In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to recently-opened spots that are actually worth your time and money. We actually get off our asses and scope these places out - just because a place is new, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.
We’re now doing the same thing for bars. We’ve taken on the (very challenging) task of drinking in many of New York’s newest spots for it. Frankly, some of them were empty, and some of them smelled weird - but there were also quite a few we liked a lot, and which we think you should consider checking out. From bars on a barge to bars where you have to serve the beer yourself, check out the Bar Hit List below.
New to The Bar Hit List (as of 1/17/20): Sauced, The Grand Delancey, Chapel Bar
Sauced feels like a good house party you’d attend in your early thirties. By which we mean: it’s fun, there’s plenty of wine, and it gets a little chaotic. When you ask to see a wine list at this Williamsburg wine bar, for example, the bartender will inform you that no such thing exists. So just tell them what you like to drink, and they’ll let you try some stuff until you find what you’re looking for. This might be a nice chenin blanc, or it might be a natural Spanish wine with notes of blackberries and pickle juice. The ordering process can feel slightly anarchic - especially when there are multiple people trying to make eye contact with the bartender - but just distract yourself with some charcuterie or make some new friends while you wait.
The Grand Delancey falls in the category of massive bars where people regularly hang out at 3pm on Sundays and drink craft beer while their kids run around chasing each other with bubble wands. But those kinds of places don’t usually exist in the middle of the Lower East Side, which makes this spacious spot very useful. There are fifty beers on tap, with an impressive mix of stuff from New York-based breweries, Europe, and places like Vermont, Iowa, and Virginia. And, since it’s in the Market Line (below Essex Market), you can order in snacks from any of the neighboring vendors like Veselka pierogies, pickle plates, and dumplings from Nom Wah.
Like organisms in a marine ecosystem, every bar in NYC serves a purpose. The Chapel Bar in the new Flatiron photography museum, Fotografiska, is perfect for when you want to sit and have a conversation with someone beneath a massive chandelier in a dark room that was formerly a cathedral. It’s hidden behind a door that looks like an emergency exit, and it has very high ceilings, a horseshoe-shaped bar, and a small collection of armchairs. The Chapel Bar is a great, quiet spot to drink an elaborate cocktail, and - until people actually realize this place exists - you’ll feel like you have an almost supernatural awareness of the best new bars in the city.
At this point, the Lower East Side has about ten times more bars than your average cruise ship. But if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink that doesn’t feel like a casting call for a new National Lampoon film, try Las’ Lap. It’s a narrow bar on Orchard Street with high ceilings, potted plants, floral bar stools, and a cocktail list that emphasizes ingredients like coconut, passionfruit, and rum. It’s an ideal spot to catch up with a few other people, and there’s a small menu of stuff like oxtail, arepas, and jerk chicken spring rolls. Call ahead if you want to reserve a table, or just stop by and find space to stand with a cocktail and try to make conversation with a stranger.
Nobody Told Me is yet another bar that sounds like it was named with a random assortment of those magnets you use to spell things out on your fridge - and it’s somewhere you should know about if you live uptown. The neighborhood cocktail spot has tropical wallpaper and elaborate drinks with ingredients like pineapple-infused rum and coconut cashew milk, and it’s a great place for a casual date or a quick cocktail after work. And if you get hungry, there’s a full dinner menu with things like a chicory caesar salad and a fried chicken sandwich.
Public Records in Gowanus feels like a communal space you’d find in a utopian condo building. In order to get in, you look for a discreet sign, then walk through a courtyard with a couple of trees and wind up in a huge, open area with a bar on one side, a dining room on the other, and a massive skylight in the middle. It has a great sound system, and the ceilings are lined with shelves of records (which seems impractical, but looks cool). There’s also a venue in the back that hosts ticketed shows (DJs, mostly), as well as a big dining room to the side where you can sit down and eat some vegan food like buckwheat soba and chilled melon curry. If you’re looking for a new place to listen to music or hang out late-night in Brooklyn, this is it.
Ray’s looks like the kind of place where the main character in a 1980s movie would get into a bar fight. This fight would obviously involve at least one pool cue, and at the end, the protagonist would have a beer and attempt to treat a black eye with a raw steak. That’s just feeling we get when we see the jukebox, disco ball, red vinyl bar stools, and wood-paneled walls. Despite its appearance, Ray’s is actually very new, and, while there is a pool table, fighting is not allowed here. Instead, you come to this little LES bar to drink, talk, and possibly meet someone who you might one day introduce to your parents. This place gets very busy, but if you can grab one of the tables along the walls, it’s currently one of the best spots to hang out on the Lower East Side.
Abe’s Pagoda Bar is a new spot in Bushwick that feels like a cross between a tiki bar and a pirate ship. It’s a big space decorated with red lanterns, model ships, and black and white photographs, and it has a room in the back with pool tables and a projector that may or may not be showing Baywatch when you stop by. There are plenty of tables and booths, so it’s great for a night out with a group, and if you get hungry, you can snack on skewers, okonomiyaki fries, and rice bowls. Make a trip out the next time you feel like having the sort of Saturday night that continues into Sunday morning.
Whether you want to learn the differences between merlot and cabernet sauvignon, or you just want to drink a bunch of both while still seeming sort of responsible, you should check out Coast And Valley. This Greenpoint wine bar has about 100 bottles on its all-California wine list, and everything on the menu is available in 2 and 5-ounce pours, so you can sit at the bar and try a lot without accidentally spending too much money. If you want to “learn” without getting too drunk, get a table and order some snacks, like the fried sweet potato with parmesan fondue.
Jungle Bird is a two-story, tropical-themed spot in Chelsea with a bar on each floor and several taps shaped like big golden peacocks - and if all of this sounds like a little too much, you should know that this place is actually pretty low-key. You can stand around with a couple of friends and have a good cocktail, or you can grab a big leather booth and hang out for an hour or two while you eat some snacks like dumplings or lotus chips. Consider this place a cooler, less hectic alternative to The Tippler, and use it for anything from a first date to some drinks with some in-laws.
At Mister Paradise, you can sit in a big round booth and drink a cocktail made with tequila, watermelon, fermented habanero, and garlic (among other things). And while that might sound like something you’d pay to never have to drink, it’s actually great. There are also a bunch of other good cocktails that don’t have garlic and fermented habanero, and the space works well for a first date or a drink with friends when you need something cooler than the dive bar you treat like your living room. This is now officially one of our go-to casual cocktail spots in the East Village.
This is a new Greenpoint spot where you can book a table and have a full dinner - but we wouldn’t recommend that, seeing as how the menu is confusingly broad (sashimi, hummus, homemade Doritos, etc.), and the food is pretty unremarkable. What you really want to do is come here after 10pm, when this place turns into a full-on bar with a big, crowded dance floor in the back. If you’re looking for the best place to go “out out” in Greenpoint, this is currently it. And as an added bonus, it doesn’t feel like it exists in a world where everyone over the age of 25 has been raptured.
If Austin Powers decorated a bar with whatever he could grab on a shopping spree at the ’70s equivalent of Bed Bath & Beyond, that bar would look like Joyface. This cocktail spot in the East Village has plush couches and rugs in various colors, paintings of tigers on the walls, a spinning disco ball, and a waterbed in the corner. Also, there’s no drink menu. Instead, there’s a bowl filled with the names of liquors and mixers - just pick a couple of them at random, and the bartender will make you a cocktail using those as key ingredients. It all sounds gimmicky, but the drinks are actually good, and you can always just order a standard cocktail if you prefer. Get a gin martini or some Frankenstein mixed drink with mezcal and coffee (it actually wasn’t bad), and hang out by the fireplace with a date.