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.
New to The Bar Hit List (as of 4/9): Straylight, Bar Belly, Rose Gold, Patent Pending
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.
Leadbelly used to be a pretty great early-in-the-game date spot on the LES. It recently reopened as Bar Belly with a slightly different menu, but from what we can tell, nearly-identical everything else. The dark, narrow space has a cocktail and raw bar up front, along with a bunch of small tables and a little live music area in the back. Besides oysters, which are $1 during Happy Hour, they now serve good small plates like lamb meatballs and octopus.
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.
Due West is a West Village wine bar and small plates place where everyone looks like they could be named Allegra or Alfons. It’s generally crowded, and has blue velvet booths, and cocktails on tap called Green Witch and the Village Manhattan. As far as the food goes, Due West makes a good burger (that comes with what must be drug-dusted rosemary fries) and little plates of scallop crudo and fried chicken bites. Come here for drinks with a date who won’t mind shouting about how responsible he’s become since adopting his labrador retriever puppy, because Due West gets pretty loud.
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.
Loverboy is from the same people behind Mother’s Ruin, one of our favorite casual cocktail bars in NYC. And the concept here is similar: good drinks, unpretentious environment, and small bites like a chicken parm sandwich and prosciutto toast. This probably isn’t where you go if you’re looking to get super rowdy, but it’s good for something laid-back, and if you spend a lot of time in Alphabet City, you can think of it as an alternative to The Wayland. Bring a first date or a friend or anyone who might want a slushy cocktail.
Narcbar is at the bottom of the Standard East Village, and it’s a great place to know about if you need a last-minute date spot. It’s casual, but the space is well designed, they make good cocktails, and there’s a surprising amount of food (from the chef behind Narcissa). It should also be decently busy when you stop by, although it probably won’t be too hard to get a seat. So if you need place to meet someone in the East Village, and you don’t want to go to a dive or a spot like Death & Co., come here. It’s simultaneously fun and low-key.
If you want to sit on a couch and drink a glass of wine in the West Village, you have two options: make friends with someone who lives in the West Village, or go to Fairfax. This is a cozy all-day wine bar in the old Perla Cafe space, and it’s from the same people (who also run Fedora and Bar Sardine across the street). It feels kind of like a hotel lobby or a tiny Soho House, and it might come in handy if you need a bar where you can actually have a conversation with someone. They also have a small, slightly pricey food menu with things like spaghetti and a Cuban sandwich.
Elsa136 Atlantic Ave
Elsa used to be in the East Village, but they moved their operation to Cobble Hill, 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).
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.
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 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.