Best Williamsburg bars
Lovingly dubbed a gastrodive, this no-frills spot delivers strong drinks, salty food and a seedy (in the best possible way) atmosphere that draws legions of fans. The nibbles here are no ordinary bar bites, either. The kitchen churns out crispy, crackly fried chicken and pillowy biscuits with honey butter that are excellent complements to your can of Schlitz.
One of New York's most underrated bars is Pokito. This tiki spot is run by artists and it shows through kitschy-yet-thoughtful design details throughout the colorful, cozy space and tropical-infused cocktails, like one made with kiwi. It's also where you'll find fun alternatives to usual bar snacks with yuca fries, wasabi peas and Pocky sticks rounding out the menu.
Billyburg’s bar scene skews divey, but this bi-level drinks den offers laid-back boozing sans the stench of stale beer. The vibe is vaguely Victorian, complete with ottomans, throw pillows and antique-looking tchotchkes. Well-priced, simple cocktails feature herbs and house-infused spirits. While the ground-floor bar also stocks beers and organic French wines, the real draw is upstairs—scale the steps in the back to find a roof deck with a frozen-margarita station.
In the tiny sake bar–dining room, a postpunk soundtrack plays while chefs behind the scenes assemble tasty small plates. Entrées in miniature are nothing new, but rarely are they so perfectly complete: Salty-sweet sesame noodles, quesadillalike crabmeat wontons and cold silken tofu form a sizable yet delicate meal. Grilled eel is so tender that the lightly seasoned meat easily separates from its fatty skin. If you don’t take your sake straight up, an ice-cold Coconutzu Freeze (a sake-based piña colada) provides a high-voltage brain-freeze.
Former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy runs this buzzy spot, but it turns out he’s just as talented behind a bar as he is behind a mic. Wine is the biggest draw here, and the team created one of the city’s most impressive lists of natural and biodynamic wines with more than 250 available to taste. The cozy atmosphere, replete with cedar ceiling slats and a sleek wooden bar, is a complement to the food, which includes comfort-food bites.
A sophisticated cocktail den created by hot shots from Marlow & Sons and Death & Co., it’s no wonder this Latin-influenced spot is one of the most popular bars in the neighborhood. The rum-heavy drink menu is divided into helpful sections like light and refreshing, frozen, and large-format. The small bites are also worth the trip, especially the tacos, guacamole and nachos.
You will find no bar more elegant than this French Quarter–inspired haunt. One of the few watering holes in New York to offer a truly authentic absinthe experience—we’re talking slow-dripping ice water over a sugar cube—the menu carries more than a dozen varieties of the anise-flavored spirit. Pair your cocktail with the venue’s other New Orleans specialty: oysters. When the weather is nice, ask for a seat in the dreamy, ethereal garden and laissez les bon temps rouler.
At this rock 'n roll-themed bar steps from the Lorimer train stop, beers are chalice-sized, so heavy they almost become cumbersome. Kick back listening to Judas Preist, because this spot is almost always a great time. And, given the large space, backyard and pool table, it's a great spot to roll through with a group.
A cartoon dog portrait hanging on Bedford Avenue marks this canine-friendly watering hole. Twenty on-tap beers from Allagash and Ommegang and a full bar keep patrons happy, while pooches frolic off-leash in the brick-tiled courtyard. Space is tight inside, but a jukebox spinning classics by Bob Dylan and George Jones and a long shuffleboard table offer comfort.
On Thursday nights, this funky brick-and-tile bar offers free barbecue in its rotating sculpture garden.
It’s a rare thing: a Brooklyn bar that offers DJ-scored liveliness inside and a relaxing kick-back-with-cocktails space outside. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at the nightlife haunt Midnights from first-time bar owners Devin Schuck and Raffaello Van Couten. The place is bursting with style—on a recent night, choker-necked locals sipped from copper pineapple goblets while ogling the shoes of high-fashion twins Cipriana Quann and TK Wonder—but it’s a kind of cool softened by that tranquil backyard and cocktails that don’t take themselves too seriously. (I.e. you’ll feel comfortable here even if you’re not too cool for school.) ORDER THIS: The cocktail list is as enjoyable to read as its contents are to drink; along with quaffs named after Bill Murray, Justin Bieber and Barry Manilow, there’s the refreshing White Girl Wasted ($12), a vodka cooler of fresh strawberries, a spritz of lemon and soda water that tastes like a grown-up spring break. The tequila-charged Lime All the Time ($12) is far less dainty thanks to smoky mescal, but pomegranate offers a tart-sweet balance. As for those copper pineapples, they’re employed for the jumbo-size MPK ‘Tiki Cocktail’ ($25), the Instagrammable pièce de résistance loaded with light and dark rum, coconut, orange and pineapple. You won’t remember posting a photo of it, but trust us, it’ll be good.GOOD FOR: Leaving behind Brooklyn’s Edison-bulb–lit bar scene for a slice of the sunny South. The drinkery’s outdoor garden is an ivy-covere
A massive space created from the gutting of two warehouses, this Austro-Hungarian beer hall is popular with everyone from giddy undergrads to parents with babies in tow. Beer is obviously king here: 22 drafts are on tap and over 50 are available by the bottle. Live daily music keeps the hall buzzing and a retractable roof in the garden means the steins are always clinking, rain or shine.
For beer geeks, this homey spot on Metropolitan Avenue is the ne plus ultra for sampling rare and obscure labels. The team keeps only keeps six beers on tap (plus one on cask), meaning the tightly edited menu never fails to impress. But the crowds don’t make the trek just for those pours: There are also a whopping 140 bottles on offer, most of which are hard-to-find Belgian varieties.
You don’t have to fly down to Nashville for an authentic honky-tonk experience—just hit up this freewheelin’ spot named after famed country session musician Skinny Dennis Sanchez. With live music, a happy “hour” from noon to 7pm every day and 18 beers on draft, it’s dangerously easy to stay here until last call.
It may be pocket-size, but that pocket is full of goodies. Evenings begin with readings, poetry and art. On Bingo Tuesday, blue-haired ladies battle yuppies for 99-cent prizes, and Wednesday’s Quizz-Off draws top-drawer TP mavens; Scrabble is on Saturday. After the games, there’s free music in the Pullman-car-shaped performance space, with acts on the cusp of wider recognition appearing nightly. When the weather warms, the backyard opens to stargazers. Throw in surprisingly good pressed sandwiches and an El Diablo (tequila, cassis and ginger ale) the size of a Big Gulp. What more could you want?
This multi-hyphenate spot—restaurant, bar and music venue, to be exact—truly has something for everyone. Horror fan? Check out the dance floor, where the maze from The Shining is painted on the ground. Into astrology? A vending machine sells Chinese horoscopes and lit wall panels reproduce constellations. As for drinks, there’s everything from Bud Light to a elevated cocktails. Pick your poison and head over to the stage, where there’s a different live act daily. If you’re hungry, don’t miss Don Muang Airport, a Thai-fusion eatery located inside the venue.