We’ve all experienced the drunchies, that insatiable craving for all things hearty and fried that only comes with a night of drinking at the best bars in NYC—the city’s best bar food is here to help. You can find some of New York’s best wings, best tacos and best burgers at the bar, so grab a stool and eat up.
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Best bar food and snacks in NYC
For the white-collared wayfarers wandering the streets north of Madison Square Park, NoMad is a depressingly apt name. Who better to fill the void than Daniel Humm, Will Guidara and Leo Robitschek, the James Beard Award–winning trio behind neighborhood stunners Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad, who expanded the latter to include this elegant saloon inside the NoMad hotel, teeming with lofty pub grub like a chicken pot pie brimming with foie gras ($36) and a bacon-wrapped hot dog with black truffle ($16).
First came the gastropub, an import from Britain featuring upmarket pub grub in an ale-drinking setting. Now, welcome the gastrodive, which further blurs the lines between restaurant and bar. The Commodore in Williamsburg, with its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, offers the city’s best cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. The fried chicken is a superior product—three fat thighs with extra-crisp, peppery skin and tender brined flesh, served with thimbles of sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce and biscuits with soft honey butter.
A revivalist spirit is at the core of this retro-fitted bar from Toby Cecchini, which takes over midcentury greasy spoon the Long Island Restaurant. But the cocktail vet does more than simply dig up old bones—he fleshes out the joint into a new being entirely. There, you can find throwback snacks like this take on Cecchini’s favorite party snack (caviar and crème fraîche on Triscuits), which features a smoky blend of trout and cream cheese swirled with chives, pink peppercorn and lemon and a topping of salty trout roe, served with house-baked rye-and-caraway crackers.
At this Lower East Side drinks sanctum, dishes arrive on cast-iron pans atop blue-and-white porcelain plates and in light cedarwood boxes. The latter snugs a handsomely assembled tako sashimi ($13), offering the still- chewy, blanched tentacles with house-blended soy and chili-miso sauces, while battered miso wings ($10) get a second layer of crunch from flecks of roasted black sesame. The bulk of the menu centers on okonomiyaki. Along with a pork-and-shrimp standard ($12), there are welcome revisions like a grilled cheese version, melting white cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyère ($12).
Woodside, Queens, bustles on, but this worn Irish pub stays the same. Well-lubricated old-timers line the front bar, while the wood-paneled dining room—made all the more classic with stained-glass adornment—recalls an honest age of prechain family dining. Irish-American pub fare like steak, roast beef and shepherd’s pie dominate the menu, but it’s the renowned burger that justifies the trek: loosely formed from freshly ground New York strip, broiled to a perfect char and simply decorated with lettuce and tomato—cheese and raw onion optional. In a city lousy with buzzworthy patties, this simple warhorse is still among the best.
Regulars of the Modern will recognize the ribbons of smoke that entangle Kreuther’s famed tarteflambée ($12) and his sturgeon-sauerkraut tart ($29) in the copper-trimmed front lounge. There, diners can also tuck into Alsatian plates like flounder tartare with ramps ($20), a foie-gras terrine with black-truffle praline ($38) and country sausage with house-made sauerkraut and violet mustard ($24).
Here, as at the Spotted Pig, the burger is the most frugal main course—which only partly explains its popularity. A puck of lamb, gorgeously charred and deftly spiced, is a delectable handful, layered with feta and red onions inside a pliant sourdough bun. The thick golden “chips” served with it are fried three times, until they’re crunchy on the outside and like mashed potatoes within.
Al Pastor’s tacos are unfussy, served on paper plates with sides that come in takeout containers (like a great $5 burnt-end-beans riff fortified with hunks of al pastor pork). The menu tips in favor of drinks, which, combined with the rapid-fire turnaround, makes the place feel less like a restaurant and more like a dive bar rigged with a tortilleria.
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Maneuvering through what is almost inarguably the dodgiest area of town to approach China Xiang, my expectations for the restaurant just about imploded. Needless to say it was quite heartening when the food began to arrive to squelch this misperception. The room itself is pretty bare-bones, although a step up from what you normally find in Chinatown. Charcoal grey stonework comprises one wall, and there are some attractive modern lanterns suspended from the ceiling, but the windowed facade looking out onto a shoddy stretch of 42nd street doesn't do much to improve the ambiance. So shift your focus to the voluminous menu, spanning from an innocuous but respectable saute of mixed vegetables, to more audaciously authentic Hunan fare like chili-spiked frog or baked corn with a salted egg. While the former is a laudable, if somewhat uninspired melange of crisp-tender broccoli, enoki and straw mushrooms, plus the requisite water chestnuts and ba mboo shoots, the hacked-up frog jumps in to sate more ambitious palates. It boasts an incendiary duet of chilies, red as an engine and green as… well, frog. It is the scarlet ones to which one should pay deference, although the frog-hued ones too are not just there for decoration. Pay attention to the bones, too, as this meat will need to be sucked off of them. If that's a little much for you, there are numerous soups, rice dishes and noodles, of course, skinny lo mein or fat, hand shaved ones slicked with a subtly sweet, umami-rich glaze b
Venue says: “Nancy Xiao brings Authentic Hunan Cuisine back to Times Square. Enjoy dishes like Hunan Smoked Barbeque Pork and Spicy Braised Short Rib.”