Time Out Love New York Awards 2014: the top local bars in New York
You voted in your thousands—here are the top neighborhood bars as chosen by you
We launched the Love New York Awards to find out more about the local businesses that make your part of the city awesome. The nominations came so thick and fast they were almost overwhelming, with everything from plush speakeasies to dingy dive bars nominated for a shot at glory.
Now, after an intense voting period in which more than 10,000 of you had your all-important say, it’s our great pleasure to reveal the independent bars you guys love above all others. There were a few close calls (and a few freakin’ landslides), but through it all one thing was absolutely clear: New Yorkers are truly passionate about their neighborhoods.
All of which just leaves us to say congratulations to all of this year’s winners and runners-up, and cheers to everyone who voted. Now get out there and show your local businesses some love.
Top local bars
The conceit of this saloon may seem a bit tired: Yes, it's another hidden Prohibition-style speakeasy, this one showcasing a copper bathtub at its center. But the drinks list was created by fresh talent on New York's cocktail circuit—mixologist Sean Muldoon of Belfast, Ireland's lauded Merchant Hotel bar. Choose from his creations, like the Maiden's Prayer (gin, Cointreau, orange and lemon juices, egg white) and the Melancholy Punch (rum, falernum, pineapple and lime juices, ginger, black cardamom, sparkling water). To eat, find comfort-food small plates, such as fried oysters or mini burgers.
Located deep in the Bronx’s historic Little Italy—where red sauce runs as thick as blood (Robert De Niro discovered Joe Pesci here)—is the best indoor bazaar that most New Yorkers have never heard of: the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. A product of the city’s initiative to get pushcart peddlers off the street in 1940, the bustling market of 20-odd vendors has sold sausage links, cigars, flowers and fruit to locals for decades. Last month, neighborhood-bred brothers Anthony and Paul Ramirez shook the dust off the tradition-bound institution and opened a fresh-faced beer bar, whose on-trend offerings (cider, half-pints, canned craft beers) and handsome, modern digs (salvaged-wood counters, white-tile walls) have provided a jolt of youthful energy to this uptown fixture. ORDER THIS: Five taps pour a rotating selection of all-local brews (of course), including two from nearby Jonas Bronck’s Beer Co.: an earthy, dry Big Apple cider ($6) and a crisp, mildly spiced Woodlawn Weiss ($6). For a richer sip, the creaminess of the Keegan’s Mother Milk Stout ($6) from the Hudson River Valley conceals a coffeelike bitterness. Alongside the drafts, David Greco—also owner of the market’s beloved Mike’s Deli, where he worked as a boy under his father—oversees an extensive menu stocked with vendor goods. A thick, meaty beef-liver sausage ($7) comes with mix-and-match sides, like tender shredded cabbage; a sirloin-and–filet mignon burger ($12) arrives inside a crusty, flaky bun on a birch wood pla
This standard-bearing cocktail parlor from mixology matriarch Julie Reiner (Lani Kai) expresses its Victorian bent in intricate tile work, curved leather booths, marble tables, vintage sofas and a functioning fireplace. The centerpiece is the 19th-century mahogany bar, where vest-clad barkeeps stir and shake throwback potions, handily defined in the novel-like menu. Choose among regal crystal bowls of punch or finely wrought drinks, both classic and new. The Improved Whiskey Cocktail lives up to its name with an oversize ice cube mellowing a brawny blend of rye, maraschino liqueur, bitters and absinthe. Call for an order of house chips fried in duck fat, or a cheese plate featuring wedges sourced from neighborhood fromagerie Stinky Bklyn to keep you moored.
The owners of Dutch Boy Burger and Franklin Park continue their Crown Heights expansion with this neighborhood bar. Twelve taps dispense craft beers (Captain Lawrence, Sixpoint, Southampton) and another four pour local wines (Gotham Project). Kick back with a brew or classic cocktail at the oak-and-copper bar or settle into one of the distressed-black-leather banquettes and order some grub. Sandwiches on Caputo bread (such as crostini with tomato preserve and ricotta), charcuterie plates and fresh oyster platters (available only on the weekends) are on offer.
The nattily attired bartenders are deadly serious about drinks at this Gothic saloon, a pioneer in the current mania for craft cocktails. Behind the imposing wooden door, black walls and cushy booths combine with chandeliers to set the luxuriously somber mood. The barkeeps here are consistently among the city's best, turning out inventive and classic drinks such as the Sweet Hereafter, a Latin American martini riff made with floral pisco, St.-Germain, Dolin Blanc vermouth and Cocchi Americano.
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.
The folks at the bar won’t do your laundry while you sip your pint of Old Speckled Hen. The name refers to the storefront’s past life as a laundromat. Everything else is pure English pub, including the Tuck Shop meat pies, dark wood interior and earnest devotion to good beer (there are 19 varieties on tap). During happy hour, weekdays from 3 to 8pm and 1 to 8pm on weekends, all drinks are half off.
A hops' throw from the Ferry terminal, Harpoon vet Patrick Morse and former Phoenix beer distributor Jay Sykes bring brewing back to Staten Island—the borough has been brewery-free since Piels closed its plant in the 1960s. Highlighting local hops, the factory produces three beers: an American witte, a pale ale and a dark ale. The 4,000-square-foot tasting room—outfitted with a 15-seat bar, biergarten-style picnic tables and a glass wall overlooking the brewery—serves the beer on tap, along with small-batch and one-off varieties like white stout and cream ale.
By the peak of summer even New York’s most venerable boat bars have become flooded with frat-tastic curios, all watered-down brews and Lonely Island references. This season, a new anchor drops in the Hudson, offering grown-up alternatives to that bustling sea of bros: Grand Banks, the historic schooner turned oyster bar captained by Mark Firth (Marlow & Sons). Bid farewell to plastic chairs and “I’m on a boat!” sing-alongs—it’s only smooth sailing from here. ORDER THIS: Small plates outshine the cocktails, so pass on the lager-based Engine Room ($16), which hits too hard on the ginger. Instead, opt for a white-wine Sherman’s Cup ($16) with fresh berries. (Pro tip: Ask for the fruit muddled.) The waitstaff runs like a well-groomed crew, outfitted in navy striped shirts, delivering baked oysters in shallot marmalade ($18) and bacon-flecked fluke crudo ($17). GOOD FOR: Blowing out-of-towners out of the water. Though docked at amenity-rich Pier 25, the elegant Sherman Zwicker sits belowdeck for an out-to-sea feel, but with the glittering World Trade Center and spotlighted Statue of Liberty still in sight. THE CLINCHER: Two brass-tapped bars flank the bow and mizzen-mast, offering prime seating even without reservations, while the yellow-and-white-striped awning and business-casual crowd hint at the Hamptons without diving deep into bourgie-dom. —Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo
The carefully crafted mise en scène (ragtime music, a rickety bar) at this old-timey watering hole comes to us from the owners of nearby Brooklyn Social. Henry Public’s studied collection of drinks sound awfully appealing on paper, but many don’t succeed. While the Ether (Scotch, vermouth, yellow chartreuse and absinthe) was an herbaceous delight, others—like the Eagle’s Dream, a cloying mix of gin, lemon, egg white and violet liqueur—fell short. The bar’s offerings are shaky, but the kitchen is sure-footed. Old-world snacks (plateaus of oysters) and filling sandwiches (milk-braised turkey on rye) are more memorable than the drinks.