In college, a top-flight bar snack just meant a bar that would willingly hook you up with BBQ sauce AND honey mustard sauce for your chicken fingers, but your tastes have evolved, so we've rounded up the best options in various critical categories for bar-side face-stuffing. If you don't find something you like, you probably haven't moved on from chicken fingers (fine, they ARE still damn tasty).
Best Cocktail Party Snack: The "Pigs in a Blanket"
Alder, East Village
Improving your method of unwrapping the box and maybe greasing the pan, Wylie Dufresne's next-level pub elevates a seemingly already-perfect snack with Chinese sausage inside compressed hot dog buns, served with Japanese mustard and sweet chili sauce.
Best Use Of Elementary School Lunch Item: Frito Pie
Double Wide, East Village
While you can get this dish at many spots around the city, this Southern joint raises the stakes with slow-cooked short rib chili and aged cheddar on the curly corn chips, all topped with 'penos.
Best Odd-Sounding, Yet Addictive, Meat Snack: Sour Ribs
Whiskey Soda Lounge, Columbia St Waterfront
This meaty drinking companion at Andy Ricker's Thai boozing spot is both familiar and surprising all at once, with pork ribs that've been sour cured and deep-fried before being served up (like your drink, potentially) with super spicy chilies, ginger, and peanuts.
Best Thing That's Bigger Than Your Torso: Giant Pretzel
Reichenbach Hall, Midtown West
Your move, Auntie Anne. This behemoth would be content to just coast on its immense size, but it also happens to be delicious and is served with some excellent mustard for obligatory dipping.
Best Low-End Snack at A High-End Bar: Fried Cheese Curds
The Butterfly, TriBeCa
You know what goes amazingly with really top-notch grasshoppers and rusty nails at a spot evocative of a Midwestern supper club? Snappy, chewy, fried cheese. Fried cheese crosses all boundaries.
Best Unexpected Cultural Mashup: Israeli Scotch Egg
Eastwood, Lower East Side
Scotch eggs are inarguably great, but then again, wrapping something in meat and frying it makes everything great. This Israeli Scotch dares to appeal to the vegetarian crowd AND remain undeniably delectable with a fried falafel exterior.
Best Thing Involving A Bong: Bong Smoked Oysters
Desnuda, East Village and Williamsburg
Although the competition for this category is pretty slim outside of your apartment, this list would be incomplete without the BSO's, which take on a smokey-yet-acidic taste that works perfectly with a briny East Coaster.
Best Free Snack: Cheeseballs
The Levee, Williamsburg
Keep your peanuts and popcorn, because there is maybe no more-addicting free snack on the planet than the cheeseballs at The Levee. They're just your standard balls found in giant Costco containers, but that "vanishing caloric density" goes great with a beer or a Dreamsicle.
Best Non-Pizza Use Of A Pizza Pan: Nachos
Professor Thom's, East Village
Although this was a close contender in the "Best Thing That's Bigger Than Your Torso" category, these nachos pull off a minor miracle by virtue of being a comically massive pile of cheese, guac, sour cream, and chips that nonetheless manages to retain excellent balance in all of the above -- thanks to perfect ingredient layering that is often attempted, but rarely perfected.
1. Reichenbach Hall5 W 37th St, New York
2. Alder157 2nd Ave, New York
3. Double Wide Bar & Restaurant505 E 12th St, New York
4. Whiskey Soda Lounge Ny115 Columbia St, Brooklyn
5. The Butterfly225 W Broadway, New York
6. Eastwood200 Clinton St, New York
7. Desnuda221 S 1st St, Williamsburg
8. The Levee212 Berry St, Brooklyn
9. Professor Thom's219 2nd Ave, New York
Reichenbach Hall is the gigantic Midtown beer hall that's serving an all-German beer selection, sausages, and pretzels that Warwick Davis could essentially live inside.
Alder is Wylie Dufresne's pub-inspired resto that's funneling his classic taste-bud-bending creations into a more accessible, slightly less-conceptual bar food-inspired menu in a woodsily modern East Village dwelling.
Taking its name from the two separate rooms that comprise it, Double Wide's a TX-inspired bar & kitchen from a team that's lived in the EVill for 10yrs, but has been "going out there even longer", experience that helped to shape the industrial farmhouse vibe thrown off by corrugated metal wrapping the bar and walls, window boxes filled with filament bulbs, a high fence ringing their outdoor patio, and a garage door hanging above the tables where you'll be parked.
Pok Pok's brother restaurant, WSL dishes Authentic Thai food and drinks in Brooklyn.
Inspired by mid-century supper clubs, The Butterfly has killer cocktails by Eben Freeman and a patty melt so good, you should drop what you're doing right now to go get it.
This Southwestern cantina/beer bar's got a great beer selection, which you can pair with their counter-service eats, like a pita grilled cheese or fish and chips, while playing a game of backgammon or chess.
This Williamsburg outpost serves up traditional Peruvian ceviche, creative pisco cocktails, and signature gravity-bong smoked oysters. The main focuses at this date spot, however, are the daily oyster happy hours and extensive South American wine selection.
The Levee's a dive bar that's got you covered, from highly addictive cheeseballs, to cheap beer & shots, to awesome throwback tunes.
Boston sports fans take refuge at this Hub-themed bar in the East Village, which, incidentally, sits next to one that's loyal to San Francisco, Finnerty's. Professor Thom's divey, unassuming storefront leads to an interior where tons of sports memorabilia (including a couple of Fenway seats) make the bar look as though it were plucked from Boylston Street. Standard pub fare like burgers, club sandwiches, and fish & chips are on offer, as are lobster night specials and of course, Harpoon brews all around.