As a native New Yorker, I often get asked by visitors where they should go to experience the city’s nightlife. This is equivalent to asking “Where can I get rice in Thailand?” or “Where can I see mountains in Switzerland?”. There are just too many unique and worthwhile options to choose one “best” venue. However, to help make the selection a little easier I’ve created a guide based on my experiences to give people an idea of where to go based on their mood (Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments!).
If you love beer
133 W. 33rd, Midtown
Stout is one of my absolute favorite bars in the city, not only because it’s fun but also because they have over 100 beers from all over the world. My personal favorite is Delirum Tremens, with 9% alcohol it will definitely make you loopy enough to venture downstairs for some kareoke. Some unique options include Arcadia Cocoa Loco Chocolate Stout (USA), Hitachino Ginger Beer (Japan), Tusker Lager (Kenya), and Palma Louca (Brazil).
For a unique cocktail
White and Church
281 Church Street, Tribeca
While you can still get your normal Manhattan or Mojito, and even some standard international drinks like a Brazilian Capirinha, this interesting venue is well-known for its bug infused libations. Choose from a piña-colada style drink garnished crickets called “Summer”, a brand-based beverage topped with scorpion known as the “Blue Velvet”, or the “Why Not”, a margarita-type cocktail with red pepper, avocado, and spicy worms.
If you’re a techno-head who loves big crowds
618 W. 46th, Hell’s Kitchen
I’ll be honest, Pacha gets a lot of mixed reviews. However, if you like techno you will love Pacha. I’ve been here before and absolutely love the music and energy of the multi-level, trendy venue, which originated in Ibiza, Spain, the unofficial house music capital of the world. My only gripe is that it can get pretty crowded, although with enough drinks or E tabs in you you’ll barely notice.
For the social butterfly (and to pick up hot singles)
Wilfie & Nell
228 W. 4th, West Village
Wilfie & Nell is one of my favorite West Village hangouts, and it’s almost impossible not to meet someone interesting there. The crowd ranges from laid-back locals in board shorts and t-shirts to business types in suits and pencil skirts and everything in between. The concept of the bar is that you’re supposed to sit wherever there is an open spot at one of their long wooden-tables or two-tops parked close together, even if people you don’t know are sitting there, in order to foster conversation with new friends. Side note: The cheese plate here is amazing and comes with assorted cheeses, fruit, chutney, crackers, and bread.
If want the best wings in town
Down the Hatch
179 W. 4th, West Village
Down the Hatch is a loud and wild college-type bar with cheap drinks that almost guarantees you will get sloppy. I don’t go for the drinks, however, but for the wings. I’m a hot sauce addict, and it’s really hard for me to find a wing worthy of being called “hot”. However, Down the Hatch makes wing platters that have enough spice to make you sweat with enough flavor to make you enjoy the pain. And, they don’t skimp on protein as their wings are extremely meaty.
For the high-roller who also wants a great view
230 Fifth Ave, Flatiron
This rooftop bar is swanky, with sexy decor and a 1940’s feel. Be prepared to pay about $20 for your cocktail, and if you don’t tip well it’s not unlikely for the waitresses to throw a scream in your face (this happened to a friend of mine who visited from England and left $2 for our 3 drinks). However, if you don’t mind shelling out the cash this place can be a lot of fun with great DJ’s and a bird’s-eye view of the whole city lit up at night from their heated rooftop lounge.
For couples or those who just love wine, cheese, and chocolate
Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar
Locations in Midtown and West Village
Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar is a sleek and romantic bar with a contemporary design that features about 100 international wines and champagnes. They have an enormous wine cellar, and bottles range from $35-$180, offering something for everyone. What’s really awesome is that they also offer “create your own” cheese, chocolate, and meat platters, which you can add wine pairing to.
If you wanna see drag queens
227 E. 56th, Midtown
I went here for my birthday and, while expensive, it honestly is a lot of fun. The venue hosts drag shows where they sing dirty renditions of your favorite songs, like “My vagina is 5,000 miles wide”. You’ll also be served by waitresses in drag who will entertain you by making balloon animals shaped like your favorite sex organs.
For an Irish Pub with Exotic Cuisine
Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant
Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant is a fun Irish pub with two floors that has a friendly staff, fun atmosphere, and, most importantly, exotic meat burgers. I’ve tried their Peking Duck Burger and their Incredible Lamb Burger and both were out of this world, with melted cheese and tangy sauces. The bar also hosts weekly events like live music on Fridays and Saturdays and West Coast Swing on Tuesdays.
For something classy and fun
163 W. 46th, Times Square
Sweet Caroline’s is a fun dueling piano bar where you can pay a dollar to have talented musicians play your favorite song and battle it out to be the best. There also tends to be a lot of dancing and drinking games involved, adding a bit of naughtyness to the otherwise classy joint.
If you like sweets with your drink
62 Carmine Street, West Village
Sweet Revenge is for those who want a cozy nightlife experience as well as delicious treats. The venue does a cupcake and wine/beer pairing for $13.50 ($10 during happy hour). Try their classic “Sweet Revenge” cupcake, a peanut butter cupcake with a ganache center and peanut butter fudge frosting paired with Juan Benegas Malbec, Argentina, or Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss, Germany, or one of the choices off their rotating menu. If you’d rather have something ethnic and savory, you can opt to do a savory cupcake and drink pairing.