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 8/12/19): Ray’s, Abe’s Pagoda
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.
Like Peppi’s Cellar, The Poni Room is a new bar underneath an attractive, busy restaurant in a cool area (in this case, Saxon + Parole in Noho). The dark space, which doesn’t have any standing room, is a great option for casual dates - just grab a booth or a high-top and drink a frozen cocktail, martini, or some wine (reservations are also available if you like to plan ahead). If you opt for wine, you’ll be instructed to walk to the back, pick a bottle out of a giant sink filled with ice, and pour your own glass or carafe - to the brim if you want. They also serve a bunch of Japanese-influenced small plates and seafood skewers, and while you can eat a full dinner here, we recommend just sharing a couple things - like crunchy lotus root in soy sauce and crispy, sweet, spicy chicken wings - while you drink.
On the surface, Magazine seems like a pretty normal neighborhood spot - it’s just a long room with a bar, a few tables, and some strings of red lights that provide the majority of the ambiance. But the space fills up at night, when they turn on a disco ball and a DJ starts playing vinyl. It’s a fun spot, and it’s the kind of place where you can hang out for five hours, talk to some strangers, and interact with a bartender in white overalls. Drinks are also pretty reasonably priced (cocktails and well drinks are all $10), and there’s a nice little backyard where you can sit down when you need a break from noise and people.
This new East Village spot feels sort of like a neighborhood cafe that just happens to have a very serious drink list. It has a bar up front and another room in the back with plenty of tables, and there’s also a little patio out front where you can hang out and watch tourists point at things on St. Marks. Stop by the next time you want to sit down, drink a good cocktail, and discuss the current trajectory of your life with a friend or two. If you get hungry, there are some pretty solid bar snacks like chicken liver toast and a ricotta flatbread.
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.
Devon is a new LES spot with obscure drink names (like “The Knowable Universe (compared to the size of a mustard seed)”) and a full menu of upscale bar food. The cocktails (including punches) are the focus here, but they also have beer and wine. And while you might come here mostly to drink, don’t be surprised if you see a grilled cheese and immediately change your mind. Food-wise, everything we’ve tried here is good - especially the monkfish katsu sandwich and the artichokes. Whether or not you end up eating something, Devon is a good place to know about for group drinks or a date in the area, since it’s cool but doesn’t get as rowdy as some of the neighboring bars.