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 8/13): Windmill, Katana Kitten
At the very least, a bar needs to have alcohol. If it has food, that’s a bonus - and if it has good food, that’s like icing on top of an already-iced cake. Windmill is a little bar on the Lower East Side that has great food, which isn’t surprising, considering it’s from the people behind Le French Diner (one of our favorite casual French spots). The menu isn’t very long, but it has things like crudo, foie gras, and various skewers that pair well with alcohol. Don’t come for a full dinner, but if you want to sit in a small space and eat a bowl of sliced scallops over creme fraiche while you have drinks, Windmill is perfect for that.
Katana Kitten is the kind of place that makes you feel about 50% cooler as soon as you walk in. It’s a new cocktail bar in the West Village with Japanese movie posters on the walls, ’60s classic rock playing over the speakers, and boilermaker beer-and-shot combinations with Japanese whisky and sake. The top floor has string lights, a few tables, and a long bar, but the basement is table-seating only (you can make a reservation, and you should if you’re coming on a weekend). Don’t skip the bar food - the burger and crinkle fries with seaweed flakes on top are really good.
A hotel bar in Tribeca doesn’t sound particularly interesting to, well, anybody, but Primo’s is actually a great new place to drink. This cocktail bar off the lobby of the Frederick Hotel looks like a set from The Life Aquatic, with conch shell lights, colorful velvet furniture, and servers in matching red jackets. Along with a whole page of coffee-based cocktails, they serve classic drinks as well as beachy ones, like the very good daiquiri with grapefruit and lime. There’s also a separate room in the back that opens later in the night, with a bar, DJ, and dance floor.
If you spend time around Kips Bay, you know there are plenty of bars serving pitchers of Harpoon IPA and showing replays of Mets games on 20 different TVs. Stay Gold is not one of them. This is a new cocktail spot on 3rd Avenue from the team behind The Up & Up - an upscale bar in Greenwich Village - but this place is more casual than that one. You can have drinks like a frozen one made with bourbon, IPA, ginger, and lemon, and there’s also a big backyard full of picnic tables and hanging lights.
To get to The Hidden Pearl, you have to find the semi-secret entrance all the way at the back of Wanpaku, a ramen place in Greenpoint. But once you get inside, this place doesn’t really feel like a hidden bar or a speakeasy. It’s just a tiny spot with a skylight and a few nice tables, and the staff is extremely friendly. The Japanese-inspired cocktails are excellent, and you can order snacks like pork buns and tuna on crispy rice. Make a reservation, and bring a date. It’s perfect for that.
Until recently, there was a bar in Williamsburg called Battery Harris that had a big backyard and an inside area where you could dance on weekends. Now, there’s a new bar called The Breakers in the same space, and it basically just feels like Battery Harris got a new paint job and some skateboards on the walls. They serve food like some very large fish tacos and a great fried chicken sandwich, so stop by for a snack in the big backyard, or come for a late-night dance party.
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 reservation-only 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.
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.
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.