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The best bars in Chinatown, NYC

The best bars in Chinatown, NYC, range from long-standing dives to karaoke joints. Find the best of the neighborhood.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Genuine Liquorette

Whatever your poison, Chinatown, NYC offers several worthwhile drinking options, whether you’re after a cheap beer or a complicated concoction; the neighborhood's best bars include venerable dive bars and a pharmacy-themed cocktail den. Even more choice is on tap just a few blocks away in Little Italy, New York, or on the Lower East Side.

RECOMMENDED: See the full Chinatown NYC guide

Best bars in Chinatown

1

Apothéke

This unmarked boîte is the sort of exclusive hideaway that might be cooked up by an overgrown kid with a chemistry set. The bar is littered with old vials, the cocktails are referred to as “prescriptions,” and the bartenders-cum-mad-scientists are in rare form—note the cinnamon-flambéed Himalayan salt that rims a margarita. Choose your booze elixir from categories that range from Pain Killers—like a Bourbon Street Blizzard with chocolate and Cafe du Monde Chicory Coffee—to Stimulants, including a tequila-charged Carmen San Diego.

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Chinatown
2

Mulberry Project

Cool hunters looking for a break from clubland can hit this underground boîte, tucked away beneath a cut-rate handbag shop in Little Italy. The unlikely hot spot, complete with a strict door policy, is a testament to the nightlife bona fides of the bar’s owners, who've cashed in on their affiliations (GoldBar, Bagatelle, Milk & Honey) to create this sceney speakeasy. Haute cocktails replace bottle service as the in-crowd currency, with most drinkers rolling the dice on bespoke tipples crafted by Mulberry Project’s cavalier mixologists.

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Little Italy
3

Genuine Liquorette

Set below fast-casual Cali joint Genuine Superette, this kitsch-fueled, bodega-inspired bar from drinks wizard Eben Freeman (Costata) brings a cheeky revamp of straitlaced cocktailing with offerings built with oft-ignored spirits like Pinnacle and flavored Jim Beam. A stairwell lined with old newspapers and tobacco ads leads revelers to the 34-seat main room, illuminated by a neon sign and backlit displays of bottles, sold by the ounce through a self-serve program. At the bar, a drinks list centers on a selection of eye-catching Cha-Chunkers, which are bulldog-style cocktails with miniature liquor bottles inverted into canned sodas, like a mojito with a bottle of Cruzan white rum dunked into Sprite.

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Little Italy
4

169 Bar

The bouncers at the door aren’t window dressing—they’re serious about keeping out the rough element that characterized this hangout for much of its more than-80-year history. True, the venerable dive has evolved, hosting cover-charged events and adding DJs who spin jungle and new wave. It hasn’t evolved too much, though: 169 remains a satisfyingly obscure place to get a beer on the cheap and, until it’s time to hit the pool table, pump the music and start dancing.

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Downtown
5

Asia Roma

A blue neon sign points karaoke lovers to this basement lounge, where groups of young revelers take to the stage to shamelessly belt out Mandarin pop songs along with sing-along standards from Tina Turner and Billy Idol. Hesitant newcomers can loosen up with a specialty cocktail procured from the upstairs bar. Harness liquid courage via a Zen martini—Absolut Citron infused with green tea.

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Chinatown
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Comments

1 comments
Liz H
Liz H

I've lived in the neighborhood for a while, and watched 169 up their prices- $3 beer has turned into a $6 beer, and the former "relaxed" dive crowd atmosphere has changed to just another pretentious LES sticky-floored overpriced spot trying to be cool. 

I miss the old leopard pool table!