50 best spring bars

  • akariba


  • Abilene01

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl


    Berry Park

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben


  • Photograph: Beth Levendis


    Fort Defiance

  • BARCRAWLfranklin

  • thegate13

    The Gate

  • hotbird

  • huckleberrybar

  • gutter80404

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson




Manhattan | Brooklyn | Queens

Hide away in this intimate cloistered space, a tranquil, wooded haven amid Williamsburg's rowdy bar scene. A glass ceiling offers tipplers a face full of sun no matter where you're seated, and plants grow right between the polished wooden floorboards. The focus of the small-plates menu is the oysters, paired with sake, and the selection here is extensive. Try the Fisherman's Shooter special ($18): fresh oyster, uni and quail egg—all immersed in yuzu pepper and dashi —paired with a limited-edition spring draft sake. 77 North 6th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-6160, akariba.com)

Like the appearance of spring's first robin, the sight of tables and lawn chairs outside this Carroll Gardens fave is a sure sign that lazy, laid-back afternoons are once again on the way. Order a basket of pulled pork ($8) and cheese fries ($6) or nachos ($7) while kicking everyone's ass at Connect Four, refilling often with pints of Brooklyn Lager ($5). When temperatures drop in the evening, move your gang inside and park on one of the well-loved, mismatched couches, and continue to party into the wee hours. 442 Court St at 3rd Pl (718-522-6900). Daily 11am--4am.

Berry Park
Williamsburg welcomes its latest beer hall, a bilevel behemoth with 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 forthcoming beer-friendly food menu. 4 Berry St between N 13th and N 14th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-782-2829, berryparkbk.com)

The Diamond
This Greenpoint beer bar's well-curated lineup includes a crop of springy standouts perfect for ringing in the season. We like the 21st Amendment Bitter American, a hoppy extra-pale ale ($6). Deciding where to drink it is part of the fun. Indoor types can sidle up to the bar in the front room, outfitted with a shuffleboard table; folks in search of some vitamin D can book it to the sunny backyard. Claim a picnic table and blow through a few rounds of drunken quoits (a game similar to horseshoes) or perch yourself on one of the borough's best seats—a repurposed chairlift. 43 Franklin St between Calyer and Quay Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-5030, thediamondbrooklyn.com)

Fort Defiance
You won't find anyone pontificating on the importance of ice here. And you won't get a lecture about liqueurs you can't pronounce. The vibe and the staff at Fort Defiance are refreshingly breezy: Sit by the grand, open window or climb onto a bar stool to watch the barkeeps mix ginger ale the old-fashioned way (fresh ginger syrup, lime juice and seltzer from a special tap; $2.50). If you fancy something stiffer, look out for the King Bee, arriving this spring. The bar's first-ever listed vodka drink relies on Comb vodka, a boutique brand that gets its subtle malt and floral notes from a Darjeeling-tea infusion. The libation is then shaken with lemon juice, dosed with herbal Benedictine, and finally topped with bitters and bright prosecco ($9). 365 Van Brunt St at Dikeman St, Red Hook, Brooklyn (347-453 6672, fortdefiancebrooklyn.com)

This converted auto garage boasts the charm (and the square footage) of a basement rec room, complete with Skee-Ball, sports on a projector TV and vintage family photos on the walls. The sprawling front beer garden is perfect for knocking back a Franklin Lemonade (vodka, Campari, simple syrup, fresh lime, seltzer; $9) and a hallway in back leads to the six-month-old Dutch Boy Burger, where you can grab postpark treats including bourbon-spiked milk shakes ($6) and stout floats ($7) made with Blue Marble Ice Cream. 618 St. John's Pl between Classon and Franklin Aves, Crown Heights, Brooklyn (718-975-0196, franklinparkbrooklyn.com)

The Gate
How good is this place? Beer just seems to taste better here, especially on the huge street-level deck. There's a good chance your favorite brew will be on tap; there are always additions to the standby Brooklyn Lager and Guinness. If the weather won't cooperate or if you can't score a wrought-iron seat outside, slide into a booth in the bar's dark-wood interior. This is a shirttail, bring-your-pet kinda joint, where conviviality reigns. 321 Fifth Ave between 3rd and 4th Sts, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-768-4329)

Hot Bird
Oil-stained garage doors and vintage saws repurposed as tables make up the awesomely mechanical digs here. The tipples are curated but unpretentious: The dark and toasty Hofbru Lager ($5)—one of 12 drafts—offsets a breezy evening, as do the handful of decent whiskeys ($7--$15). Take advantage of mild temps by grabbing one of ten picnic tables on the ample patio and, when the meaty new menu is unveiled (around mid-April), expect plenty of grilling. 546 Clinton Ave at Atlantic Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (718-230-5800)

Huckleberry Bar
This Williamsburg bar grows a mullet when the weather warms: There's still serious business going on in the front in the form of handcrafted cocktails, but there's a more lighthearted vibe in the backyard. Thick wisteria creeps up the patio's wrought-iron trellis, and wafts of mint, hyssop and lovage drift from a garden that the staff plants in April and cultivates till fall. The green space inspires concoctions like owner Stephanie Schneider's Plant's Physician. She plucks chamomile for use in a simple syrup, adds an oak-forward reposado tequila to lemon juice and lemon bitters, and tops it all with celebratory prosecco ($11). 588 Grand St at Lorimer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-8555, huckleberrybar.com)

The Gutter
On weekends, a wait for a lane at this alley in the 'Burg can be a few hours long—but the Gutter's low-lit, retro bar is a great hangout in its own right. Settle into a comfy booth and tip back a few glasses of the faintly hoppy amber Fisherman's Brew ($5), and snack on habanero beef jerky ($4) or delivery from nearby Dumont Burger before battling a friend in pool or bubble hockey. At 8pm, catch rock shows in the back room for five bucks. You might forget you originally came here to bowl. 200 North 14th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-387-3585, thegutterbrooklyn.com). Mon--Thu 4pm--4am; Fri 2pm--4am; Sat, Sun noon--4am.

Lady Jay's
Chef Sam Mason's first foray into the bar biz is refreshingly low-key. The cocktail menu's salty-sour pickle margarita ($7) seems rightly suited for a sun-drenched afternoon spent on the spacious wooden porch out back. Should the sky threaten rain, you can just as easily hole up inside with a blue-collar beer and a steady stream of Johnny Cash tunes from the country-tinged jukebox. PBR tall boys ($4) and shot-and-a beer combos ($8) are the unofficial house specialty, though craftier taps ($5--$6)—try the Sixpoint Brownstone—will please beer geeks. 633 Grand St between Leonard and Manhattan Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-387-1029)