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 6/7): The Polynesian, Elsewhere, Broken Shaker, The Woodstock, Rooftop Reds
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.
Every summer, you should have a checklist of things to do. You don’t actually have to write it down, but it should at least be in your head somewhere, and it should include things like a trip to the Rockaways, a weekend at a beach house, and - as of this summer - a rooftop party at Elsewhere. This is a big warehouse venue in Bushwick with a few different indoor spaces, and they just opened up their large rooftop. Different DJs play up there most nights, and, once it gets crowded enough, the whole space effectively turns into one large dance floor. Depending on who’s performing, you might have to pay a cover - but if you like dancing and being outdoors, it will 100% be worth it.
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.
The Woodstock is a big bar in Meatpacking with original Salvador Dali paintings hanging on the walls. But before you group it with other spots in the area where doormen keep lines out front even when it’s empty inside, you should know this place is pretty relaxed. You can wear whatever you want, eat Neapolitan pizza at communal tables, and play pool in the back. The whole space feels like a set out of That 70’s Show, including a living room with leather couches and worn-in rugs. As the night goes on, the lights dim and the music gets louder, but this is still a fairly casual spot to drink cocktails (that are all $10) with a big group.
We’ve been doing a lot of research for our upcoming Summer Guide, and we’ve found that the majority of rooftop bars around the city blend together. Rooftop Reds, though, is special. This wine bar is on top of an unmarked building in the middle of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the huge space has cornhole, hammocks, and picnic tables with great views of Manhattan. They grow some grapes on the roof, and all of the affordable wines here are made at their vineyard upstate. Come here when you want to drink on a rooftop with a big group, but don’t want to deal with long lines or $18 Heineken.
Bushwick bars are usually either divey or aggressively themed, but Upnorth is neither of those things. It is, however, a Canadian spot, and you might get that sense from how incredibly nice the bartenders are. They’ll be happy to give you an excellent recommendation for a cocktail that you otherwise might not have ordered. There’s also poutine, a few Canadian beers, and some charming ram taxidermy on the walls, but when it comes down to it, Upnorth is just a great simple bar in the middle of Bushwick’s busiest area (right off the Jefferson Avenue L). Come for Happy Hour with a date or some friends and order a burger and some poutine.
Bring a date to Straylight, and at least until more people find out about it, you’ll seem like the kind of person who knows all the after-hours parties and who probably has a lot of secrets. It’s the new subterranean cocktail bar under Juku - an izakaya and omakase restaurant in Chinatown. To get in, you walk into a bare hallway on a nondescript street and down a bright white stairwell with pink fluorescent lights. Once inside the small space with a ceiling that looks like stained glass, you can order cocktails with ingredients like sushi rice and smoked pork skin, and small plates like very good meatball sliders on Japanese milk bread. If you’re okay spending $20 on cocktails, then Straylight is a unique spot to impress someone.
Rose Gold is in a new bar in Bushwick, and it has both a fog machine and a disco ball that functions as the main source of light. This place is in a basement under a casual seafood restaurant (Cape House), and your friends will probably start texting you late at night to see if you want to meet them here. It’s ideal for a night out that involves both dancing and minor memory loss - although you should know that it doesn’t really get lively until 1am. Also, you might have to pay a cover, especially if you come after midnight.
We stopped getting excited about speakeasies around the time that Lady Gaga released her first single and Lehman Brothers ceased to exist. That said, we actually like Patent Pending. It’s a little coffee shop in Nomad, and at night, they stop serving coffee and open a hidden bar in back where you can drink a very good cocktail. The space is pretty small, but there are a few booths that are perfect for small groups, and the room feels kind of like a cave full of candles. Know that it does get busy, and they only take reservations for parties of 4-6.
Banzarbar is a high-end cocktail bar behind an unmarked door on the second floor of Freemans on the LES. There are about 10 bar seats in the dark space, along with a few two-person, candle-lit tables along the wall. They offer a tasting menu that pairs low-ABV drinks with small seafood bites, as well as an a la carte menu of regular-ABV cocktails, small plates, and “The Kraken” - a whole tempura-fried octopus. Despite looking like a battered sea monster, this massive portion of octopus was actually pretty good. Banzarbar is a solid date move for good (and expensive) cocktails and small bites, especially if you’re a fan of themed-bars or speakeasies.
If you hang out often on the Upper East Side and spend too much time at The Penrose, stop doing that. Jack and Fanny’s is right across the street, and it has couches, booths, and a bocce ball court. It also has great cocktails with names like “1st Of All, Wow” and “Boulevardi Hayyy.” The space has a vague ’70s theme, and it sort of feels like a big rec room in a very clean house that hasn’t been renovated in roughly half a century. All in all, it’s the best new bar on the Upper East Side.
Mood Ring is what would happen if the 1989 art director of Tiger Beat Magazine (with a dark past) decided to open up a bar in Bushwick. It’s an astrological-themed spot with a rotating horoscope cocktail of the month and a hazy dancefloor area in the back that we’ll just call the lazer room. Aside from the drink of the month, they have a list of other cocktails (they’re $11), standard beer, and a few house shots (like the “Bodega,” which is Arizona Iced Tea infused whiskey). It’s a fun and ridiculous spot, and currently very popular amongst people who graduated highschool after 2006.
Vini E Fritti is the third installment of the Danny Meyer-backed mini-empire in The Redbury Hotel, and this one specializes in wine, cocktails, and fried things. Use it to meet someone in Nomad - it’s the perfect balance of upscale (it’s really nicely designed) and casual (you seat yourself, either at the bar or a high-top table). The food menu is made up of stuff like fried artichokes and stracciatella cheese on focaccia, and if you’re hungry, or just too lazy to make a second stop, you could certainly eat a full dinner’s worth of food here.
The Lost Lady is from the same people who own the Wayland, and the concept is similar. It’s casual and unpretentious, but they have good cocktails, such as a frozen hibiscus margarita, and a few different tacos if you get hungry. Unlike The Wayland, however, this place has some big booths and a shuffleboard table. The two-room setup makes it feel larger than it is, and the old-timey nautical theme makes it feel like you’re drinking in the bottom of a lighthouse in New England. Meet some friends here after work, or use it as an early-in-the-game East Village date spot.
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.