It’s very easy to think you can just “go anywhere” to celebrate someone’s day of birth, especially when New York has all the trappings to propel this thought process. There are bars literally everywhere, in all different shapes and sizes.
But all bars are not created equal on the birthday front; in fact, some (most) are indisputably terrible for this. It’s important to know the standouts, which we’ve conveniently put together here, so you don’t end up trying to squeeze a group of 35 people into a bar the size of your apartment with no music and $15 drinks.
This bar checks off pretty much everything on the “not annoying” list. Ample space? Check. Places to sit? Um, booths and tables. Cheap drinks? Only if you think 24oz beers for $5 is a deal! (It is.) Easy access? It’s literally right next to BDFM and 6 trains, so if anyone complains this place is inconvenient, disinvite them.
It’s hard to have house parties in New York, mainly because 1) no one actually has a house, and 2) your apartment fits four people comfortably. Consider ABC Beer Co. your loophole. Its homey vibe is palpable from the minute you walk in thanks to fridges of bottled brews, grilled cheese aromas, and taps of arguably some of the best beers in the city -- all of which you can down from couches or a massive wood table while playing Guess Who!
If you want to get that classy birthday dinner-party feel without actually having a birthday dinner (because those are awful), this is your spot. Get here early to take over the back area, where waiters will serve you delicious handcrafted cocktails and probably not sing to you in unison.
For that fancier friend that you definitely have (hi, Kaki!), this is a solid birthday bar option. It’s got all the rooftop splendor without being overly obnoxious or overly cramped thanks to a massive indoor/outdoor space with two separate decks. Pro tip: kick off the shindig at 5pm for two hours' worth of fancy cocktails for under $10.
Just like homes, yards are also scarce in this town. Crown Vic takes care of that with a giant backyard BBQ feel -- think pitchers of beer, patio furniture with umbrella canopies, and a baby pool in the middle. Seriously, all that’s missing to make this a true birthday cookout is your dad flipping burgers in an apron that says “Kiss the Chef.” Which... is probably better off left in New Canaan, anyway.
This one wins for outdoor space alone. It’s huge, and can even be booked for private events should you only want your guests out there. Also, while there’s no hard evidence to support this, there's something crazy in those frozen margs that almost guarantees you’ll only have to buy the birthday boy or girl one or two drinks before they’re having the “best night of their life!”
Seventy bottles of beer on the wall... 70 bottles of beer! They’re not really on the wall, but this bar does have that many bottles, and typically even a cask. Plus, there are long wooden tables to seat all your friends.
This is just the epitome of a no-fuss birthday joint -- $8 Ginger Yum-Yums (you won’t regret it); good music; and a solid happy hour, if you want to start the celebration early. Plus, there’s a hidden back room if you want to segregate your group a bit, or attempt to pull off a surprise party.
Remember when you were a kid, and you always wanted a bounce house at your party? Well, this bar doesn’t have one, but it still evokes the charm of a childhood birthday with -- wait for it! -- two skee-ball machines, Buck Hunter, and very affordable drinks.
Who needs a themed birthday when the bar takes care of that for you? This place used to get so packed there was actually a Yelp review that said it was easy to “rub butts” with people. Since then it's opened a private downstairs, but has thankfully maintained the Rainforest Cafe-meets-Swiss Family Robinson vibe.
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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and was once asked to kindly leave a certain NYC bar on her birthday for pretending to be a bartender and singing Wiz Khalifa’s "Black and Yellow" too loudly. Follow her as she at least doesn’t do the first one anymore on Twitter and Instagram at @lizn813.
Bleecker Street Bat -- widely considered a dive bar by New Yorkers -- is pleasant, spacious, and packed with respectable beer options. There are pool tables, an entire section reserved for playing darts, and both tables & booths where you can actually hold audible conversations. Its exterior is unassuming, but this bar (located right off the 6/B/D/F/M subway stop) pulls out all the stops for a great, no-frills experience.
Part-bottle shop, part-beer bar (a trend that’s been taking off recently), this Avenue C haunt is perfect for when you want to grab an interesting six-pack to go from the cooler or belly up to the bar and order one of the 12 rotating drafts on the menu. Feeling hungry? The bar menu, sure to be a crowd pleaser, is full of meats and cheese aplenty. Whether you take a first date or a group of your closest friends here, you are sure to have a good time.
From the folks at Fat Radish, this date night bar peddles in oysters-on-the-half-shell as the fare of choice to be appropriately washed down with artisanal cocktails like the Lost Weekend Getaway (rum, Cynar, pineapple, lime) or the Hecho en Casa (tequila, mezcal, celery, lime). Schmooze over the curved copper bar that charmingly matches the eclectic vintage suitcases lining the wall and, if you stay 'til the late hours, enjoy soul tunes spun by a DJ over a pair of turntables.
This funky Lower East Side gastropub is equal parts cocktail bar, casual dinner spot, and brunch destination. The shabby vibe -- think mismatched furniture, walls cluttered with tchotchkes, and drinks served in mason jars -- matches the comfort food menu, whose Mediterranean dishes like spiced lamb pita and feta-topped fries at dinner are as popular as the egg nachos and chorizo breakfast burrito at brunch.
Enjoy sweeping views of the High Line with an IPA in hand at the Standard Hotel's on-site biergarten and lounge. The spot serves modern eclectic German fare and hosts weekly events including ping pong tournaments.
With mismatched furniture and an open, airy, converted-garage setting, duckduck radiates a strong East Williamsburg vibe. There's a wide variety of craft beers on tap, as well as seasonal cocktails and cheaper beer and shot combos. Open seven days a week from 4pm to 4am, the bar gets especially loud and lively with DJs spinning every weekend.
This trendy rooftop bar above Hotel Hugo offers dramatic views of the Freedom Tower, Statue of Liberty, and Hudson River -- all while enjoying a properly made cocktail. The wooden deck and constellation of blown glass light fixtures lend a summery, dreamlike quality to the space. Small Italian plates are available to order from Il Principe Cucina Italiana, located downstairs, and the drinks are mixed with premium spirits and local ingredients.
Check out one of Nolita’s last remaining “dive” bars, if dive means a place you can still drink domestic beer from a bottle and not every cocktail is served with a garnish plus giant cube of ice. Make your way past the all-wood, low-to-the-ground benches and NYFD paraphernalia to discover the airy backyard garden. The graffitied patio is perfect for sipping on Mason jar margs -- Jargaritas -- and a stupidly long 2-7pm happy hour and stellar DJ have this place going at all times of the year.
This is the sort of bar that feels way bigger than it actually is, and that’s especially true on a beautiful spring day when all the doors are open. Wander into Bar Great Harry and you’ll find one of the most relaxed beer bars in Brooklyn, coupled with a superb draft list that rotates on a very consistent basis, making every visit a unique experience. Plus, and we can’t emphasize this enough, it’s got an Iron Man Pinball game. Iron Man and beer is a combination that can’t be denied.
Boasting an absurdly cheap happy hour -- we highly recommend the Ginger Yum Yum -- this Nolita dive hub, in all of its dark and intimate glory, is largely filled with young professionals. Guests can either lounge on one of Botanica's many couches, or occupy the spacious backroom, all while enjoying the bar's occasional live music and its effortlessly dive-y atmosphere.
Ace Bar has been serving up cheap drinks to East Village locals since 1992 and is known for its laid-back atmosphere and excellent arcade game collection. The bar stretches two huge rooms and offers plenty of seating, as well as two pool tables, two dart boards, pinball, Big Buck Hunter, and Skee-Ball. It also has a special projection TV system for games and 12 beers on tap.
On the border of Soho and Little Italy, Tropical 128 is part tiki bar, part pool hall, and part dance club. In other words, it's the perfect bar to celebrate your birthday. Its koi pond, Polynesian lounge, and Caribbean-inspired cocktails make it feel like an adult-only Rainforest Cafe. It gets pretty crowded on the weekends, but the private downstairs room keeps the dance floor a little less packed.