The best bar food and snacks in NYC

New York gastropubs have upgraded your favorite bar food and snacks from greasy to great

Belly up to one of the best New York bars to snag one of these top-notch snacks. But we're not talking about basic nachos and gravy fries—the city's best bar food includes beer-cheese–smothered burgers, octopus hush puppies and spicy red-chorizo tacos. Once you dig in, the only thing you'll be pining for is one of the best beers around.

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran
1/17

Bacon-wrapped hot dog at the NoMad Bar

Hot dogs are quintessentially New York. “You see and smell them on every corner,” says chef Daniel Humm. “We had to have one on the menu but in a luxurious and playful way.” The resulting frank, a truffled-mayo–slathered, Gruyère-hooded version punched with celery-mustard relish, winds up squeezed into a New England–style brioche bun with salty bacon. It’s more delicate than your dirty-water version, but it’s an undeniably good dog. $14.

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Chelsea
Photograph: Al Rodriguez
2/17

Smoked-fish spread and rye crackers at the Long Island Bar

When asked to re-create owner Toby Cecchini’s favorite party snack (caviar and crème fraîche on Triscuits), chef Gabriel Martinez responded with a smoky blend of trout and cream cheese, swirled with chives, pink peppercorn and lemon and topped with salty trout roe. The only worthy vessel for the spread, he says, are the house-baked rye-and-caraway crackers molded into fish shapes with a cookie cutter. “It’s the ideal drinking snack,” Martinez says. $14.

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Cobble Hill
Photograph: Courtesy Alder
3/17

All-in beer-cheese burger at Alder

Wylie Dufresne’s first-ever patty, served only at the bar, arrives with a pint of the Greenport Harbor Ale, which also spikes the American and cheddar cheeses that top the burger. Cushioned between a Martin’s potato roll, the hulking round (a custom blend of brisket, chuck and dry-aged beef fat) is flavored with shio-kombu and griddled on a flattop until brown at the edge but juicy-pink inside. And the sides ain’t shabby, either: half-sour pickle spears and “French onion soup” rings (Kelsae sweet onions battered in cheese-stock–infused tempura and blanketed in melted Gruyère). $21.

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East Village
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
4/17

Soy-garlic-ginger wings at Bar Chuko

Chef Jamison Blankenship spends three days on his flappers, first brining them overnight, soaking them in a garlic-pepper marinade for another day and dredging them in seasoned potato starch before they get a double hit in the fryer on the third day. Just before arriving tableside, the crackly-skinned chicken is doused in a house-made soy-garlic sauce and showered in Thai chilis for a jolt you won’t soon forget. $8.

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Prospect Heights
Photographer: Paul Wagtouicz
5/17

Veggie chips at Boilermaker

Chef Miguel Trinidad fries mandolin-thin slices of purple potato, mountain yam and lotus root at a low temperature for an even crunch, then seasons them simply with salt. The near-transparent discs stand up surprisingly well to the thick, sweet-and-tangy red-pepper–tofu sauce, which knocks Kraft ranch from its snackdom throne. $6.

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East Village
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
6/17

Octopus hush puppies at Bar Sardine

The golden gems at this Chez Sardine redux were born from on-hand ingredients and a flash of genius: Drawing on his tenure at Fedora, Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly tweaked his existing hush-puppy recipe with velvety polenta, tender chopped octopus and creamy cheddar. “I wanted to funk them up,” he says. “When I found bonito in the pantry and tobiko in the fridge, I knew they’d be tasty.” $5.

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West Village
Photograph: Christine Han
7/17

Huevo al Diablo at El Colmado

The flaming red numbers at Seamus Mullen’s Spanish wine counter kick the Southern starter from tired 1960s appetizer to modern-day tapas. Though he sticks to the traditional preparation of folding zippy mustard and cooling aoili into creamy egg yolks, Mullen ramps up the mixture with salty, smoked Spanish bacalao (dried codfish) before topping them with roasted red peppers and a dusting of paprika. $2.

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Hell's Kitchen
Photograph: Filip Wolak
8/17

Red-chorizo–and-potato taco at Empellón al Pastor

At his mescal-sloshed Mexican spot, Empellón emperor Alex Stupak ushers out his topped tortillas in quick-serve format. Here, his house-made Indiana-corn rounds are crowned with heaps of juicy red chorizo, zapped with vinegar and spiced with chili, and a smattering of soft red-potato chunks to sop up the pork fat. A trio of salsas ups the ante, spanning mild avocado verde, medium guajillo chile roja and super-spicy àrbol. $4.

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East Village
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
9/17

Tsukune at Ootoya

For this elongated chicken meatball—the Japanese chain’s must-order yakitori—Brooklyn-raised fowl is ground, then mixed with diced onions and minty shiso leaf. Grilled over charcoal, the juicy, plump kebab is served two ways: dipped in a tangy, soy-based yakitori sauce, or seasoned with shio (salt). $6.

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Gramercy & Flatiron
Photograph: Jessica Lin
10/17

Pub cheese at Alder

With whimsy and skill in spades, this new-wave chips-and-dip is classic Wylie Dufresne. The illustrious gastrogeek finesses a mix of sharp white cheddar, a red-wine-and-shallot reduction, cream cheese and carrageenan (a thickening agent) into a vividly purple, silky-smooth fromage, liberally smeared across a slate slab. Martin’s potato rolls ingeniously serve as the crisps, rolled thin through a pasta maker, baked to a terrific crackle and clinched with chewy hunks of sweet pistachio-and-white-fig brittle. $11.

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East Village
Photograph: Melissa Sinclair
11/17

Gooey spicy ham-and-cheese fritters at ABC Cocina

These vaguely Spanish croquettes go way beyond the greasy, bland renditions found on most bar menus. Fried to a lip-smacking golden brown, the golden orbs are filled with tender, smoky diced ham from Flying Pigs Farm and creamy Manchego. These vaguely Spanish croquettes are comfort food taken to the hilt. Douse each morsel in smoked-paprika dipping sauce—the ultimate creamy and acidic counterpoint to the spice—repeat, and consider ordering a second round. $12.

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Gramercy & Flatiron
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
12/17

Pig’s head banh mi at the Daily

Vietnamese sandwiches may not be the best pairing for cocktails, but no matter—this doorstopper from chef Brad Farmerie is worth seeking out, even if the Daily’s classic quaffs aren’t on your agenda. The stacked creation might as well be called pork four ways: Each bite is a study in porcine decadence, with layers of meaty flavor coming from rich Asian-spiced rillettes, a thick slab of pig’s-head terrine, crispy pork belly, and a crunchy pig’s ear coated with panko and spicy mustard. $13.

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Soho
Photograph: Marc Evan
13/17

Warm bag of croutons at the Counting Room

Critics' pick

Bits of Balthazar French baguettes, left over from making sandwiches, inspired the creator of the dish, Robert Crosson, to offer this unusual bar snack in place of popcorn. Cubed bread is tossed with garlic, Parmesan, basil, Italian parsley, sea salt and black pepper, then toasted in a hot skillet. The serving vessel—a small brown-paper bag—may tempt you to squirrel these compulsively edible squares away for tomorrow’s salad, but they’re also an elegant way to carbo-load for a night of drinking. $6

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Williamsburg
Photograph: Dominic Perri
14/17

Creamy polenta at the Saint Austere

Owners and siblings Jacqueline, Gianfranco and Fabrizio Pirolo draw on their Italian heritage for this addictive bowl, a recipe developed by their chef brother, Michael. Coarsely ground cornmeal cooks with milk, cream, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for five hours until it reaches a luscious consistency, then it’s topped with a layer of chicken jus flecked with bits of caramelized cipollini onion and grilled hunks of spicy Italian sausage. It’s the kind of boldly flavored, satisfying comfort food that’s best eaten in the fall, but keeps you coming back all year round. $10

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Williamsburg
Photograph: Virginia Rollison
15/17

Pretzel pork and chive dumplings at Talde

Critics' pick

Dale Talde’s pot-sticker–pretzel mash-up may be the ultimate East-West bar food, a perfect storm of salt and fat. Classic pork and chive dumplings are brushed in egg wash and butter before they’re panfried. The crisp, dark-amber bundles, finished with a shower of coarse salt, are served with sharp tahini mustard—an excellent bridge connecting the dim sum parlor to the New York street cart. $8.

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Park Slope
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
16/17

Shacked Cheese at Réunion

Critics' pick

Witness the ascent of the mozzarella stick at this Hell’s Kitchen surf shack. Actually based on a dish often eaten at beach concessions along the shores of the Black Sea in Georgia, these golden wands contain a flawless combination of soft and firm cheeses: A mixture of mascarpone and ricotta with crème fraîche, mint and cilantro is enveloped in a thin layer of cow’s-milk mozzarella, breaded with panko crumbs and dunked in the bubbling oil. The result is delicate, crispy batons that are a tangy match for the cool mint and yogurt sauce served alongside. $7.95.

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Hell's Kitchen
17/17

Buffalo cheese curds at Murray's Cheese Bar

Chef-fromager Amy Stonionis playfully prepares knotty cheese curds in the manner of Buffalo wings at Murray’s Cheese Bar. The curds, from Wisconsin’s Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, are fried to a golden-brown crisp, washed in a zippy half-and-half mixture of butter and Frank’s Hot Sauce, and served alongside a tangy blue-cheese sauce—made with Badger State Black River blue cheese, crème fraîche, mayo and sour cream—for dipping. Celery sticks break up the cheese-on-cheese action. $10.

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Greenwich Village

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