Dating apps are sort of like scratch-off tickets that only cost a dollar. They’re accessible and momentarily gratifying, and you’ll almost immediately come to the conclusion that they belong in the trash. So the next time you download an app and immediately get sick of it after talking to someone who keeps asking you if you remember Farmville, use this guide. It’s full of places where you have a good chance of meeting a real-life person who shares at least one of your interests, and hasn’t already read and judged your 120-character bio.
Whether you’re taking a break from a hookup app for bacon lovers or the kind of dating platform people use to “make new friends,” Twins Lounge will feel like a smooth transition into the world of IRL dating. That’s because this two-floor bar in Greenpoint is like a pool lounge and disco bar rolled into one. Scan the dark and divey bottom floor for someone you want to make breakfast for the next morning or head upstairs for a quiet conversation under a disco ball. This cash-only spot also has a second-floor deck with a few patio tables out back if you’d rather attempt to flirt with a stranger outdoors.
There are many things we hate about the 1950s, like poodle embroidery and blatant sexism. But the era did make the American diner a well-known venue for eating sundaes, large dance numbers, and meeting new people. So when you’re going out with a group but also hope to find a date in the West Village, head to Bandits. This diner-themed place is somewhere between a dive bar and a tiki cocktail spot, and it’s usually packed to the brim with well-dressed people who probably lose a shoe or two over the course of the night.
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Do or Dive
Do or Dive will make you nostalgic for a time before smartphones. Although plenty of smartphones will be out at this Bed-Stuy bar, there’s an old jukebox, a few antique lamps, some red vinyl stools, and a big plastic shark hanging behind the bar. It looks like the sort of place where you’d get a drink after losing a lot of money betting on a horse. Come here for cheap drinks, a long talk about instruments with a local cellist who somehow has production credits on 808s & Heartbreak, and a makeout session with a tattooed stranger.
Dating is all about getting out of your comfort zone. So who’s to say you won’t meet your soulmate during your fourth round of karaoke and jello shots at Good Judy? This Park Slope gay bar has two floors with several booths, banquettes, and high-top tables where you can sit around and speak several octaves higher than usual with a group of friends. Plus, their event calendar is packed with weekly drag shows, watch parties for Rupaul’s Drag Race, karaoke nights, and other events where you might end up falling in love on the dance floor.
Any night of the week, you’re going to find a crowd at Doris. Maybe it’s because of the backyard, the DJ playing vinyl, or the disco ball that seems to get activated at 11pm sharp. Maybe it’s because of all three. This is where you go to meet someone in Bed-Stuy. It feels sort of like somewhere you’d find on the LES, just without all the long lines.
Ode to Babel looks like your living room if your living room had wooden banquettes and a fully-stocked bar. But it’s actually a lounge in Prospect Heights, where you might hear a DJ playing a very good vinyl set involving songs you’d also hear on the Boogie Nights soundtrack. Plus there’s a little backyard with yellow benches and shapely patio chairs that make it the perfect spot for having an actual IRL conversation with a stranger.
This Bed-Stuy bar has an entire room dedicated to retro arcade games, a second-floor balcony for people who are presumably very cool, glowing neon lights, and a jukebox (playing music you legally must dance to). Despite all of the fun decor, there is no actual roller skating to be done at All Night Skate. Although you can still find all of the flirty fun you’d expect from a late-night roller rink in the 70s. So leave your skates, but you might want to pack a travel toothbrush just in case you end up at a sleepover with someone you met on the dancefloor.
Honey’s, a micro-meadery taproom and restaurant in the middle of industrial Bushwick, feels like a suitable option for people who have outgrown Mood Ring but still want to have a fun night out. There’s a massive patio in the middle of the street out front where you might spot someone who occasionally gets paid to model Calvin Klein jeans sipping cocktails and snacking on ricotta crostini. Honey’s also has an indoor dining space that looks more like a factory with plenty of bar seating and a few side tables that get crowded on busy nights. On weekends, you’ll find a DJ booth, a small bar area, and people swaying side-to-side between several rows of plant beds on the rooftop.
Ray’s looks like somewhere the main character in a 1980s movie would get into a bar fight. This fight would obviously involve at least one pool cue, and at the end, the protagonist would have a beer and attempt to treat a black eye with a raw steak. That’s the feeling we get when we see the jukebox, disco ball, red vinyl bar stools, and wood-paneled walls. Despite its appearance, Ray’s only opened a couple years ago, and, while there is a pool table, fighting is not allowed. It’s almost guaranteed to be busy here no matter when you come. Consider this fact to mean a higher likelihood of meeting someone you’ll introduce to your roommate too soon into your courtship.
Going to Sauced in Williamsburg sort of feels like hanging out at a friend’s garden apartment - if that friend happened to collect and study hundreds of bottles of French, Spanish, and Italian wine. There’s technically no menu available here. Instead, all you need to do is tell the friendly staff a bit about what you like to drink (or what you’re excited to try for the first time). No matter if you’re looking for a single glass, a $35 bottle, or something vintage that predates many Williamsburg inhabitants, the people at Sauced are going to bring you something delicious every time. Sit in the back, where groups sort of mix together in an area with scattered pillows next to a tree.
The Bonnie in Astoria is a perfect reminder that bars don’t need to be flashy, located on a roof, or brand new to be a good place to meet people. (If you need evidence of the bar’s legacy, please enjoy this 2015 New York Times piece about summer partying in NYC). There’s a big backyard with picnic tables, as well as some better-than-average sticky chicken wings. It’s always busy on weekends (especially during the day), which should help in the Meeting People department.
This tchotchke-filled bar in Red Hook opened as a saloon for longshoremen to drink and hang out after working on the shipping docks, and it still feels like a relic you’d find in a time capsule. It’s run by two brothers who were born in the very same building (their family opened the bar in 1890). Not a longshoreman? Fear not. Sunny’s hosts live music nearly every day of the week from 8-10pm, and it consistently draws cool people from the neighborhood with whom you can bond.
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If you think you’re too good for jello-shots and $3 PBRs aat dive bars, we’d kindly invite you to grow up. Sure, you might not meet your forever person while tipping back alcoholic gelatin at this slightly-retro-feeling Greenpoint spot. But you might meet a 28-year-old product designer who can do a half-decent Joe Pesci impression. Buy a beer and a shot here and find out.
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The Commodore in Williamsburg doesn’t batch their frozen drinks in big machines. So anytime you order one of their fantastic piña coladas, they’ll have just blended it for you. (We’re firm believers that you can taste the difference). The outdoor area on the sidewalk typically swells with people sitting in pool deck chairs, but it’s not uncommon for a very loud crowd to be sloppy-dancing inside. Choose your own Commodore adventure. If the kitchen is open, order a fried chicken sandwich or some nachos - the intoxicating smell alone will coax all your neighbors to start chatting you up.
The Penrose is one of the best places on the Upper East Side to meet people whose names you forget mid-conversation. It’s fun and draws a big crowd, but on weekends the crowd can get a little too big, and you might feel like you’re in the East Village after every college student just got back from summer vacation. That said, it’s still a good place to keep in mind for meetups on the Upper East Side. They serve plenty of food like fried pickles and macaroni and cheese, plus the space is decorated like an upscale cabin in the woods.
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No matter where you live, you should have a go-to neighborhood bar where you can eat a burger, have a low-key birthday, or meet up with some friends to play board games and pretend you’re all characters in a sitcom. If you’re on the Upper West Side, that bar should be E’s. This place is fun and relaxed, and it’s a few notches nicer than a dive bar.
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The Happiest Hour
This West Village party spot is usually busy, so when you walk inside, you feel like you’ve been transported back to a time when meeting people actually happened in real life. If you end up stuck next to someone who dominates the conversation by talking about stocks, at least you can take solace in The Happiest Hour’s excellent double-patty burger. It’s cascading special sauce and American cheese is the best kind of consolation prize.
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Sidney’s Five is one of the newer spots on this guide, and it generally attracts East Village citizens who like to drink cocktails at bars that also sell corn dogs (which is to say, younger crowds and people who don’t take themselves too seriously). All the drinks at Sidney’s Five are under $15, plus there’s a whole martini menu if that’s your mood for the night. There’s a relatively long food menu as well, with stuff like lamb burgers, the aforementioned corn dogs, and raw bar options.
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Technically, the library isn’t a bar or a restaurant, but it is a place where you can meet a wholesome person who shares your love of paper things with words on them. Sure, there’s a chance that person will only be killing time before a dentist appointment, but it’s a risk you should be willing to take. Worst case scenario, you read for a couple hours and find out why Anna Karenina wasn’t too happy in her marriage.