Ah, Soho and Nolita. Land of clothing stores, matcha shops, and that one guy who walks around with a cat on his head. These neighborhoods aren’t known for their abundance of great bars, but if you know where to look, you can actually find some good ones. The next time you need to grab a drink in the area, use this guide.
There are two main things you need to know about (and order at) Mother’s Ruin. They are: alcoholic slushies and wine on tap. This relaxed Nolita bar is cool without being too cool. There isn’t a ton of table seating, and standing is often necessary, so this one is better suited to stopping in with a small group than it is to a date.
The Garret Nolita is probably the “coolest” bar in the area, and for that reason - plus the fact that it’s just one small room - it can get pretty packed. As long as you’re OK with that, this is a great spot for a casual cocktail with a friend or two. Get a couple of slushie drinks, then try to claim a booth along the wall or one of the alcoves up front.
Picture a big wine cellar in the bottom of a castle that someone decided to renovate and turn into a lounge. That’s what this bar feels like. Peppi’s Cellar is a long dark room in the bottom of a Nolita restaurant (Gran Tivoli), and it has a low ceiling, red carpets, and a bunch of little round tables with candles in the middle. Bring a client who’s looking for a cool spot with great cocktails, or come with a date who might be impressed by the fact that this place is underground.
In almost any other part of town, Sweet And Vicious wouldn’t be that special. But there aren’t too many semi-divey bars in Nolita where you can drink a frozen margarita with a group of coworkers and also maybe meet the next person you’re going to date. So if that’s what you want to do, come here. It gets extremely busy, but that’s kind of the point.
So you walked into Sweet And Vicious, then realized it was incredibly busy and full of people you’ve seen on dating apps. Where do you go instead? The Vig Bar. It’s right across the street, it doesn’t get nearly as busy, and it’s a perfectly nice and normal place to grab a drink. Sure, it looks kind of like something you’d find on the ground floor of a Marriott, but there’s a good Happy Hour, and there are some big banquettes for groups.
The Brooklyneer is a Brooklyn-themed bar, in Soho, that takes soccer seriously. Ponder that for a second. But not for too long, because this is actually a very useful hangout, with very good food. Use it if you want to watch some people run around a big rectangular field on TV, or if you need to escape the fraternity mixer that is Houston Hall (next door).
This is the best wine bar in the area, and not just because it has a fancy name. In addition to a long wine list (obviously), La Compagnie has tons of seating - whether you want to hang out at the bar, claim a small table, or gather a group around some couches in the back. And if you make it here before 6pm on a weekday, you can take advantage of their Happy Hour, when all glasses of wine are $5 off.
Ever heard of The Ship? Probably not. This cocktail bar on Lafayette keeps a pretty low profile, mostly because it’s located underground and accessed through an almost-hidden door. Fittingly, there’s a boat theme going on, but it’s more “fancy barge” than “polo shirt in Nantucket.” It’s a big space, great for either a one-on-one drink at the bar or a small group gathering in one of the booths.
This wine bar is so small that it feels less like a room and more like a hallway. But it’s an extremely nice hallway, with a long bar, brick walls, and a couple of seats in the window up front. If you need a spot to catch up with a friend, an old coworker, or a relative you forgot about, it’s perfect for that. There are a bunch of natural wines by the glass, as well as some snack options like meat and cheese, and there’s also a Happy Hour from 4-7pm every day.
Spring Lounge has been around since the 1920s, and you can kind of tell. It has a tin ceiling and old wooden floors that look like they’ve been walked on by several million people - and sometimes the whole place smells a little like a sock or a hot dog (probably because they serve hot dogs every Wednesday night). But it’s a classic spot, and an un-fancy oasis in the luxury goods bazaar that is Soho. It also opens at 8am most days, in case you ever decide to call out of work and spend 12+ hours in a bar.
Botanica is a dive, and it's the kind of place where you bring a group of friends or coworkers when all you want to do is drink something cheap in a room that gets very little natural light. There's a great Happy Hour until 8pm daily with $5 wine and well drinks - and seeing as how everyone seems to know this, it can be hard to find a seat here.
The original St Tropez is in the West Village, and this is the second location in Soho. It’s a little bit smaller, but it’s a similarly useful spot for when you’re going on a date and aren’t sure if you want to order food. If things go well, you can order some meatballs and octopus, and either way you can drink some wine.
Do you need to grab a drink with clients or a couple of relatives who just want to sit on a couch and drink a good cocktail? That’s what The Gordon Bar is for. You’ll find this place up a flight of stairs in the Sixty Soho Hotel, and not a lot of people seem to know about it. Drinks are pricey, but it isn’t tough to get a seat, and it’s a great-looking space with couches, armchairs, and coffee tables covered in coffee table books.
The Ear Inn is located in way, way far west Soho, practically in the Holland Tunnel. But it’s worth diverting over here to drink in this extremely old-school spot. Established in 1817, it’s one of the oldest bars in New York - and happens to still be a very good one.
Probably the most nondescript, bar-iest bar listed here, Broome Street Bar is a classic spot that checks off all the boxes: lots of space, good beer list, and... yeah, that’s basically it. But don’t underestimate this place - it’s the only bar of its kind in the heart of Soho anymore.