Where To Eat At The Bar Right Now In NYC

13 NYC restaurants with bars where you can have a great solo dinner or eat with a friend.
Where To Eat At The Bar Right Now In NYC image

photo credit: Emily Schindler

There are few dining moves we enjoy more than plopping onto a swiveling stool, surveying a buzzy room like a hawk on a perch, and eating a burger or a big bowl of coconut crab curry at a restaurant’s bar. There, you can read a book, chat with a bartender, or stare directly into a bottle of blanco tequila until you’ve realized your life’s calling. All the restaurants below would be ideal for a spontaneous Wednesday night out or a Saturday afternoon where you can walk in on a whim. You probably won’t have to order a million small plates to be full at any of these places—and you’ll be surrounded by other New Yorkers doing the same thing. 

The Spots

photo credit: Emily Schindler


East Village

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerFirst/Early in the Game DatesDate NightLiterally Everyone
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When you walk into Claud, a chic little wine bar in the East Village, the first thing you’ll notice is the crowd. Since the day it opened, this restaurant has been hard to get into, thanks to the enduring buzz of the term “Momofuku alum,” and the food here is actually worth the hype.  Fortunately, some bar seats are held for walk-ins, so we recommend a solo meal here if you’ve been dying to try their signature razor clams, roast chicken, and chocolate cake.

The Noortwyck is a “seasonally-driven” spot in the West Village opened by two EMP alumni, and it’s the kind of place where you can eat flawless food in a stylish-yet-low-key setting. We love sitting at the bar here, because it offers the perfect perch for people-watching while you eat a plate of transcendently good pasta and sip an expertly made cocktail. This is also a great option for a low-key date when you want to impress someone without looking like you tried too hard. 

photo credit: Emily Schindler



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This Flatiron steakhouse has been a London institution for long enough (with enough locations) to have lost some of its intrigue on the other side of the Atlantic, but we say keep the sticky toffee pudding coming. The bar at Hawksmoor has a smaller menu than the main dining room, but that’s fine, because there’s a bone marrow cheeseburger involved. And if you ask nicely, you can still get that sticky toffee pudding. 

You still have to make a reservation to eat at the bar at this trendy Dimes Square restaurant, but if the idea of eating steak frites and looking for celebrities who hang out downtown sounds like your idea of a good time, we say it’s worth it. Sure, you might pay $50 for a fancy plate of buttered noodles, but they will be some of the best buttered noodles you’ve ever had.

Contento in East Harlem serves delicious Peruvian dishes like mahi mahi ceviche bathing in leche de tigre and crispy pork katsu with vinegar-soaked slaw. Aside from their well-executed small plates and great wine selection, Contento was built with accessibility in mind. It’s the only place in NYC we’ve been to with a lowered bar counter designed so that anyone can hang out there with a glass of wine and a plate of octopus in black chimichurri sauce.

For this one, we’d suggest you bring someone you’ve already seen naked. Quarters are tight, candles are tiny, and the classic French bistro food swims in butter - the whole place has simply got the je ne sais quoi of a horny little Lower East Side restaurant. Our order typically includes Le French Diner’s octopus grilled to suction-cup-chewing perfection and the hangar steak served with a side of crispy-creamy scalloped potatoes.

Anyone who likes diners, eating mozzarella sticks in red vinyl booths, and Americana nostalgia will care for Bernie’s like a lioness cares for its young. That is to say, you’ll come check on how this Greenpoint restaurant is doing periodically and with tremendous fondness. We love coming here with a group, but it also works well for a martini and a wedge salad at the bar, or possibly just a brownie sundae that’s decadent enough to turn around your entire week.

You can get away with ordering just one thing at this Noho Thai spot’s bar and leaving satisfied. Their burnt-orange-colored coconut crab curry will turn your life into a slow-motion montage set to the delightful ukulele cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” that people play at weddings. It’s a little sweet with a good amount of spice and big chunks of crab hidden on the bottom, and we often eat it without any of the rice on the side. Order this creamy curry and nibble on some complimentary shrimp chips. Just don’t make it too obvious that you made a better decision by sitting at the bar instead of waiting two hours for a four-top like everyone else.

Via Carota is a walk-in-only Italian restaurant in the West Village that has multiple-hour waits more often than not. But one of the benefits of eating alone is that you won’t need to worry about that. Our strategy is to come at an off-hour on a weekend afternoon (around 2 or 3pm). Bring a book and get the big salad or toast with butter and anchovies, plus an order of the tonarelli cacio e pepe and a Negroni for good measure. Then wait about five minutes for the Negroni to kick in and sigh while you congratulate yourself on a life well-lived.

Cervo's and The Fly are two of our favorite spots in the city—but before those places existed, there was Hart’s. It’s from the same people, and it’s just one tiny room with an even tinier bar in the shadow of the Franklin subway stop tracks in Bed-Stuy. The menu changes frequently, but it pretty much always has some type of fresh ricotta dish and their signature clam toast. Get both of those things, or try the juicy, pink-in-the-middle lamb burger with the optional (read: mandatory) anchovies. You might have to wait for a spot, but you’ll have a better shot at getting seated at the bar than those overzealous souls waiting for a table for five.

If you’re on the Upper East Side, there’s no better sushi bar for a solo meal than Sushi Seki. The $44 dinner is our dream sitting-at-the-bar meal since it comes with nine pieces of fish and a handroll. Plus, you’ll get to witness a mirage of off-duty chefs, East 60s locals, wealthy teenagers, or possibly a couple who drove in from Long Island in a vehicle that’s significantly nicer than your apartment. Call 212-371-0238 to make sure there’s room for you if you’re stopping by on a Friday or Saturday night.

Out of Lowerline’s 12 or so seats inside, our favorite place to sit is at the bar. It’s here that you’ll get to dine across from the Mets-hat-wearing owner who’s from Louisiana and shucks oysters while shooting the sh*t with regulars (hi John). We always order the same thing when we come here: a cup of seafood and okra gumbo and half of a fried shrimp po'boy. The muffaletta and a plate of hot, rich seafood etouffée work well too.

Unless you enjoy lines, appearing in the background of other people’s family photos, and paying ridiculous amounts of money for bottled water, you probably tend to avoid tourist-heavy destinations. But Grand Central Oyster Bar is a spot worth seeking out. Between the low vaulted ceilings, the tile floors, and the definitely-real ghost of Cornelius Vanderbilt, this NYC institution still maintains the energy of 1913 (when it first opened). There are several different seating options, like bars, U-shaped counters, and table sections where you can get in and out pretty quickly. Order some oysters and a martini - or more from the seafood-heavy menu, if you have time—and you’ll feel a lot better about being in Grand Central during rush hour.

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