The Definitive Guide to Drinking on the Lower East Side
Once a neighborhood dominated by artists, skateboarders, and skateboarding artists, the Lower East Side is now more heavily inhabited by gingham-shirted Wall Street-types unabashedly spending $23 on a single drink. Still, among the high-priced craft-cocktail bars (which are certainly worth a visit) you’ll find the old-school skater dives, live music venues, and casual wine bars -- making the neighborhood one of the most unique drinking areas in Manhattan. Here’s a breakdown of everywhere you need to go, from cocktail hour until sunrise.
Best for a feast to soak up your cocktails: Ms. Yoo
163 Allen Street
A gastropub from Mokbar chef Esther Choi, this plant-covered lounge offers strong, fruit-topped cocktails -- try the Parrot Cries With Its Body (rum, pineapple, coconut, yuzu, and a festive tiki umbrella) -- alongside Korean bar snacks, like K-Pop popcorn shrimp, squid fries, and larger plates, like roast chicken, served head-on and with a rice-based stuffing. Do note that the bird takes an hour to prepare, which means you’ll have plenty of time to work your way through the cocktail list.
Best bar for a low-key night with friends: 169 Bar
169 E Broadway
Popular long before its cameo on Master of None, this 101-year-old LES/Chinatown dive is the perfect spot to come with a group of friends for cheap drinks, kitschy decor, and mac & cheese served until 4am. Three dollar beers & shots from 12pm-7:30pm daily make it a popular pregame spot, though dozens of canned beers from $5 to $8 for the rest of the night means it’s just as well suited to the end of the night.
Best bar for gluten-free drinkers: Wassail
162 Orchard Street
Those who shy away from grain-based beverages will rejoice in the cider-centric menu at Wassail, known as New York’s first cider bar. Opt for the $25 tasting flight including five 4-ounce pours of the well-curated ciders on tap (there are also cocktails, wine, and beer). A vegetable-heavy menu with snacks like tempura cauliflower keeps your night feeling just healthy enough.
Best bar for dancing: Home Sweet Home
131 Chrystie Street
Quite literally your home for the night from the time you descend down the stairs and onto the dance floor, this taxidermy-decorated, chandelier-illuminated, exposed brick and sticker-covered den is a Lower East Side classic that’ll remind you of the not-quite-on-trend apartment of your rich friend’s older brother. The rowdy lounge doesn’t offer much more than well vodka sodas and cans of PBR -- but that’s enough to get you dancing to the always great music (which often skews old-school). Visit before 8:30pm on weeknights for $4 draft beers and well drinks.
Best craft cocktail bar: Attaboy
134 Eldridge Street
Walk past the deceptive “Tailors and Alterations” sign on the opaque window on Eldridge, enter the narrow, industrial-style space, grab a seat at the bar, and tell the bartender what you like to drink. Housed in the old Milk & Honey space (and run by two vets of the iconic bar), Attaboy offers no menu -- instead, the talented staff will create a cocktail for you based on things like what spirit and flavors you’re in the mood for.
Best skater bar: Max Fish
120 Orchard Street
Relocated in 2014 from its original Ludlow Street location, this classic skater dive dating back to 1989 remains a hub for skaters (as well as those who have never stepped foot on a skateboard, but still enjoy cheap drinks). Paintings, drawings, and other works by local artists line the walls and there’s often live music from DJs and indie bands.
Best date spot: Nitecap
151 Rivington Street
Nitecap offers all the trappings of the perfect date spot: cozy booths, dim lighting, great cocktails, and perhaps most importantly, a huge disco ball. The drink menu changes twice a year and features dozens of smartly crafted cocktails ranging from shareable punches and boozy slushies to strong, liquor-forward cocktails, like a refreshing spritz with honeydew-infused vodka, sherry, aloe vera, lime juice, and seltzer.
Best bar for actually having a conversation: Bar Belly
14 Orchard Street
If your idea of a fun night out consists of slowly sipping wine, eating fancy bar bites, and actually hearing your friends speak, this laid-back hangout is your spot. Outfitted in plenty of exposed brick, books, and record players, Bar Belly offers the perfect living-room feel, in addition to nightly oyster deals: $1.50 each from 5:30-7:30; $18 for six the rest of the night.
Best bar to hear live music: Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street
The three stages at this no-frills music club get filled with acts from all over the world every night of the week -- from your favorite indie (or signed) artists to a slew of other performers who may just make it on your daily Spotify list. Most of the shows are free (or have a one drink minimum, and you probably wanted that $6 bottle of beer anyway) or have cheap ($10) tickets.
Best bar if you wander into Chinatown: Mr. Fong's
40 Market Street
If you head further into Chinatown, you’ll find this dim, sign-free bar (a favorite of fashion types and neighborhood regulars alike) in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. Sip on house-infused spirits, like a Chinese celery-infused vodka tonic ($9) or an Old Fashioned stirred up with salty plum-infused bourbon ($9). If you’re hungry, order from a menu of Chinese-inspired snacks like Malaysian jerky and pork buns on potato rolls.
Best wine bar: The Ten Bells
247 Broome Street
The Ten Bells prioritizes naturally made wines by small producers, so expect to try a blend or bottle you’ve never tried before. Glasses start at $8 ($5 glasses of select wines are served before 7pm, as are $1 oysters), but the best deal is to share a $24 carafe while passing around tapas-style plates like croquettes, meatballs, and plenty of charcuterie and cheese.
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