Bring Out Your Inner Pool Shark at New York's Best Billiards
By Courtney Sunday
New York and Toronto Local Expert
Before we begin to write about the best billiards in New York, let us claim that we know there is a difference between pool and billiards. Both may be cue sports, but games can have different objectives, whether it is to pocket balls or to move those balls around the table in a precise way. The real objective for both is to look like you are barely trying when you are putting your heart and soul into a game. Be honest: these games are about playing it cool in front of your friends while slyly winning. We don't judge.
Rather than judging, we have more productively spent our time searching out the best places to play pool, billiards or snooker in New York. Expect a mix of novices and experts playing eight-ball and other variations of the game during busy nights out. Marvel at the skills on display at places like Amsterdam Billiards, or test your own mettle with a game of one-pocket and, just maybe, a friendly wager. If things get serious, you may want to join a league at a place like Gotham City Billiards Club, rather than subjecting your friends on a regular basis to your obsession with winning.
Let's rack 'em and shoot 'em, shall we?
Joe Broadway's Billiards & Sports Pub
If you make the trip out to Staten Island, you want to be promised a good time. Joe Broadway's is that, with cozy booths for those times when you want to call eating wings a sport and a beautiful pool hall for when you need to prove your worth in your inner circle. Televisions sit side by side behind the bar, allowing you to watch many games at once - a dream in today's multitasking society. There are pool and dart leagues for any level player, which is a good way to learn the lingo and meet some friends across the pond. (718-727-9194)
Park Billiards Cafe And Sports Bar
Take away the fussy features and get honest: sometimes you just want it to be about the pool. Park Billiards has over 20 pool tables to keep you busy, along with beer buckets and wings to make an evening of it. On weekends, DJs spin, but the reasonable rates mean that many players have their eye on the game. Daytime rates can be as low as $6.50 a person, and it only climbs to $10 an hour if you go in the evening. It's not a fancy time, but it's a good time. Isn't that what you're looking for when it comes to the delightful pairing of billiards and booze? (718-829-3051)
Gotham City Billiards
Gotham City is the kind of pool hall you go to when you take the game seriously. When you can stare over the shaft of a stick with confidence and just enough of a pause to make your competition quiver. Sports memorabilia and model cars deck the walls of this family-owned billiards establishment, open since 2003. Join an amateur league and leave yourself open to the possibility of winning cash prizes. If you are exceptional, you can even qualify for a chance at the nationals in Las Vegas. But let's start with figuring out your stance and how to break. (718-714-1002)
We will never get tired of pool puns, because there are just so many good ones. Case in point: Eastside Billiards has been "bustin' balls since 1991." This stuff just writes itself. This place prides itself on owning 16 Brunswick Gold Crown III tables, which are considered to have superior craftsmanship (but would you expect anything else from the Upper East Side?). Even the sticks are routinely serviced and re-tipped. If the tables look so good, you are expected to as well: ladies can't show their stomachs and gentlemen must wear a shirt. Not the strictest of dress codes but enough to make sure that the game remains classy. Lessons are available for all levels if you don't yet feel confident with your game. (212-831-POOL)
New York is famously into fusion and Space Billiards proves this with their combination of billiards with Korean vodka. Go to the 12th floor of a building in Koreatown to get there. You will know you are in the right place by the plethera of neon lights. Drinks are reasonable, and happy hour also extends to the table with a lower rate per hour between 2pm and 8pm. Order a drink while you shoot some stick and get free popcorn to nosh on. The hours, between 2pm and 4am allow for ample time to improve your game, if you need it. (212-239-4166)
The best place to shoot eight ball in the Flatiron, Slate also happens to feature a New American dining room and an ultra-cool VIP lounge area (called PLUS), a living room-inspired space with contemporary furniture, plasma screens, hardwood floors, and a terrific sound system. What really makes Slate stand out, though, are its 30 or so gorgeous pool tables. Well spaced and professionally maintained, they're a sight to behold and a pleasure to play. Going to Slate will appeal to the wide variety of entertainment preferences that you and your friends have. There is a little something for everyone, from dancing to games to tempting food. (212-989-0096)
Society Billiards & Bar
Society Billiards & Bar is the kind of high end billiards bar that makes you want to dress up for the pool table. If you are having the kind of day where your aim is impressively on point, you might want to also go for the darts. Society calls themselves "the best kept secret" of the Flatiron District, so we do apologize for busting their cover. Their cork room has completely customizable walls and is available for group bookings with three private pool tables. They also have a pro shop if you want to practice your game at home with cue services to keep your existing billiards merchandise in tip-top condition. (212-420-1000)
Break Bar & Billiards
If you have ever watched Jimmy Fallon, you know that the man has an affinity for games. Let's be honest, so do the rest of us. If you have an inclination to break out a giant game of Jenga or Connect 4, this is your bar. Even better, it has great billiards tables and high def televisions to surround yourself with distractions even more profound that your SmartPhone. With exposed brick and soaring 12-foot ceilings, Break has a cool industrial feel. Which makes the fact that pool is free before 8pm (as long as you buy food and drink) even all the more surprising. (718-777-5400)
Fat Cat Billiards
Live music and games: What more could be better? This basement-level dive, associated with jazzy Smalls on West 10th, is as classic as they come. There are no frills, no fancy themes, no cleverly-named cocktails. What attracts the West Village crowd to Fat Cat is its simplicity -- it's a great place to relax with friends and catch a terrific jazz act, and it's an even better place to play backgammon, ping-pong, pool, or (gulp!) chess. There is even shuffleboard if you want to bring out your inner grandparent. Pay by the minute or by the table, depending on the game. Just play. (212-675-6056)
One of the city's -- some would say the country's -- most distinguished billiard clubs, Amsterdam is handsomely dressed with blond wood partitions and sleek, contemporary sensibility (straight, defined lines, sharp geometry and semi-private sitting areas with flat-screen TVs). Co-founded by comedian David Brenner back in 1989, the classy place has been written up in numerous rags and featured on a handful of TV shows, including "Letterman" and "Good Morning America." Amsterdam has pool leagues, ping pong and foosball. They also aren't afraid of hosting bachelor parties, which we have to say, takes balls. We promise we will stop with the pool puns. (212-995-0333)
About Courtney Sunday
Courtney Sunday lived in Canterbury, England and Luzern, Switzerland before returning to Toronto in 2010. Yoga teaching and freelance writing became her full-time professions, as she learned the true meaning of the statement: "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life." Courtney now divides her time between Philadelphia and Toronto. She loves the cafe culture of both cities and the ever-expanding group of foodies. When not leading small yoga teacher trainings around the globe she explores her cities by foot: www.courtneysunday.com, @Omathomeyoga.
Read more about Courtney Sunday here.