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Photograph: Courtesy Kind Regards

The 18 best Lower East Side bars

The best bars on the Lower East Side include cocktail lounges, dive bars and nightlife hotspots.

Written by
Rachel Pelz
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In a city filled with some of the world’s very best bars, the Lower East Side’s nightlife manages to stand out. With clubby spots ideal for dancing, a cutting-edge cocktail bar scene and some of our favorite dive bars in New York City, there’s a bar stool waiting for you around every corner. 

Our list of the Lower East Side’s best bars makes it easy for you to pick the perfect place for a first date with your crush, after-work drinks with your coworkers or an all-night party that lasts until Sunday brunch

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the Lower East Side

Best Lower East Side bars

  • Restaurants
  • Eating

At this Filipino-Japanese izakaya spot (izakaya translates to “stay-drink-eat”), there are over two dozen Japanese whiskies on the menu, plus a cocktail list highlighting Japanese and Filipino ingredients. Our favorites are the spicy Wasabi mar-Gari-ta, inspired by sushi’s wasabi-and-ginger combo, and the Langka & Lemongrass, made with lemongrass shochu and jackfruit. Since you’re already staying and drinking, you might as well eat–the menu of kushiyaki skewers is perfect for snacking while you sip your Suntory. 

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Looking for, like, a regular bar? Enter Lullaby. With a laid-back feel that borders on “dive,” Lullaby never fully takes the plunge. Although its team boasts stints at the Pegu Club and Death & Co., Lullaby takes pains to avoid the highbrow cocktail programs of its predecessors. Even the drinks are named plainly–but good luck ordering The Whiskey Drink and The Vodka Drink without humming “Tubthumping.” Cocktails are under $15 and beers top out at $7 so you can drink all night without breaking the bank.  

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower East Side
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Las’ Lap, named for the last hour of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, features a frozen rum punch and coconut-and-Bacardi cocktail that’ll have you smelling the ocean breeze. The drinks are strong and the music is loud, making it the ideal spot for a night out with friends. If you do bring a crowd, order the Caribbean bucket of beers, piled high with icy Red Stripe, Presidente, and Carib brews. 

  • Bars
  • American
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

Other bars may have the look of a 1970s house party, but the Flower Shop actually seems like one. The Lower East Side boîte is a bi-level scene: While the grown-ups dine upstairs, you’ll want to sneak down to the basement, where the kids play. The retro-cool crowd—drinking beer, playing pool and gossiping about their friend’s fifth rehab visit among the space’s vintage photographs, floral upholstery and bubblegum-pink fireplace—brings the theme to life. 

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Clandestino
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

A good review might ruin the anti-scene at certain intimate bars. So if anybody asks, Clandestino does not serve meticulously mixed drinks at reasonable prices, the staff is inhospitable and the tin ceiling and slender chute of a patio lack all charm. It’s our little secret.

The Ten Bells
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

You’ll need a magnifying glass to navigate the chalk-drawn wine list at this dimly lit vino depot, oddly named for Jack the Ripper’s hunting grounds. Happily, knowledgeable servers are there to help, and the collection of global organic wines rewards your troubles. Standouts have included Morocco’s fruit-forward Syrocco syrah or a floral Austrian Grüner Veltliner. Snacks are basic but tasty—stick to cold plates like oysters and tartares.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

Not all spin-offs are created equal: The best retain what you loved most about the original with enough new material to keep things fresh, while others simply crash and burn. Luckily for Gotham’s cocktail-swigging masses, this Milk and Honey offshoot is the former, boasting characters as familiar as Frasier Crane to the Cheers crew, but with a livelier, lighter air than the dim big-league cocktail den.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 3 of 4

The dimly lit speakeasy inside Freemans feels like a formal yet comfortable 18th-century seaside tavern, thanks to the olive-green paneling, seafaring paintings and burning candlesticks. However, that’s where the nostalgia ends: The thoroughly un-Colonial clientele in Warby-esque glasses and man buns are all drinking pricey, delicious cocktails with a modern-day flair. 

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  • Bars
  • Izakaya
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

Take a seat at Kenta Goto’s glimmering black-and-gold boîte, lodged away from the Houston Street bedlam, and you’ll find its red-hot hype is curtailed by cool poise, from the hostess’s graceful reception to silent servers weaving around tables. In the absence of distractions, focus directs to the well-lit bar, where Goto’s creations draw on his Japanese heritage and lauded tenure at cocktail trailblazer Pegu Club.

  • Restaurants
  • Hamburgers
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

This eclectic, sun-soaked eatery is as much of a bar as it is a restaurant. On the menu, Mediterranean mezze are mixed with American bites, burritos and affordable cocktails to wash them all down. Decorated like a prop stylist’s living room, the tiny eatery features dark-blue-and-white painted walls filled with postcard ephemera, vintage mirrors and tchotchkes.

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  • Music
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

In recent years, a lot of the cooler bookings have moved from Pianos to Brooklyn. Still, while sound is often lousy and the room can get uncomfortably mobbed, there are always good reasons to go back—including the under-the-radar emerging rock bands that make local music scenes tick. Plus, there's always a rockin' dance party upstairs.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

When the weather turns brisk, the spirits go dark: Floral gin gets swapped for smoke-nosed Scotch, and sunny rum makes way for spicy, robust rye. The brown slugs of fall are heartier than summer’s easy-drinking sips and leagues more complex: mash percentage, grain variety and even soil disparities can profoundly alter the taste of whiskey. Thankfully, the intimate Copper & Oak has whiskey enthusiasts covered like the sealed top of an aged barrel.

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Grey Lady
  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Lower East Side
  • price 2 of 4

Named after Nantucket's foggy mornings, this seafood spot is a restaurant during the day and a twenty-something-packed bar at night, with a blue-gray leather couch, marine lanterns and black-and-white photos of women—ladies in gray—on the walls. The drinks list underlines the maritime motif with cocktails including the Painkiller and Sconset slammer, plus beers on tap.

Arlene’s Grocery
  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Lower East Side
  • price 1 of 4

Arlene’s Grocery was one of the earliest rock-music venues south of East Houston, and it remains a hallowed hall of head-banging. Er, make that hallowed hole. Downstairs from the main bar is the room where bands rock out all week long; you’ll need liberal definitions of “loud” and “personal space” down there. Some impressive folks have taken the mike, including Jeff Buckley, the Strokes, Vanessa Carlton and Beth Orton.

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