Photograph: Nikola Tamindzic
CB Six’s hear-it-from-down-the-block happy hour is dominated by office stiffs enjoying their liberation—and the 150-plus available brews. This is where the folks on The Office would party if they didn’t love their Chili’s. While small square footage means there’s always a crowd within these beer label–lined walls (we’d totally buy that wallpaper for our kitchen), cubicle groups tend to bunch together. Bring your own business-casual clique if you want to have someone to talk to right away—though as the Keegan Mother’s Milk Stout (or whatever else’s on tap) takes hold, the suits inevitably start mixing.
TIP: As of this week, the bar has a Brooklyn Brewery Brewmasters Reserve that’s available only at the brewery and a handful of bars around the city. Traditionally only one kettle is made, so consider yourself lucky to have a taste. Average drink: $7. 252 E 51st St between Second and Third Aves (212-888-2453).
Gilbey’s of Astoria
The easy smile on Gilbey’s clean-cut and slightly bucktoothed barman conveys more Fenian authenticity than would be found in all the Upper East Side’s “Irish” bars combined. This local tavern shares the same strengths as the best pubs of the Irish countryside: an upbeat mood and a cozy, almost familial atmosphere. It’s the type of place where, on a karaoke night, one patron’s U2 ode might move his visiting mother to tears.
TIP: If you’ve taken after-work drinks too far (as we often do) and find yourself staggering out of Gilbey’s, ravenous, at midnight, eschew the mediocre street-meat vendor across the road and head to 24-hour diner Michael’s one block to the east (33-17 Broadway, 718-726-7474). Its menu is expansive and the fare above average. Average drink: $5. 32-01 Broadway between 32nd and 33rd Sts, Astoria, Queens (718-545-8567).
West Village–dwelling fashionistas and tweed-jacketed middle-agers mingle during twilight hours at Bobo’s cozy downstairs (fancy fare is served in the candlelit upstairs). The bar opens at 6pm and the 11 stools fill up quickly at the bar, but Boboers aren’t discouraged, packing into the standing room of the antique-filled bohemian-bourgeois (yes, that’s where the name comes from) space to sip lavender-infused honey and gin (the Bobo Mead, $12) and marvel at the wood-paneled player piano.
TIP: Open one of the large, tapestry-covered rare books on the bar and you’ll find cutouts the exact size and shape of a cigarette pack. Quelle horreur! Average drink: $10. 181 W 10th St between Seventh Ave South and W 4th St (212-488-2626).
This bar’s location on a gritty stretch of Grand Street belies its sleek interior and refined pedigree (co-owners Stephanie Schneider and Andrew Boggs both came from Danny Meyer restaurants). Williamsburg hipsters and Wall Street types alike crowd the cavernous space, where DJs spin nightly until 4am (when we were there, soul and ’60s garage rock dominated the playlist). Sample a seasonal cocktail, choose from the extensive wine list (try the sparkling variety from New Mexico) and drink it up alongside a small dish, like the pungent artisinal cheese plate.
TIP: The view out of the bar’s front window affords an unfortunate glimpse of Key Foods on the other side of Grand. Get here before 7pm to snag a spot in the back, where comfy couches and ottomans provide perfect perches for watching the festivities unfold. Average drink: $7. 588 Grand St between Lorimer and Leonard Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-8555).
925 Café and Cocktails
Despite its random location on Second Avenue, this former hole-in-the-wall coffeeshop turned hole-in-the-wall bar is strangely cool. With a crowd that’s slightly older than fratastic McFadden’s next door, party time here goes down at happy hour (weekdays from 5 to 7pm), when a large number of U.N. employees come to show off their diplomatic skills (we couldn’t resist). Be up-to-date in your knowledge of international affairs—if you don’t know about Musharraf’s latest political ploy, don’t bother socializing…no, not even with the bartenders.
TIP: The place is tiny, so unless you leave work early to secure one of the coveted bar chairs, be prepared to stand. Average drink: $7. 800 Second Ave between 42nd and 43rd Sts (212-661-9125).
This Down Under-themed watering hole is a step up from the usual rowdy sports bar—or maybe we’re just suckers for the Russell Crowe accent. Exposed brick and a beautifully finished, seemingly endless bar add a class to counterbalance the bounty of flat-screen TVs. The mezzanine provides a secluded vantage point for watching the crowd on the main floor get drunker and drunker. Head down when you’re ready to make a move.
TIP: There’s kangaroo on the menu. Order a filet ($29) and share with friends. Average drink: $720 W 38th St at Fifth Ave (212-869-8601).
The Ear Inn
With walls adorned by authentic seafarer’s accents (among other quirky embellishments…yes, that is a giant wax ear in the corner), a sense of history oozes from every nook and cranny of this wallet-friendly dive. “It’s unique because it’s bloody old,” declares owner Martin Sheridan. But the good vibes truly stem from how mingle-friendly it is: the genuine bartenders and laid-back, unpretentious patrons are always up for a chat, a pint or a plate of mussels for a mere six bucks. Classic rock plays in the background for the intimate clusters gathered after work to unwind, imbibe brews and shoot the shit, and when the weather’s nice the crowd spills out to the benches out front.
TIP: Swing by on Tuesdays for biker night, when motorcyclists from the five boroughs commune to eat, drink and be merry. Average drink: $7 326 Spring St between Greenwich and Washington Sts (212-226-9060).
127 Fourth Ave between 12th and 13th Sts (212-505-0301).
68 Jay Street Bar
You know those parties where you don’t really know anyone but the vibe is great and the people seem cool, so you have a good time anyway? Stick one of those in a cozy space in Dumbo and you’ve got 68 Jay Street Bar. Most nights it’s filled with a low-key, insular crowd—everyone seems to know each other, as illustrated by the collective good mood and frequent group smoke-breaks. It’s also blessedly free of pretension: Drinks are cheap, especially during happy hour (from 4–7pm during the week, draft beers are $3; well drinks are $4), and bowls of Goldfish crackers are strategically placed along the bar. Gaze nonchalantly at the contemporary artwork (including a creepy doll-sized jacket and pants pinned to the wall) that lines the exposed brick as you work up the nerve to ingratiate yourself with the locals.
TIP: The credit card minimum is a nice, low $6. Average drink: $668 Jay St at Water St, Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-260-8207).