Best bars in Gramercy and Flatiron: The essential drinking spots

Find the best bars in the area, whether you prefer unpretentious pubs, sophisticated wine bars or cool cocktail lounges.

Whatever your poison, Gramercy and Flatiron offer several worthwhile drinking options—the best bars in the area include craft-beer bars, old-school pubs, and superb spots for cocktails and wine. Plus Sasha Petraske’s seminal faux-speakeasy Milk and Honey recently migrated to the nabe.

RECOMMENDED: Gramercy and Flatiron guide

Union Hall

Critics' pick

Upstairs in this bi-level bar, boozers chomp miniburgers and nip at microbrews like Sixpoint in the gentlemen’s-club–style anteroom (decorated with Soviet-era globes, paintings of fez-capped men, fireplaces)—before battling it out on the clay bocce courts. Downstairs, spectators are treated to a rotating roster of live talent, such as blaring bands, comedians and a monthly science night.

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Park Slope

Black Mountain Wine House

Critics' pick

Patois and Pacifico owner Jim Mamary strikes again at this corner wine bar, a 2008 Eat Out Award nominee. On sunny days, patrons sink into Adirondack chairs on the rustic front deck. On chilly nights, they settle by the fireplace inside the white, farmhouse-chic main room. Dozens of international small-production vintages are on offer by the glass, matched to charcuterie and served charmingly on a stone slab. A good bet is “Shane’s Pick”—a $6.50 daily-rotating selection chosen by the manager.

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Carroll Gardens

Rattle N Hum

Critics' pick

Owner Patrick Donagher is more interested in converting craft-beer newbs than scaring them off: A giant chalkboard wall suggests craft alternatives to mainstream swill, and a daily-changing menu offers 40 mostly American drafts ($7--$9), to help you find your new favorite beer. Purists gravitate toward the casks (between two and four at any time), as well as some of the expert picks on the list of 150 bottles, including Jolly Pumpkin's funky La Roja sour ale ($21). See what strikes your fancy on the daily-changing menu (organized by style, with tasting flights available for curious drinkers), or dig into the bar's stash of seasonal ales.

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Midtown East

The Brooklyn Inn

Critics' pick

The immense dark-wood bar, bare-bones pool room and old-school jukebox attract an unpretentious crowd that’s more interested in drinking than in flirting. There are plenty of choice beers on tap, including Old Speckled Hen, Dentergens Wheat and local Six Point Brown Ale—all for a reasonable $5-or-so a pint. The Inn dates back to the 19th century; tie on a few and you may even see the ghost of Walt Whitman.

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Boerum Hill

The Rum House

Critics' pick

In 2009, this rakish, 1970s-vintage piano bar in the Edison Hotel looked destined to go the way of the 99¢ peep show. But the team behind Tribeca mixology den Ward III ushered in a second act, introducing some key upgrades (including serious cocktails) while maintaining the charmingly offbeat flavor of the place. Forget you're a stone's throw from Times Square while listening to nightly live jazz acts and sipping dark-spirit–heavy tipples, such as a funky old-fashioned riff that showcases the rich, tropical complexity of Banks 5 Island Rum. Those who suffer the cruel fate of being in Times Square on a weekend morning can console themselves with a range of six Bloody Marys (noon–5pm).

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Midtown West

The Commodore

Critics' pick

First came the gastropub, an import from Britain featuring upmarket pub grub in an ale-drinking setting. Now, welcome the gastrodive, which further blurs the lines between restaurant and bar. The Commodore in Williamsburg, with its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, offers the city’s best cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. The short menu—with descriptions as curt as the service you’ll encounter while ordering your food from the bartender—reads like a classic collection of fryolator junk. But the “hot fish” sandwich, for one, is a fresh, flaky, cayenne-rubbed catfish fillet poking out of both sides of a butter-griddled sesame-seed roll. “Pork du jour” turned out to be two soft buns filled with a delicious mix of pinto beans, sweet-spicy barbecued pork and vinegary slaw. Chef Stephen Tanner, formerly of Egg and Pies ’n’ Thighs, heads the kitchen, cooking up fried chicken that trumps even that of his former employers—three fat thighs with extra-crisp, peppery skin and tender brined flesh, served with thimbles of sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce and biscuits with soft honey butter. Even the thick fries are a superior product—right in the sweet spot between soggy and crisp. While the Commodore, with its fatty foods and blender drinks, would hardly qualify as a destination for dieters—the house libation is a frozen piña colada—Tanner and his crew do a fine job of keeping vegetarians happy. In

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Williamsburg

Clover Club

Critics' pick

This standard-bearing cocktail parlor from mixology matriarch Julie Reiner (Lani Kai) expresses its Victorian bent in intricate tile work, curved leather booths, marble tables, vintage sofas and a functioning fireplace. The centerpiece is the 19th-century mahogany bar, where vest-clad barkeeps stir and shake throwback potions, handily defined in the novel-like menu. Choose among regal crystal bowls of punch or finely wrought drinks, both classic and new. The Improved Whiskey Cocktail lives up to its name with an oversize ice cube mellowing a brawny blend of rye, maraschino liqueur, bitters and absinthe. Call for an order of house chips fried in duck fat, or a cheese plate featuring wedges sourced from neighborhood fromagerie Stinky Bklyn to keep you moored.

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Cobble Hill

Angel’s Share

Critics' pick

Walk through an unmarked side door at the front of Japanese restaurant Village Yokocho, and you’ll find yourself in perhaps the classiest joint in the East Village. Angel’s Share remains completely unknown to some of its neighbors; that duality is part of its charm. Standing around and groups of four or more are not allowed—but this is really a date place anyway, offering a stellar view of Stuyvesant Square, tuxedoed bartenders and excellent cocktails, including one of the city’s best grasshoppers.

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East Village

Raines Law Room

Critics' pick

There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof. The Old Cuban (rum, champagne, mint and bitters) smacks of a mojito with something to celebrate. And the velvety Japanese, powered by brandy and orgeat (almond-and-rosewater syrup), is so strong it could serve itself. Who needs a barstool anyway?

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Chelsea

Gallow Green

Critics' pick

There is an argument to be made that New York’s best shows are staged not in theaters, but in restaurants and bars. Like the 19th-century opera audiences who trained their binoculars on each other’s boxes, each night we seat ourselves en masse in darkened watering holes and restaurants to preen, size each other up and—almost as an afterthought—eat or drink something, too. So when a venue incorporates a layer of theatricality to the performance already being staged by its patrons, how do they react? That’s the question raised by the dreamy, overgrown rooftop bar just south of Hell’s Kitchen called Gallow Green, which sits atop a warehouse that operates as the “McKittrick Hotel” for the wildly popular interactive theater performance Sleep No More. In the early evening, the height affords a regal view of gleaming West Side buildings and the cloud-streaked horizon. A floor of pebbles and slate, trellises woven with flowers and weathered wooden tables recall an upstate country home left adorably to seed. But as the sun descends over the Hudson and darkness encroaches, something stranger occurs. Christmas lights encircling small trees and the rafters overhead blink to life. A brass band waltzes dizzyingly through a funereal tune. An attractive waitstaff in virginal white uniforms materializes out of the shadows, while actors borrowed from the show downstairs weave in between tables, talking to guests in faux-British accents and lending the place the feel of a garden party lost in t

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Chelsea

The Narrows

Critics' pick

Stationed on the outskirts of the haute-cocktail kingdom, this democratic Bushwick drinkery balances neighborhood-bar accessibility with a serious approach to booze. The area’s DIY ethos drives thoughtful cocktails like the rye-based Caulfield’s Dream, which comes topped with a fizzy float of cava and a tuft of spearmint. But vest-clad barkeeps are just as likely to suggest a $6 beer-and-shot combo as an artisanal quaff—try an ice-cold Sol paired with a bracing measure of spicy tequila, or peruse the well-curated list of organic wines and East Coast–leaning suds. While there's no food, the bar makes an ideal pre- or postdinner drinkery if you’re hitting locavore haunts Roberta’s and Northeast Kingdom.

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Bushwick

Earl's Beer and Cheese

Critics' pick

Tucked into the no-man’s-land between the Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem, this craft-beer cubbyhole has the sort of community-hub vibe that makes you want to settle in and become part of the furniture. The well-priced suds (including rotating craft brews and cheap cans of Genny Light) and slapdash setup appeal to a neighborhood crowd, but it's chef Corey Cova's madcap bar food that makes it destinationworthy. The Momofuku Ssäm Bar alum is a comfort-food savant, deploying local curds in a variety of kitchen-sink creations. Try the NY State Cheddar—a grilled cheese featuring an unstoppable combo of braised pork belly, fried egg and house-made kimchi—or dig into an Eggo waffle topped with coffee-cured bacon, reduced maple syrup, aged cheddar and grilled foie gras.

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Upper East Side

Corner Bistro

Critics' pick

The burgers at this dimly lit Village standby are legendary, and the New Yorkers who love them legion. You may have to wait in line for a good hour to get your hands on one (and you will need both hands). Fortunately, several $2.50 drafts (including McSorley’s Ale) will help you bide your time, as will the Yankees on the tube, and a jukebox that plays everything from Calexico to Coltrane. Go for the Bistro Burger, a fat patty of broiled beef, cheese and smoky bacon on a sesame-seed bun for $6.75. A plate of crisp shoestring fries will run you $2.50, but they’re totally beside the point.

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West Village

Blue Note

Critics' pick

The Blue Note prides itself on being "the jazz capital of the world." Bona fide musical titans (Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden) rub against hot young talents (the Bad Plus), while the close-set tables in the club get patrons rubbing up against each other. The Late Night Groove series and the Sunday brunches are the best bargain bets.

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Greenwich Village

Little Branch

Critics' pick

As befits cocktail progenitor Sasha Petraske’s liquid legacy, the drinks at this clubby, low-ceilinged Village rathskeller are nigh perfect. If you choose to deviate from the menu, just give the neatly attired, polite bartenders a base liquor and a hint of your mood, and they can tailor a drink on the fly. A call for rye got us a spot-on Italian twist on a Manhattan, featuring maraschino liqueur, Carpano Antica vermouth and amaro. Custom-made cocktails—no password or secret handshake required.

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West Village

Berry Park

Critics' pick

This bi-level behemoth beer hall has a 3,500-square-foot ground floor and a roof deck almost as large. Brooklyn boosters may be disappointed to find that the 15 taps are dedicated to imports (mostly German and Belgian drafts). Other amenities that might make up for it: a 13-foot-wide screen dedicated to soccer, Manhattan (and McCarren Park) views and a beer-friendly food menu.

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Williamsburg

Ardesia

Critics' pick

Le Bernardin vet Mandy Oser’s iron-and-marble gem offers superior wines in a relaxed setting. The 75-strong collection of international bottles is a smart balance of Old and New World options that pair beautifully with the eclectic small plates. Our grüner veltliner—a dry, oaky white from the Knoll winery in Wachau, Austria—had enough backbone to stand up to a duck banh mi layered with house-made pâté and duck prosciutto. A blended red from Spain’s Cellar Can Blau, meanwhile, was a spicy, velvety match for coriander-rich homemade mortadella. Our sole quibble: The wine list lacks specific tasting notes, which would have been helpful when considering less familiar selections from areas like Slovenia and Hungary.

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Midtown West

La Birreria

Critics' pick

This massive rooftop beer garden, located 14 stories above the Italian megastore Eataly, offers a direct line to one of the world’s most exciting new beer regions: an unprecedented stash of beers from the Boot, as well as innovative house-made ales reflecting trends on both sides of the Atlantic. Hops-heads will geek out over the three proprietary cask-conditioned ales brewed on the premises—the collaborative effort of craft-brew pioneers Sam Calagione (founder of Delaware's Dogfish Head), Teo Musso (Piedmont's Birra Baladin) and Leonardo Di Vincenzo (Rome's Birra del Borgo). But you don't have to be a beer nerd to appreciate the views of the Flatiron and Empire State Buildings while sipping on the unpasteurized, unfiltered suds. Fight your way through the scrum, snag a seat at the Carrara marble bar or one of the communal salvaged-wood tables and line your stomach with accomplished rustic eats (fat probusto sausages, gorgeous salumi) before letting loose on the brews.

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Gramercy & Flatiron

G Lounge

Critics' pick

The ’hood’s original slick boy lounge—a rather moodily lit cave with a cool brick-and-glass arched entrance—wouldn’t look out of place in an Ian Schrager boutique hotel. It’s a favorite after-work cocktail destination, where an excellent roster of DJs stays on top of the mood.

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Chelsea

The Summit Bar

Critics' pick

Exclusivity pervades New York cocktail culture, with bars hidden behind faux phone booths and inside unmarked, darkened dens. But Alphabet City's understated Summit forgoes the pretense—no reservations or covert knocks required—without compromising its drink savvy. Barkeep Greg Seider has created a split-personality menu that appeals to traditionalists (old-fashioneds, whiskey sours), as well as adventurous imbibers. We can pass hours at the black-granite bar, slowly sipping Seider's quirky "alchemical" inventions like the Situation (given depth by Afghan-raisin--infused rye and caraway-flavored agave) or the whiskey-driven Gov’ner (yuzu, orange juice and cardamom-infused agave syrup).

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East Village

Union Pool

Critics' pick

The former pool-supply outlet now supplies booze to scruffy Williamsburgers, who pack the tin-walled main room’s half-moon booths and snap saucy photo-kiosk pics. Bands strum away on the adjacent stage, while a spacious courtyard is packed with wooden benches to lure chain-smokers. Arrive early to kick back $3 PBRs or $7 Jack-and-Cokes (a buck off from 5 to 8pm).

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Williamsburg

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

Critics' pick

Chef Daniel Boulud doesn’t do decent, so-so or almost great. Even as he branches out around the world—with outlets in Palm Beach, Beijing and Vancouver—the perfectionist chef is forever tinkering with even his most venerable spots. Which is why it’s hardly surprising to discover that the food and service at DBGB—his first project downtown—are improving week after week. Though the affable dean of New York’s French cookery installed protg Jim Leiken to run his most populist venture, expect to find Boulud haunting the dining room until everything’s right. The manic Bowery brasserie is fast becoming a very good restaurant, but Monsieur Boulud must surely have noticed that there’s still much work to be done. Even in a city awash in unruly menus, DBGB’s stands out for its kitchen-sink scope. Until Boulud has the common sense to pare the thing down, you may want to come with a shortlist of desired dishes—and a preemptive idea of the sort of evening you’re after. DBGB exists on so many levels that various members of a party can walk out with the sense that they’ve eaten in several different places. One incarnation: an accessible brasserie, with simple soups and salads, and classics like roasted chicken, steak frites and salmon in cream sauce. This DBGB caters to Boulud’s core clientele, conservative diners making the trek to the Bowery from their uptown home base. Another side of DBGB is a response to the current mania for high-end junk food. The chef, who helped kick off the trend w

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East Village

Slipper Room

Critics' pick

This cabaret-style venue commits itself curtain and soul to the nouveau burlesque scene, so if you stumble across a pile of pasties and glitter on the Lower East Side, you're probably somewhere nearby.

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Lower East Side

The Bourgeois Pig

Critics' pick

There’s nothing bourgeois about the industrial metal steps down to this East Village wine-and-fondue spot. But inside, ornate mirrors and antique chairs give the tiny red-lit space a decidedly decadent feel. Trendy locals snack on tasty bruschette or bubbling cheese fondue—the raclette is extremely good—served with heaps of assorted breads, crudités and fresh fruit for dipping. The brief wine list is well chosen and prices are halved during the weekend happy hour (5–7pm) and all night on Mondays and Tuesdays. At those prices, it’s easy to make a pig of yourself.

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East Village

Fairytail Lounge

Critics' pick

This Hell's Kitchen watering hole packs a lot of glittery, pseudo-Victorian personality into a small space. Patrons can sip cocktails off the backs of sexy centaur mannequins, or park at the bar while bopping their heads to tunes from various DJs during weekly theme nights.

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