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The NYC Bar Hit List: Where To Drink Right Now

PHOTO: Banzarbar

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 out these places - 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 2/12) Banzarbar

the spots

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Banzarbar is a high-end cocktail bar behind an unmarked door on the second floor of Freemans on the LES. There are about 10 bar seats in the dark space, along with a few two-person, candle-lit tables along the wall. They offer a tasting menu that pairs low-ABV drinks with small seafood bites, as well as an a la carte menu of regular-ABV cocktails, small plates, and “The Kraken” - a whole tempura-fried octopus. Despite looking like a battered sea monster, this massive portion of octopus was actually pretty good. Banzarbar is a solid date move for good (and expensive) cocktails and small bites, especially if you’re a fan of themed-bars or speakeasies.

Due West

West Village
189 W 10th St
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Due West is a West Village wine bar and small plates place where everyone looks like they could be named Allegra or Alfons. It’s generally crowded, and has blue velvet booths, and cocktails on tap called Green Witch and the Village Manhattan. As far as the food goes, Due West makes a good burger (that comes with what must be drug-dusted rosemary fries) and little plates of scallop crudo and fried chicken bites. Come here for drinks with a date who won’t mind shouting about how responsible he’s become since adopting his labrador retriever puppy, because Due West gets pretty loud.

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If you hang out often on the Upper East Side and spend too much time at The Penrose, stop doing that. Jack and Fanny’s is right across the street, and it has couches, booths, and a bocce ball court. It also has great cocktails with names like “1st Of All, Wow” and “Boulevardi Hayyy.” The space has a vague ’70s theme, and it sort of feels like a big rec room in a very clean house that hasn’t been renovated in roughly half a century. All in all, it’s the best new bar on the Upper East Side.

Mood Ring

Bushwick
1260 Myrtle Ave.
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Mood Ring is what would happen if the 1989 art director of Tiger Beat Magazine (with a dark past) decided to open up a bar in Bushwick. It’s an astrological-themed spot with a rotating horoscope cocktail of the month and a hazy dancefloor area in the back that we’ll just call the lazer room. Aside from the drink of the month, they have a list of other cocktails (they’re $11), standard beer, and a few house shots (like the “Bodega,” which is Arizona Iced Tea infused whiskey). It’s a fun and ridiculous spot, and currently very popular amongst people who graduated highschool after 2006.

8.1
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Vini E Fritti is the third installment of the Danny Meyer-backed mini-empire in The Redbury Hotel, and this one specializes in wine, cocktails, and fried things. Use it to meet someone in Nomad - it’s the perfect balance of upscale (it’s really nicely designed) and casual (you seat yourself, either at the bar or a high-top table). The food menu is made up of stuff like fried artichokes and stracciatella cheese on focaccia, and if you’re hungry, or just too lazy to make a second stop, you could certainly eat a full dinner’s worth of food here.

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The Lost Lady is from the same people who own the Wayland, and the concept is similar. It’s casual and unpretentious, but they have good cocktails, such as a frozen hibiscus margarita, and a few different tacos if you get hungry. Unlike The Wayland, however, this place has some big booths and a shuffleboard table. The two-room setup makes it feel larger than it is, and the old-timey nautical theme makes it feel like you’re drinking in the bottom of a lighthouse in New England. Meet some friends here after work, or use it as an early-in-the-game East Village date spot.

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Loverboy is from the same people behind Mother’s Ruin, one of our favorite casual cocktail bars in NYC. And the concept here is similar: good drinks, unpretentious environment, and small bites like a chicken parm sandwich and prosciutto toast. This probably isn’t where you go if you’re looking to get super rowdy, but it’s good for something laid-back, and if you spend a lot of time in Alphabet City, you can think of it as an alternative to The Wayland. Bring a first date or a friend or anyone who might want a slushy cocktail.

Photo: Noah Devereaux

Narcbar

East Village
25 Cooper Sq

Narcbar is at the bottom of the Standard East Village, and it’s a great place to know about if you need a last-minute date spot. It’s casual, but the space is well designed, they make good cocktails, and there’s a surprising amount of food (from the chef behind Narcissa). It should also be decently busy when you stop by, although it probably won’t be too hard to get a seat. So if you need place to meet someone in the East Village, and you don’t want to go to a dive or a spot like Death & Co., come here. It’s simultaneously fun and low-key.

Fairfax

West Village
234 W 4th St

If you want to sit on a couch and drink a glass of wine in the West Village, you have two options: make friends with someone who lives in the West Village, or go to Fairfax. This is a cozy all-day wine bar in the old Perla Cafe space, and it’s from the same people (who also run Fedora and Bar Sardine across the street). It feels kind of like a hotel lobby or a tiny Soho House, and it might come in handy if you need a bar where you can actually have a conversation with someone. They also have a small, slightly pricey food menu with things like spaghetti and a Cuban sandwich.

Elsa

136 Atlantic Ave
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Elsa used to be in the East Village, but they moved their operation to Cobble Hill, and it’s essentially the same setup. There’s a little bar up front, plenty of two-person tables for date night, and the whole place is very well designed. Which is to say, you’ll want to hang out here and drink a cocktail. They don’t have much food, but the drink menu is pretty extensive, and, if it’s warm out, you’re probably going to want their salted watermelon frozé. They serve the same stuff at Ramona in Greenpoint (because the bars are owned by the same people).

Mad Tropical

Bushwick
236 Troutman St
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Tandem was a divey neighborhood bar in Bushwick where you went to dance or accidentally make out with someone or both. But that place closed, and now it’s called Mad Tropical. Thing is, it feels pretty much the same. The only real differences are a few more houseplants and a kitchen serving tacos. So stop by for a dance party in the back room (Thursday through Saturday), and expect to find a bunch of young people dancing like they heard that’s how you stay young. Or come on a weeknight with a few friends. It should be pretty quiet then.

Photo: Noah Devereaux

Bar Moga

128 W Houston St
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If you often find yourself wanting cocktails in Greenwich Village, and you basically pay rent at Dante, there’s a new option available to you. Bar Moga is a Japanese-inspired cocktail spot that’s part bar and part restaurant, and it’s a good option for grabbing a drink before or after dinner nearby. The cocktails are made well (get the Queens Park Swizzle) and the location is convenient - just be warned this place does get packed.

Photo: Kuo-Heng Huang

Attaboy is the hidden LES bar where you ring a doorbell to get in, and the bartenders make you a surprise drink based on a few questions. Diamond Reef is from the same owners, and, like Attaboy, they make good cocktails. But it’s a lot more casual. It’s also tropical-themed, and it’s a great place to get a few good drinks with friends. You can either order one of the house cocktails (we like the slushy with scotch), or you can just hang out and have a beer. There aren’t a ton of seats, however, so either come early or be willing to stand. Although if it’s nice out, you can hang in the backyard.

The Flower Shop has two-floors, and, as far we know, you can’t buy any flowers here. There’s a ground-level restaurant and a bar in the basement, and the whole place has retro 70’s vibes. It’s like a cooler version of your grandmother’s house. The downstairs bar is a great spot for a relatively low-key hang, although you can expect a crowd on weekends (when it feels like a party in the basement of a very nice house that hasn’t been renovated in decades). It isn’t somewhere you’re going to dance, but it’s definitely a see-and-be-seen sort of place. So maybe comb your hair. Or if that sounds exhausting, put on a nice hat.

The Lately

Chelsea
357 W 16th St
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The Lately is a bar just above the Meatpacking District, and we aren’t really sure what theme they’re going for. It smells like incense, there’s a jar of rocks on the bar, they play classic rock, and there are some shelves with wooden ducks on them. Also, the whole place has some vaguely Nordic vibes. Confusing theme aside, it’s still a good spot to grab a casual drink in a neighborhood that desperately needs more bars like this. There are plenty of stools and a few couches, and there’s even a second floor where you can book a table. So make The Lately your go-to when you need a fun place to hang near the Meatpacking District but you don’t necessarily want to be surrounded by drunk versions of everyone you’ve ever seen on Tinder.

Goldie's

Greenpoint
195 Nassau Ave.
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Goldie’s is not the newest bar on this list. In fact, it’s been open for a little while. But for a place this cool, it’s flying way under the radar. It feels like an off-the-strip Vegas bar from the 80’s, except instead of a depressingly coked-up crowd wearing skintight leather and five-inch platforms, it’s filled with Greenpoint locals drinking beer-and-shot combos and eating free goldfish.There are big leather booths if you’re with a crowd, a u-shaped bar perfect for a first meeting with a stranger, and a pool table for making new friends. Also: happy hour (till 8pm on weekdays) involves $6 margaritas. Goldie’s is that rare combination of fun and low-key that makes it easy to hang here for hours.

If you’re someone who enjoys beer and/or hanging outside, you’re probably familiar with Threes Brewing in Gowanus. Turns out a lot of people enjoy beer and/or hanging outside, so Threes now has a spinoff second location in Greenpoint. The outdoor space here is much smaller than the original (just a few sidewalk tables), but what it lacks in Vitamin D exposure Threes Greenpoint makes up for with the rest of the experience. The indoor space is a great place to hang with any number of people, and the menu is surprisingly great - you can get everything from a farro salad to a very respectable burger. Their rotating draughts and cans are always fun to try, and there’s a DJ some nights to add some extra vibey-ness.

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The new thing is to give your restaurant or bar a name that could have been the title of an 80’s sitcom. Kind Regards would have been about a single father named Matthew Kind who ghostwrites love letters but can’t seem to find himself a partner that all twelve of his children approve of. Although it’s really just a bar in the former Cake Shop space. And, for an LES spot, it’s surprisingly calm. Sort of like The Garret in the East Village. The space is long and narrow, and there’s a little lounge-y area in the back where you can hang out on some couches. It’s a good first date spot, although you should expect a crowd on weekends. It’s on the LES, so that’s unavoidable.

Ghost Donkey

NOHO
4 Bleecker St
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This Noho spot used to be a gin bar called Madam Geneva, but now it’s tequila/mezcal bar with an objectively better name. It’s still a little one-room space, only now there are a bunch of red Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling. The cocktails average out at about $14, and they do some bar food like nachos and ceviche. Overall, we’d say this is a good place to start your night. You won’t do any dancing here, but they do have a drink involving a Mexican ice pop. You’ll probably order it.

Photo: Charles de Vaivre

Jupiter Disco is a theme bar in Bushwick. It was modeled on all those bars you see in science fiction movies where the hero gets into a fight and everyone starts shooting everyone with lasers. It’s dark inside with colorful, tube-shaped lights and a few TVs that play their cocktail list on a loop. The bar itself is pretty small (basically just a bar and a few booths), but it also doesn’t feel as cheesy as it should. If you live in the area and you’re a sci-fi enthusiast, this should be your Cheers.

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