tinder.

Goldie's

Greenpoint
195 Nassau Ave.
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Goldie’s is not the newest bar on this list. In fact, it’s been open for a little while. But for a place this cool, it’s flying way under the radar. It feels like an off-the-strip Vegas bar from the 80’s, except instead of a depressingly coked-up crowd wearing skintight leather and five-inch platforms, it’s filled with Greenpoint locals drinking beer-and-shot combos and eating free goldfish.There are big leather booths if you’re with a crowd, a u-shaped bar perfect for a first meeting with a stranger, and a pool table for making new friends. Also: happy hour (till 8pm on weekdays) involves $6 margaritas. Goldie’s is that rare combination of fun and low-key that makes it easy to hang here for hours.

If you’re someone who enjoys beer and/or hanging outside, you’re probably familiar with Threes Brewing in Gowanus. Turns out a lot of people enjoy beer and/or hanging outside, so Threes now has a spinoff second location in Greenpoint. The outdoor space here is much smaller than the original (just a few sidewalk tables), but what it lacks in Vitamin D exposure Threes Greenpoint makes up for with the rest of the experience. The indoor space is a great place to hang with any number of people, and the menu is surprisingly great - you can get everything from a farro salad to a very respectable burger. Their rotating draughts and cans are always fun to try, and there’s a DJ some nights to add some extra vibey-ness.

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The new thing is to give your restaurant or bar a name that could have been the title of an 80’s sitcom. Kind Regards would have been about a single father named Matthew Kind who ghostwrites love letters but can’t seem to find himself a partner that all twelve of his children approve of. Although it’s really just a bar in the former Cake Shop space. And, for an LES spot, it’s surprisingly calm. Sort of like The Garret in the East Village. The space is long and narrow, and there’s a little lounge-y area in the back where you can hang out on some couches. It’s a good first date spot, although you should expect a crowd on weekends. It’s on the LES, so that’s unavoidable.

Ghost Donkey

NOHO
4 Bleecker St
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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.

Photo: Charles de Vaivre

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.

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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.

Photo: Jane Beiles

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.

Photo: Noah Fecks

Karasu

Fort Greene
166 Dekalb Ave
8.2
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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.

Photo: Henry Hargreaves

Blacktail

22 Battery Pl
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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.

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