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The best bars in Chelsea

Chelsea’s best bars include highbrow cocktail parlors, laid-back pubs and one theatrical rooftop bar

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Porchlight

Whatever your poison of choice, Chelsea is brimming with quality drinking options. There are high-flying rooftop bars, piano-backed karaoke bars and plenty of top-notch frozen drinks to go around. These are the best bars in the neighborhood.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Chelsea, New York

Best bars in Chelsea

Flatiron Lounge

Red leather booths, mahogany tables and globe-shaped lamps amp up the vintage vibe at this Art Deco space. Co-owner Julie Reiner’s notable mixology skills have made the bar a destination, and her Beijing Pitch (jasmine-infused vodka and white peach puree) is not to be missed. The 30-foot bar, built in 1927, stays packed well into the wee hours.

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Flatiron

Gallow Green

In the early evening, the height of this dreamy, overgrown rooftop bar affords a regal view of gleaming West Side buildings and the cloud-streaked horizon. 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 Sleep No More downstairs weave in between tables. 

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Chelsea

The Half King

Don’t let their contrived apathy fool you—the creative types gathered at the Half King’s yellow pine bar are probably as excited as you are to catch a glimpse of the part owner, author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm). While you’re waiting, order a draft like a Dogfish Aprihop, a bottled golden Hefeweissbier, or a specialty cocktail (we like the 19th Hole, made with wild tea vodka, lemonade and ice tea). A better bet for aspiring scribes: the weekly Monday night reading series.

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Chelsea

Porchlight

With 30 years and 13 restaurants under his belt, Danny Meyer has built one of the most recognizable gastro empires in New York. The latest project to join his ranks is a Southern-twanged cocktail lounge that puts the restaurateur onto the drinks scene for the first time in his decades-long career. The sleek Chelsea drinkery is decked out with homey touches (the back game room is filled with retro boards including Life and Yahtzee) and a rustic, reclaimed-wood bar helmed by Nicholas Bennett (Booker and Dax), turning out first-rate down-home sips that don’t mimic the real deal but instead redefine ’em.

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Chelsea

Raines Law Room

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 brightly hued Paper Plane—with aged bourbon, amaro nonino, aperol and lemon juice—makes for a refreshing sip with a boozy kick.

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Flatiron

Rye House

As the name suggests, American spirits are the emphasis at this dark, sultry bar. Along with a selection of bourbons and ryes, there are gins, vodkas and rums, all distilled in the States. Using the homeland hooch, mixologists Jim Kearns and Lynnette Marrero shake and stir top-notch mixed drinks like the Parker's Pose with American gin and Oregon brandy tempered by lime juice and basil. While the focus is clearly on drinking, there’s excellent upscale pub grub: We liked the zesty maple mustard roasted Brussels sprouts.

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Flatiron

Sid Gold's Request Room

It’s not surprising that Sid Gold’s Request Room is the kind of bar where everyone knows everyone—you don’t get much more niche than a Chelsea-set piano bar. The campy joint effort of Beauty Bar proprietor Paul Devitt and Loser’s Lounge founder (and Psychedelic Furs ivory tickler) Joe McGinty, Sid’s has the kind of downtown clout that draws New York notables (Parker Posey, Andrew Rannells), without the velvet-rope snootiness. Instead, a pink-bowtied gent cheerfully ushers you through the velvet surtains separating the tamer front bar from the razzly-dazzly clubhouse in back, an anything-goes sanctuary of Hemingway daiquiris and Celine Dion belt-alongs.

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Chelsea

The Tippler

This Chelsea Market cocktail joint isn’t always a great bar, but it is big and inclusive: Want a vodka drink without the judgmental sneer you’ll get at stuffier joints? There are four of them on the menu here. Prefer 1990s hip-hop to 1890s ragtime? At the Tippler, Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest bellow from the speakers. The long menu includes baffling experiments like frozen “lushies,” which drown quality spirits in a sea of slush. But for all the misses of this spasmodic mixology, there are eccentric hits like the What's the Dill?—an herbaceous number with sundried-tomato-infused gin, dill, lemon juice and celery bitters. Think of the place as a large-scale recruitment booth for curious drinkers, and suddenly its flaws seem forgivable—even, in the right light, charming.

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Flatiron

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