Looking to meet someone? Cramped, hot places with free-flowing alcohol are still your best bet, and lucky for you, New York City is a treasure trove of such locales, as our roundup of the best bars in NYC attests. If you’re sick of being single in New York, here’s our pick of the surest spots for scoring your next first date at some of the most romantic restaurants or romantic bars in NYC.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to best bars in NYC
Best hookup bars
This relic of New York’s past is still surviving as a beauty parlor, with additional drinking and dancing options now added. Metallic, domed hair dryers and original salon-style chairs lined up against a wall make for a hyper-specific retro aesthetic. Sultry lighting and a robust drink menu, however, take Beauty Bar to the next level, making it an alluring destination for those looking to get it on. (Or those looking to laugh it off—there are weekly free stand-up comedy shows with appealing drink specials.)
Good for picking up: Well-groomed, hip humans.
Mood Ring defies expectations. There are velvety booths, but also a homemade arcade game called Yo Fight My Mans and erratic art, including red sneakers dangling from the ceiling. Its magic, like its namesake, is in the way it heightens awareness. You find yourself willing surroundings to change. The universe obliges. Blink and a clique of Snapchatting Beckys becomes a squad of gaymer bros clinking beers. It’s a place for everyone and anyone. The venue’s omnipresent rainbow LEDs throb at a gentle, tidal pace, giving the place more of a heartbeat than a bassline.
Good for picking up: Those that fall for the "What's your sign?" line.
Late-night ’Burgians have really embraced this Southern-fried corner joint since it opened a few years ago. The honky-tonk is packed virtually every night of the week—and for good reason: There’s something about the stew of cheap beer, old-country tunes, vintage porn on the bathroom walls, and smiley patrons that makes you want to stay into the wee hours. It’s tiny—and the makeshift dance floor in front of the band is a perfect place to get close to a new friend.
Good for picking up: Chicks or dudes that live by the Spinal Tap credo to “have a good time, all the time.”
This wild Bushwick spot opened in 2016 and quickly established itself as a reliable way for Brooklyn revelers to wear insane costumes and lose their inhibitions just about every weekend. With exhibitionist parties, and a panoply of aerialists, magicians and dancers on retainer, House of Yes is bringing its A-game when it comes to conversation starters.
Good for picking up: Free-wheeling free spirits.
This sprawling, West Village beer garden boasts high ceilings, long communal tables and a variety of ales and lagers so great it’d make any beer-lover blush. Get gamey with a pong companion on a weeknight or chat up a stranger at the bar on weekends. The scene is buzzy but low-key, so bring your best wingman/wingwoman along for the gluten mas.
Good for picking up: Bros that just want to get down in a beer garden.
By day, it’s a sunlit café, creative agency and fancy bike shop. By night, Kinfolk transforms into a hipper-than-thou hotspot for Williamsburg-dwelling kids in the know. It’s a breeding ground for freelancers, creatives, models and musicians—go for the streamlined aesthetic but stay for the cesspool of future hook-up buddies.
Good for picking up: Girls with Haim-like hair or guys in athleisure wear.
The grassy, spacious outdoor area of this bumping Williamsburg hangout is an apt setting for a cold Bud and a house burger, finished with pickled onions, American cheese and special sauce. Once you’ve had your fill, you can challenge your bargoing buds to a match of outdoor Ping-Pong, or when it gets late on weekends, invite a stranger to groove on the dance floor.
Good for picking up: Williamsburg rookies.
The East Village can be a fucking pickle jar in terms of the number of dudes there on the weekend, but Bar Niagara remains pretty un-bro-y. Get there early to score a seat and engage in some of the best people-watching in town—and ogle who you fancy doing the nasty with later. Japanese legend Yoshitomo Nara’s awesome graffiti on the bathroom doors is an excellent conversation starter. Trust us.
Good for picking up: Trust-fund kids who have actually heard of the New York Dolls.
Daniel Nardicio and Alan Cumming took over the former Eastern Bloc bar in 2017 and reimagined it as a cabaret, comedy and party hub evocative of NYC's golden era of downtown nightlife. Count on Broadways singers belting out favorites by the piano, wild ’90s dance parties and stellar cabaret and comedy nights for the queer set looking for all different kinds of entertainment.
Good for picking up: Cultured downtowners over the age of 25—well, "25."
This Greenpoint establishment is a classy spot: not the kind of place you'll want to get royally tanked in. In fact, it's largely discouraged. Half the regulars here are writers, performers and comedians—so bring your A-game and if you can hold your own (both liquor-wise and conversationally); you'll be rewarded by the unforgiving oak bar magically opening up and becoming one of the best singles bars in the city. Found a friend? Duck into one the old-timey oak booths and shut the little door; a waiter(!) will bring you your next round of drinks and/or as many pickleback shots as you can manage.
Good for picking up: Tatted-up folk with stories that'll last all night.
At this Meatpacking newcomer, you'll be shoulder-to-shoulder with an under-30 crowd dancing to electronic and hip hop under the verdant ceiling and on top the wide-open dance floor.
Good for picking up: The in-the-know late-night crowd.
A perennial spot for amorous hipsters, this ever-popular LES bar boasts all the tools necessary for an easy hookup: an upstairs lounge, a downstairs bar, a showroom with live bands and performers, and a 2 to 7pm happy-hour special with cheap frozen margaritas to get your blood pumping.
Good for picking up: Cute young things who look like they’ve just stepped out of Urban Outfitters. (They probably have.)
Sci-fi nerds, unite! Sure, it has a silly name and proudly touts a midcentury dystopian sci-fi theme, but the industrial, LED-lit bar is much less a cheap play at Instagram likes than an earnest letter to the science-fiction genre with a rockin' dance floor late-night. It's good for your own modern-day Mos Eisley cantina (a framed blueprint of the beloved Star Wars tavern can be found on one wall), where you can find the Luke to your Leia.
Good for picking up: Retro super future Brooklyn-ites.
A friendly, spacious bar with an intimacy-heightening low ceiling, Nowhere attracts attitude-free crowds—and the place is filled with everyone from dykes to bears, thanks to a fun lineup of theme nights. There's no official dance floor, but don't be surprised to find yourself moving to disco, rock, new wave and whatever else the DJ feels like spinning.
Good for picking up: Low-key catches.
The UWS might not be known to have the most social nightlife, but this gritty pub actually poses two dilemmas: what game to play, and which beer to drink? There’s foosball, a pool table and two video games (including Big Buck Hunter), plus more than 40 beers (16 on tap include microbrews such as Fire Rock Pale Ale). DJs spin Wednesday through Saturday nights, but those seeking (relative) peace can retreat to one of two quieter rooms.
Good for picking up: Clean-cut bros.
Embrace your inner seductress when you enter this 1940s Parisian dream stacked with leather banquettes, mood lighting and an airy rooftop. Quench your thirst with a pricey cocktail, and then meander on down to the underground dance club to rub up against the single-and-very-ready-to-mingle crowd. And pop some Dom Pérignon, if you’re feeling bottle service amounts of frisky.
Good for picking up: Tipsy young’ns that just inherited their grandmother’s rent-controlled LES apartment.
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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 and mingle.
Good for picking up: Those that can appreciate a fine chicken sandwich.
Sip craft beers and cocktails at this Bed-Stuy watering hole, playing vintage LPs (Willie Nelson, Hall & Oates) and showcasing fiber art on airy white walls. A shelf of old records hangs near the ten-seat brass bar, where owner Jason Andrews mixes four house cocktails, including a planter’s punch made with Jamaican rum and a Pacifico michelada. Beer lovers can choose from brews both American (Sixpoint, Mission Blonde) and imported (Erdinger, Innis & Gunn). On warm nights, take your drink to the 45-seat garden, lined with macramé planters.
Good for picking up: Brooklyn-ites with legitimately good taste.
Ye olde hookup classic: Union Pool is a tried-and-true pickup spot. Maybe it’s the live bands with hot musicians or the fire pit outside, but something about this former pool-supply store gets bridge-and-tunnel pheromones flowing. Rustle up some liquid courage, courtesy of the cheapo cans of PBR, and grab your object of lust for a quick make-out session in the photo booth. Hit the dancefloor on a Saturday night and shake it to some raunchy old punk and soul classics.
Good for picking up: Musicians, bartenders, artists…you know, all the people your mom warned you about.
This lounge from Sean MacPherson and Eric Goode can be home to some of the most raging weekend parties in lower Manhattan. The Ballroom is nearly as stunning as the crowd it attracts, with an offbeat tableau of stuffed beasts and mismatched couches. Though you can easily stake out a seat early on, the real festivities don’t usually get going until after midnight, when the dancing—fueled by cocktails like the cucumber vodka–and-limoncello Punjab—starts migrating onto tables and chairs. Our only complaint about the Jane? How long the line is.
Good for picking up: The artsy aristocrat
Repeat after us: brews 'n’ boys 'n’ brews 'n’ boys. Village Tavern is far from a hidden gem—it’s on the well-trodden, West Village path, located at the intersection of Bedford Street and Leroy Street near the hubbub of Bleecker Street. Beer wenches and bros, unite! It’s the spot to meet before sneaking off to your apartment together.
Good for picking up: Locals with fratty vibes.
Although the East Village gay-bar scene is no longer a raging perpetual party, the Cock is still the kind of place to get felt up in the dark by someone you might later find attractive. Certainly, don’t wear your nice shoes—or go at all if you’re shocked by open displays of affection. (We’re not talking the PG-rated kind.) Aside from the gyrating go-go boys in jockstraps, there’s the corner in the back where all kinds of shenanigans take place.
Good for picking up: Horny NYU students, off-duty drag queens, daddies looking for young chickens.
One of the most enduring Bowery institutions has been this bar and restaurant on the corner of 4th Street. New owners gutted the place, exposed the old wood and brick, and tossed out the lounge, Fuel, to transform Phebe’s back into the classic tavern it once was. And while the atmosphere gets quite grimy past 1am, if you're looking for that high-volume excuse to bump into someone to start drunken banter, this bar rarely disappoints.
Good for picking up: Post-grad party animals.
Across the street from Phebe's is this stylish, less debacherous boite. Wilfie & Nell owner Mark Gibson channels Dublin's stylish gastropub with cream-painted brick walls, glass sconces and green patterned wallpaper. But the scene is very NYC—boys with button-downs and girls in high-heels file in post-midnight.
Good for picking up: Put-together Manhattanites.
Bem vindo a sesta! (That’s “Welcome to the party!” in Portuguese.) This cheery Brazilian bar combines seriously strong drinks (like ever-so-sweet caipirinhas) with bumpin’ forró music, ensuring that the dance floor stays sweaty and packed till the 4am closing time.
Good for picking up: Fun-loving, cocktail-quaffing types who like a little bump with their grind