Dating apps are sort of like scratch-off tickets that only cost a dollar. They’re accessible and momentarily gratifying, and you’ll almost immediately come to the conclusion that they belong in the trash. So the next time you download an app and then delete it after talking to someone who just keeps asking you to play Fortnite, use this guide. It’s full of places where you have a good chance of meeting a real-life person who shares at least one of your interests, and hasn’t already read and judged your 120-character bio.
Once you’ve deleted your apps, the first step is to remember that there’s a whole world out there where you can get a drink and talk to people without having to Google them first. Start with Kind Regards. It’s one of the busier bars on the Lower East Side, and it’s a good spot to have a conversation with a stranger who has interests beyond going places and watching things on TV. There’s an upstairs bar area as well as a lounge downstairs where you can hang out and dance once it gets late enough.
There are a lot of bars in the East Village, but if you want one that strikes a good balance between a friendly neighborhood spot and a place where you can shout along to a song with a couple of strangers at 2am, try Dream Baby. This Alphabet City cocktail bar is small enough that you’ll inevitably wind up talking to the person next to you, and it doesn’t get so busy that you’ll regret feeling the need to interact with other people after 15 minutes.
Before everyone started using dating apps, there was Union Pool. It’s sort of like the real-life version of an app, with weekend crowds of mostly-single people who don’t necessarily want to stay single forever. If the weather is nice, drink with some friends in the backyard. Or just hang out at the enormous bar in the front room and try to guess people’s astrological signs based on their drink orders. Whatever you do, get here before midnight, when there tends to be a line at the door. Don’t stand in that line. It’s embarrassing.
You’re an interesting person, and you deserve to meet people who are similarly interesting and also think that nonfat milk just tastes like water. Try a casual cocktail bar like The Garret Nolita. It’s a consistently busy spot with some big booths along the wall and potted plants that give it a slightly tropical feel, and it’s perfect for an after-work drink. Bring a friend or coworker, and tell that person to act boring in order to make your personality seem more exciting.
Your friends from outside NYC assume you lead a fun and interesting life involving cool spots with velvet furniture and modernist paintings. If you’d like to momentarily prove those people right, go to Primo’s. It’s an upscale-feeling lounge in Tribeca that doesn’t have a doorman or a dress code, and it’s great for when you’d like to have a real-life conversation with someone while sitting on a blue velvet barstool.
When you need to go a step further and temporarily pretend that dating apps, all of your responsibilities, and bars without dance floors don’t exist, try House of Yes. It’s an enormous venue in Bushwick that hosts different themed nights like “Miami Vice” and “Tiki Disco.” There are multiple bars inside, as well as a DJ, a light show, and occasionally some people dancing on tables. The only catch is that you have to either buy a ticket or pay a cover at the door. It’s worth it.
The Boobie Trap is your average neighborhood bar, if your average neighborhood bar had leopard-print light fixtures and various toys from the ’90s scattered around inside. It’s a great place to grab an inexpensive beer/shot combo, and if you need something to do with your hands that doesn’t involve swiping on an app, play some Hungry Hungry Hippos or Connect Four.
King Tai feels kind of like a tiny community center that happens to have alcohol, and a DJ on the weekends. It’s a little tiki-themed bar with big windows and a bunch of tables surrounded by fold-up wooden chairs, and it tends to draw a good crowd. Stop by, get one of their reasonably-priced cocktails, and hang out with some people who live in the neighborhood.
At Joyface, there’s a waterbed, a fireplace, and a disco ball. If this sounds like the kind of spot where you might start a conversation with someone that will eventually lead to a candlelit dinner during which you both realize you kind of like each other, that’s because it is. Stop by this busy East Village bar on a Saturday night, and come prepared with a few conversation topics you already researched on Wikipedia.
A house party is the ideal place to make new friends and run into people you’ll date for at least several months. But you probably don’t know anyone who’s throwing a house party tonight, or else you wouldn’t be reading this guide, so try The Flower Shop. It’s a two-story place on the Lower East Side, with a restaurant upstairs and a bar in the basement, and it feels like a suburban home from the 1970s. Get a drink downstairs, then challenge someone to a game of pool, or hang out in a floral-print booth and do your best to look like you’d make a good wedding date.
Walk by Ghost Donkey on a Saturday night around 10pm, and you’ll probably see a line outside. You can either A) stand in that line, B) go somewhere else, or C) plan ahead and get here early. We think you should go with option C. This is a great spot to start a weekend night, and if you come around 7, there will already be plenty of people inside. Get a cocktail with tequila or mezcal (that’s the specialty here), then introduce yourself with an observation like, “Wow, look at all those strings of lights on the ceiling,” or, “Did you know that insects outnumber humans by a ratio of 200 million to one?”
The New York Public Library
Technically, the library isn’t a bar or a restaurant, but it is a place where you can meet a wholesome person who shares your love of paper things with words on them. Sure, there’s a chance that person will only be killing time before a dentist appointment, but it’s a risk you should be willing to take. Worst case scenario, you read for a couple hours and find out why Anna Karenina wasn’t too happy in her marriage.