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.
Looking for some tasty small bites?
Upper East Siders can continue their search for the perfect pint at Doc Watson’s, the neighborhood’s local Irish pub. Though the bar offers a few signature cocktails and wine options, the beer menu is much more extensive. Like any Irish bar worth its salt, Doc Watson’s has Guinness on draft ($8), and it also carries the slightly harder-to-find Magner’s Cider ($6). The food menu mainly offers standard bar fare, but with an Irish twist—the list of starters includes deep-fried bratwurst wrapped in bacon ($10), cheddar jalapeno pretzel bites ($7) and beer-battered fried mozzarella with marinara ($11). Doc Watson’s offers a variety of different burgers and sandwiches ($13-$17), plus chicken pot pie ($18), buttermilk-fried chicken ($18) and a traditional Irish breakfast—black pudding, sausages, baked beans, eggs, soda bread, the whole deal—served all day ($18).
Venue says: “Join us for brunch Saturday and Sunday $13.95 including two complimentary drinks!”