The NYC Bar Hit List: The Best New Bars In NYC
photo credit: Willa Moore
In order to help you figure out which new restaurants you should go to in NYC, we created The Hit List. It’s a guide to the very best of all the new openings we check out across the city. As always, we visit each and every single place highlighted, and write about what to order, when to go, and why we love it.
Now we’re doing the same thing for bars. Yes, we’ve taken on the (very challenging) task of drinking at New York’s newest spots. From bars where you can dance to wine bars and breweries, here are all the recently opened places where you should grab a drink.
Mary's has a disco ball so large it could probably land you briefly in the hospital if it fell from the ceiling, but that's just what it takes to be a successful Lower East Side bar these days. This sort-of dive-y, sort-of dance-y bar from the people behind Park Slope’s The Commissioner is where you should come on a Friday night when you need to listen to Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” while drinking a beer shot combo. They also have food, should the shot lead to a need for french fries. It’s great for a casual birthday, and—perhaps the best thing about Mary's—you likely won't find anyone using a fake ID here.
Lots of wine bars claim to have great bar snacks, but Ernie’s on the Lower East Side actually adheres to the strictest definition of the word snacks. And those snacks are a perplexing and mind-bending mix of deliciousness and value in this city. A bowl of cheesy risotto with chanterelles cost $5. A foie gras toast costs $2. What is this, 1937? No. This is Ernie’s Wine Bar, and while there are some peculiarities here (it’s in an annex space for Basque restaurant Ernesto’s that includes their open kitchen, and it’s only open Wednesday to Friday), it’s a great place to pop in for a glass of Spanish natural wine and a bite. Especially if you’re waiting for a table at Ernesto’s and want to save money on some appetizers.
We’ve all let a new book or two sit totally untouched on a shelf forever, and that’s exactly why we’re not going to judge the reading-as-a-lifestyle aesthetic of Bibliotheque. This bookstore, bar, and cafe in Soho looks like the home library of someone with a roman numeral in their name: it’s filled with couches, chandeliers, and wall-to-wall shelves of books that no one is reading. Soho’s best-dressed come here to drink wine, eat charcuterie, and discuss the new Marni, not the new Murakami, but we’d be lying if we said it isn’t an enchanting space to do all of those things. This is a nice spot for a date in the area, and real bookworms can come during the day to get some coffee and crack open a novel.
At Guzzle, the more casual first floor of a buzzy two-story bar in the West Village, we ate $20 soft-serve with strawberries flown in from Japan, served in a pool of strawberry syrup, and we almost felt like it was worth all 2,000 pennies. The bar also has strong cold brew martinis and spicy fried chicken, served with scissors and latex gloves—all of which makes it a good spot for a first date that involves substantial snacking. Below, there’s Sip, a Japanese cocktail bar. A very impressive first date should ideally include both, but Sip doesn't take reservations, and people start putting their names on the waitlist at 4pm. If you don’t have that kind of time, Guzzle takes reservations and has more room for walk-ins.
If you want to lounge on a couch in a wood-paneled room with an excess of rugs and oil paintings, The Portrait Bar in Nomad is currently your best option. Hidden behind the lobby of a new luxury hotel that's also home to the new Café Carmellini, this Italian villa-inspired spot is the ideal venue for an upscale date night, drinks before a show, or a meeting between two financiers who are plotting to close an orphanage. The cocktails cost $22, but that’s more or less standard for a buzzy new spot these days, and they come with a few free macadamia nuts, so you pretty much break even. Skip the $16 fries, but get the burger.
We might be in a golden age of hotel bars. Spots like Lobby Bar and Nubeluz provide a strong argument, and The Tusk Bar adds a little more proof. Located in the bottom of a Nomad hotel with an upscale, flapper-era thing going, this place is a useful date option between Midtown and downtown, with quality small bites from the Wildair team. Pair a mignonette gibson with a plate of prosciutto, then spend an hour or two sitting on a couch below a wall-mounted ostrich. An adjoining restaurant should be open soon.
Hell—according to Michael Imperioli’s character In The Sopranos—is “an Irish bar where it’s St. Patrick’s Day every day forever.” Now, Imperioli has his own bar on the Upper West Side, and of course, you won’t find a pint of Guinness in sight. Instead, Scarlet Lounge has Roaring ’20s cocktails, a sparkling wine drink called The White Lotus, truffled bar snacks, and couples out for a sexy nightcap in the red-and-gold Art Deco space. The lounge is small, and can get crowded on weekends, when it’s open until 2am—but it’s a great option in the neighborhood for a date night with some bada bing.
The music at Midtown bars tends to lean in either a Kenny Loggins or John Coltrane direction. Not so much at Agency of Record. At this cavernous spot on 40th Street, there are nightly DJs who play (very loud) disco, funk, house, and more. It’s not the kind of place you expect to find within sprinting distance of Grand Central, but if you live or work in the area, you should be grateful that it’s there. The dark room is full of retro touches, like frilly lamps and vintage cigarette advertisements, and it has lots of tables and booths where you can shout a conversation while enjoying an elaborate twist on a piña colada or Singapore sling.
Something's happening on Christopher Street. First, Sushi Counter came along and immediately established itself as the best (and only) Australian-style sushi spot in the city, then L’Industrie opened a West Village branch, causing lines down the block. Go grab a slice, then get a drink at Talea next door. The Williamsburg-based brewery has a new taproom with pastel accents and plenty of seating, and it’s a nice place to sit with a friend and drink a sour IPA that has notes of blackberry sorbet.
Tigre is going to be a scene. It’s inevitable, really. The Lower East Side bar is gold and shiny, and the white-on-white staff uniforms are somewhere between Miami Vice and Nantucket beach party. There’s no standing room, but if you make a reservation, you can hang out at a knee-high table and enjoy a drink made with sage-infused singani. This place is from the folks behind Williamsburg Maison Premiere, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise the cocktails are nerdy and pristine.
This East Village tiki bar is like a spring break horror movie, complete with neon signage, fake plants, and creepy sound effects (cue a werewolf howling in the distance). Somehow, it doesn’t feel tacky, thanks to a voodoo rock playlist and complex cocktails that are definitely not your average Mai Tai. Those cocktails mostly cost $20-$25 each, but some of them involve a tableside fire show, so offsetting the bar’s insurance premium seems a small price to pay. Try the Chaos Magick with rum, liqueurs, coffee, and Moroccan spices, or the smoking Bottomless Pit—and get a few snacks to share. There are plenty of conversation-starters for a date, large-format cocktails for groups, and a rum list for the booze nerds.