|New York Travel Guide|
Bars and Lounges
Bars have always been a fixture of New York nightlife, but in the '90s, lounges popped up all over the city. What makes a lounge different from a plain old bar? Couches, cigars and classy clientele. Downtown lounges tend to attract high-paid office workers who while away their evenings with bourbon and cigars; uptown, you'll find yourself in the company of old money. In SoHo, artsy types fill the lounges, while Chelsea's spots draw a predominantly gay crowd.
But if you can't be bothered with the latest trends, you'll still find plenty of old- fashioned, unpretentious bars throughout the city that never sleeps. A proper listing of New York City's best bars could fill an entire book, but here's a highly selective list of bars that stay open until 2 am most nights (New York's bars can stay open until 4 am, and on weekends, most of them do.)
At Cafe Noir (Tel 212-431-7910, 32 Grand St), you can munch on North African appetizers while watching the passing SoHo parade from the open-air bar railing. Subway A, C, E to Canal St.
The owners of Pravda (Tel 212-226-4696, 281 Lafayette St), between Prince and Houston Sts, have tried to make their spot hard to find, but the lines outside mean the secret's out. If you dress trendy enough and look sufficiently intense, you'll make it past the gatekeepers and enter clouds of cigar smoke in this mock Eastern European speakeasy. The martinis make all the hassle worth it, though; the two-page vodka list includes Canada's Inferno Pepper and a NewYorkgrown Rain Organic. Subway B, D, F, Q to Broadway-Lafayette St.
The Corner Bistro (Tel 212-242-9502, 331, W 4th St), between Jane St and W 12th St, a famous bar from the bohemian days, contains carved wooden tables where you can eat charred hamburgers until 2 am. The enormous, half-pound bistro burger with bacon and onions has won some awards in the local press. Subway 1, 9 to Christopher St Sheridan Square.
The friendly and unpretentious Blind Tiger Ale House (Tel 212-675-3848, 518 Hudson St), between W 10th and Christopher Sts, may be the single best place to sample an array of interesting beer. Subway 1,9 to Christopher St-Sheridan Square.
The Liquor Store Bar (Tel 212-226-7121, 235 West Broadway), between White and Walker Sts, is a popular nighttime hangout in a small Federal-style building that its owners proudly claim has been in continuous commercial use since 1804. Big windows offer plenty of opportunity to watch the street traffic, and you can also people-watch from outdoor tables when the weather's nice. The bar takes its name from a previous business at the same site; locals, inspired by the furry animals often seen scampering down the street, call it the Rat Bar. Subway A, C, E to Canal St.
Be prepared for some pretentiousness at Hudson Bar & Books (Tel 212-229-2642,636 Hudson St), between Jane and Horatio Sts, a narrow faux library with free jazz on weekend evenings. Subway A, C, E to 14th St.
The smoky retro lounge Bar d'O (Tel 212-627-1580, 29 Bedford St) near Downing St. features drag acts several nights a week. It attracts a chic mixed crowd of gays and straights. Subway 1,9 to Houston St.
Okay, Bowlmor Lanes (Tel 212-255-8188, 110 University Place), between E 12th and 13th Sts, doesn't technically qualify as a lounge, but it's still a hip nightspot. The disco soundtrack and the glow-in-the-dark bowling (on Monday nights) produce a retro atmosphere worthy of a club. You're more likely to spot cocktail-drinking urbanites here than championship bowlers, and visits by Julia Roberts and other celebrities have lent Bowlmor plenty of cachet. Subway L, N, R, 4,5,6 to 14th St-Union Square.
Church pews and candles complete the Irish atmosphere at Swift's Hibernian Lounge (Tel 212-260-3600, 34 E 4th St), near the Bowery, a wildly popular bar with live folk music and probably the best pint of Guinness in New York City. The musicians cozy up to their audiences here, since they can't perform on the nonexistent stage. Subway 6 to Bleecker St.
A relic from days of yore, McSorley's Old Ale House (Tel 212-473-9148, 15 E 7th St), between Second and Third Aves, predates the Civil War and bears the dubious distinction of resisting the modem age; it barred women from its doors until the 1970s. This cramped and stodgy old bar often served as a setting for Joseph Mitchell's well-known New Yorker short stories. These days, you'll often find a long line of tourists waiting outside. Subway 6 to Astor Place.
For a nice slice of East Village life, have a late-night drink in Vazac's (Tel 212-473-8840, 108 Ave B) at E 7th St, a horseshoe-shaped bar at the southeast end of Tompkins Square Park. Also called 7B's it's been featured in a number of films, including The Verdict and Crocodile Dundee. Subway L to First Ave.
Tribe (Tel 212-979-8965), St Marks Place at First Ave, tells you everything you need to know about the hip East Village today. Formerly the storied old St Marks Bar & Grill, this place now features a DJ, dance- floor lighting and pricey pints. Subway 6 to Astor Place.
The Beauty Bar (Tel 212-539-1389, 231 E 14th St), between Second and Third Aves, isn't full of supermodels, just old hair-dryers that'll make you look like a conehead while you sip your martini. This not-quite-converted beauty salon still offers manicures a couple of nights a week, in addition to DJ dance tunes. Subway L to Third Ave.
Tired of the trendy East Village scene? Try WCOU Radio (no phone,115 First Ave), at E 7th St, a low-key hangout that bears a slight resemblance to a bathroom, thanks to the old tiles on the floor. Sit in the window and watch life pass by with a Bud or a bud and listen to the tunes on the cool jukebox. Subway 6 to Astor Place.
The hip Belmont Lounge (Tel 212-533-0009,117 E 15th St), near Irving Place, features plenty of nooks for those with an eye for romance or gossip. You can stargaze in the garden or nosh your way through the night, picking from a selection of sandwiches, salads and appetizers. Subway L,N,R,4,5,6 to 14th St-Union Square.
Midtown & Times Square
Rudy's Bar & Grill (Tel 212-974-9169,627 Ninth Ave), between 44th and 45th Sts, practically glories in its reputation as a spot for booze hounds. But that doesn't stop this old dive from turning away any of the trendy twentysomethings who stop in for the free hot dogs during a night of club-hopping in Hell's Kitchen. The drinks come pretty cheap here ($2 for a draft beer). Subway A,C,E to 42nd St.
The slightly more upscale Film Center Cafe (Tel 212-262-2525, 635 Ninth Ave), between 44th and 45th Sts, offers happy-hour discounts on pints from 4 to 6pm weekdays. Subway A,C,E to 42nd St.
Old guys have been hanging out around the wooden bar at McHale's Bar & Cafe (Tel 212-997-8885, 750 Eighth Ave), at 46th St. for years now. The actors and theatre people who frequent this unpretentious spot also lend it character. Look for McHale's great neon sign, which should take you back at least a half-dozen decades. Subway A, C, E to 42nd St.
Mercury Bar (Tel 212-262-7755,659 Ninth Ave), between 45th and 46th Sts, attracts the after-work crowd with a decent menu of bar snacks, plus a few more filling options. A sleek new spot in an up-and-coming West Side neighborhood near Port Authority the Mercury packs in patrons on Thursday and Friday nights, or whenever a major sporting event plays on the two big-screen TVs here. Subway A,C E to 42nd St.
Perched on the 26th floor of the Beekman Tower Hotel, the Top of the Tower (Tel 222-355-7300, 3 Mitchell Place), at First Ave, offers a clew view of the East Side, including the Chrysler Building and the fabulous '30s-era Pepsi ad across the East River. Subway E, F to Lexington Ave; 6 to 51st St.
In a city packed with Irish pubs, the British Open (Tel 212-355-8467, 320 E 59th St), between First and Second Aves in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge, draws fans of golf and the Royal Family. Subway 4,5,6 to 59th St.
Upper West Side
The old-school Irish bar Dublin House (Tel 212-874-9528, 225 W 79th St), between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave, shouldn't be remarkable, but it is, thanks to the odd combination of old men and Columbia University undergrads who patronize the place. Subway 1,9 to 79th St.
Columbia's grad students tend to hang out at the colorful dive called the Night Cafe (Tel 212-864-8889, 938 Amsterdam Ave), at W 106th St. Answer the obscure trivia questions, and you'll get a free drink. Subway 1,9 to 103rd St.
The quiet spot Saints (Tel 212-222-2432, 992 Amsterdam Ave), between W 109th and 110th Sts, welcomes a mixed crowd, though it's a predominantly gay bar. Subway 1, 9 to Cathedral Parkway (110th St).
Upper East Side
The quiet lounge at the Mark Hotel (Tel 212-774-4300, 22 E 77th St), between Madison and Fifth Aves, epitomizes Upper East Side elegance. Subway 6 to 77th St.
The Kinsale Tavern (Tel 212-348-4370, 1672 Third Ave), between 93rd and 94th St attracts European rugby and soccer fanatics with early-morning live satellite broadcasts of European matches during the winter months. This place features more than 20 beers on tap. Subway 1,2,3,9 to 96th St.
Double Happiness (Tel 212-941-1282, 173 Mott St), between Broome and Grand Sts in the Nolita area, is a cavernous basement retreat that has become très popular among a young and trendy urban crowd. Mingle and lounge with the hip crowd early on and get down to house music later on in the evening. Subway N,R,J,M,Z to Canal St.
Despite its name, Culture Club (Tel 212- 243-1999, 179 Varick St), between King and Charlton Sts in SoHo, isn't Boy George's paradise. While this downtown warehouse spins '80s dance music every night, it attracts a humdrum crowd of recent-college-grads- turned-Wall-St-types. The decor is nothing to admire either, but if 80's music gets you into the groove, then this is the place to go. The cover is $15. Subway 1,9 to Houston St.
Although it's primarily a bar, Naked Lunch (Tel 212-343-0828,17 Thompson St), at Grand St in SoHo, can turn into a rockin' dance party on a good night, but it still offers a more relaxing atmosphere than a hard core nightclub. The DJ spins a good mix of house music and Top 40. While the scene inside is pretty laid-back, leave your sneakers at NewYork because you might not get in the door. The cover is usually $5. Subway A, C, E to Canal St.
The Cooler (Tel 212-229-0785, 416 W 14th St) between Ninth Ave and Washington St, began as a meat locker in New York's meat- packing district but now hosts punk, rock, electronic, surf, indie rock, reggae, and hip- hop performances. The Monday night 'free series' is a great place to catch local bands for free. Other nights, be prepared to pay a cover (usually $8 to $15) for more well-known bands and for house parties on Friday and Saturday. Subway A, C, E to 14th St; L to Eighth Ave.
Roxy (Tel 212-645-5156, 525 W 18th St), between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, plays disco and house music for those in tight black t-shirts and leather pants. A former roller-skating paradise, the place still hosts roller discos on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the weekend, the dance floor offers plenty of space to try out all your moves, and Saturday night is sheer party madness. Scantily clad drag queens entertain in the lounge. The cover varies. Subway A,C,E to 14th St; L to Eighth Ave.
Twirl (Tel 212-691-7685, 208 W 23rd St), between Seventh and Eighth Aves, offers plenty of space for hard-core clubbers to strut their stuff and for loungers to mingle and observe. This chic and trendy Chelsea hot spot plays house music and hosts special events. The cover varies. Subway C, E to 23rd St.
True (Tel 212-254-6117, 28 E 23rd St), between Madison Ave and Park Ave South near Midtown, is an intimate one-room dance dub that attracts an older crowd. This spot stays mellow during weeknights, with lounge music and a Tuesday night Latin Club, but on the weekend house music is the order of the day. Subway N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
Midtown & Times Square
Wear your designer best if you dare to go to Float (Tel 212-581-0055, 240 W 52nd St), between Eighth Ave and Broadway in the Times. Square area. Arguably Manhattan's most popular scene among the beautiful and famous these days, this tri-level megaclub features a lighted runway on the dance floor and leather-strutting, caged dancing girls. If you're worthy enough to enter, be on the lookout for Leonardo, Ben Affleck and the like on the 3rd floor, reserved for those with the right stuff. Cover is $15 to $25. Subway B, D, E to Seventh Ave.
The four-floor multiplex king of all clubs, Exit (Tel 212-582-8282, 610 56th St), between Eleventh and Twelfth Aves in Midtown, hides its exits well. You'll get lost in the maze of theme rooms on every floor, each equipped with leopard-patterned sofas and its own DJ playing specialty music. Also check out the roof garden. Whatever music you're craving, it's in there some where. The cover is $25. Subway A,B,C,D,1,9 to Columbus Circle.