Though the neighborhood is not generally known for clubs, there are a few local spots, such as venerable dive 169 Bar, where spinners set up shop. Among the best nightlife in Chinatown is the Stateside offshoot of swanky Parisian boîte, Le Baron. Start (or end) your night at one of the area’s best bars.
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The intimate lounge underneath the edge-of-Chinatown eatery Broadway East has lost a bit of its hipster edge since opening in 2009. But even if the semisecret space has lost some of its downtown cred (and even if it's no longer a hot spot for the city's underground spinners), it's still a cool little place in which to idle awhile as you sip your fancy cocktail.
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 have cashed in on their affiliations (GoldBar, Bagatelle, Milk and 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. The vibe, meanwhile, feels like Meatpacking in miniature, with pretty DJs playing British indie rock off their MacBooks and guys buying high-minded drunk food—crispy pork belly in a cider reduction, rich crème brûlée—for their waifish companions to pick at.
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 80-year history. True, the venerable dive has evolved, hosting events with such partners as Triple 5 Soul (there’s an occasional cover of $5) 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 for $3 and, until it’s time to hit the pool table, pump the music and start dancing.