Best bars in Chelsea
Red leather booths, mahogany tables and globe-shaped lamps amp up the vintage vibe at this Art Deco space. Co-owner Julie Reiner’s notable mixology skills have made the bar a destination, and her Beijing Pitch (jasmine-infused vodka and white-peach puree) is not to be missed. The 30-foot bar, built in 1927, stays packed well into the wee hours.
In the early evening, the height of this dreamy, overgrown rooftop bar affords a regal view of gleaming West Side buildings and the cloud-streaked horizon. But as the sun descends over the Hudson and darkness encroaches, something stranger occurs. Christmas lights encircling small trees and the rafters overhead blink to life. A brass band waltzes dizzyingly through a funereal tune. An attractive waitstaff in virginal white uniforms materializes out of the shadows, while actors borrowed from Sleep No More downstairs weave in between tables.
Don’t let their contrived apathy fool you—the creative types gathered at the Half King’s yellow pine bar are probably as excited as you are to catch a glimpse of the part owner, author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm). While you’re waiting, order a draft like a Dogfish Head Aprihop, a bottled golden Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier or a specialty cocktail (we like the 19th Hole, made with wild tea vodka, lemonade and ice tea). A better bet for aspiring scribes: the weekly Monday-night reading series.
With 30 years and 13 restaurants under his belt, Danny Meyer has built one of the most recognizable gastro empires in New York. The latest project to join his ranks is a Southern-twanged cocktail lounge that puts the restaurateur on the drinks scene for the first time. The sleek Chelsea drinkery is decked out with homey touches (the back game room is filled with retro boards including Life and Yahtzee) and a rustic reclaimed-wood bar helmed by Nicholas Bennett (Booker and Dax), turning out first-rate down-home sips that don’t mimic the real deal but instead redefine ’em.
There is no bar to belly up to at this louche lounge. Drinks are prepared in a beautiful but half-hidden back room surrounded by gleaming examples of every tool and gizmo a barkeep could wish for. From this gorgeous tableau comes an austere cocktail list, which includes classics like the Manhattan and Negroni, and variations thereof. The brightly hued Paper Plane—with aged bourbon, amaro nonino, Aperol and lemon juice—makes for a refreshing sip with a boozy kick.
Venue says: “Specials all Summer long! Sat & Sun 1p-7p- $5 bites, $9 apps, $6 drafts, $9 wines, & $11 cocktails. Cocktail of the month: Physical Graffiti”
As the name suggests, American spirits are the emphasis at this dark, sultry bar. Along with a selection of bourbons and ryes, there are gins, vodkas and rums, all distilled in the States. Using the homeland hooch, mixologists Jim Kearns and Lynnette Marrero shake and stir top-notch drinks like the Parker's Pose with American gin and Oregon brandy tempered by lime juice and basil. Though the focus is clearly on drinking, there’s excellent upscale pub grub: We like the zesty maple-mustard-roasted Brussels sprouts.
It’s not surprising that Sid Gold’s Request Room is the kind of bar where everyone knows everyone—you don’t get much more niche than a Chelsea-set piano bar. The campy joint effort of Beauty Bar proprietor Paul Devitt and Loser’s Lounge founder (and Psychedelic Furs ivory tickler) Joe McGinty, Sid’s has the kind of downtown clout that draws New York notables (Parker Posey, Andrew Rannells), without the velvet-rope snootiness. Instead, a pink–bow-tied gent cheerfully ushers you through the curtains separating the tamer front bar from the razzle-dazzle clubhouse in back, an anything-goes sanctuary of Hemingway daiquiris and Celine Dion belt-alongs.
This Chelsea Market cocktail joint isn’t always a great bar, but it is big and inclusive: Want a vodka drink without the judgmental sneer you’ll get at stuffier joints? Pick from four of them on the menu here. Prefer 1990s hip-hop to 1890s ragtime? At the Tippler, Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest lilt from the speakers. The long menu includes baffling experiments like frozen “lushies,” which drown quality spirits in a sea of slush. But for all the misses of this spasmodic mixology, there are eccentric hits like the What's the Dill?—an herbaceous number with sun-dried tomato–infused gin, dill, lemon juice and celery bitters. Think of the place as a large-scale recruitment booth for curious drinkers, and suddenly its flaws seem forgivable—even, in the right light, charming.
Whether you’re looking for a craft cocktail, raw bar or backyard garden, the Smoking Monkey in Clinton Hill has you covered. Cocktails like The Other 75 with cognac, lemon juice and champagne and the El Clasico with mezcal, cointreau, muddled orange and pickled vegetables (both $14) riff on the classics. The bar also offers a selection of craft beer and wines. Need something to eat? The cheese and charcuterie platter ($20) would satisfy a small group, but larger parties might want to order a massive seafood platter piled high with lobster, assorted oysters, clams and shrimp ($112). The crab cake sliders ($9), baby octopus with potatoes ($9) or the house burger with sauteed red onions, tomato, bacon and cremini and shiitake mushrooms ($14) might also hit the spot. Just make sure to save room for the chocolate cake with rum-spiked whipped cream ($8).
Venue says: “Our backyard just opened! Join us for happy hour and enjoy $1.25 oysters and clams from 4pm-7pm everyday of the week.”