10 Best Bars in New York City

At last count, New York City has somewhere between 1500 - 1800 bars in operation at any given time. With statistics of that caliber, it's incredibly difficult - natch, pretty much impossible - to declare a top 10 list of the best watering holes in the five boroughs. We're even doubtful that someone could identify the top 10 bars in Manhattan, let alone Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx and Queens.

With that in mind, we here at 10Best took a crack at identifying a list of haunts that have earned a special spot in the hearts of New Yorkers. From dive bars like Bar 169 in Chinatown and American Trash on the Upper East Side, to swanky hotspots like Mulberry Project in Little Italy and The Wren on Bowery, this list attempts to provide you with a guiding light to explore a particular neighborhood by way of a well-respected bar that's earned its stripes. 

While in no way inclusive of all of the bars deserving of this title, these 10 stand out for their ability to hold a crowd, dazzle with delicious cocktails, or simply to keep us entertained with bar games when we grow tired of chatting with our friends.

Without further ado, we present to you 10 of the best bars in the city.


This spacious Noho bar is a good place to get the night started. Spend some time on the billiards tables in the back, steady your hand on one of the three dart boards, and tip the bartenders on your way out – with a bit of luck, they might just remember you next time. A good selection of draft and bottled beers are stocked behind the bar, but you won't find much in the way of custom cocktails here. Stick to brewskies, or the basics: vodka/soda, gin/tonic, a shot glass – you get the idea. Bleecker Street Bar is also a decent place to watch the games on Sundays, though happy hours and pre-gaming before a solid night on the town are preferable.

Lower East Side

What is there to say about Bar 169 that hasn't already been said? A dive in the truest sense of the word, this Chinatown haunt practically beckons you in off the streets to make bad decisions – tequila shots and oysters, anyone? A leopard print pool table stands proud under swinging fringed lights, while patrons watch the occasional solo burlesque dancer sway her hips and shake her ta-tas for dollar bills. Vaguely reminiscent of your strange uncle's basement, but with enough 90s grunge to keep you flying high all night, Bar 169 is where you go when you want to blend in while still feeling supremely in-the-know and weird, all at once. Unsurprisingly, it's the perfect place to end your evening.

Upper East Side

Located on the Upper East Side, American Trash is sandwiched between enough Baby Bjorn-wearing parents and subpar Italian restaurants to make just about anyone crave a Jack and Coke at a run-down watering hole. Dive bar critics – as if such a thing exists – will try to tell you that American Trash isn't an actual dive bar. They're wrong. Cheap drinks, a biker crowd, and a bartender who sounds like she spent the last 3 decades sucking on Marlborough Menthols is actually the exact recipe for a dive bar. If you find yourself in this dead zone of decent bars, consider stopping in for a few songs on the jukebox and a basket of wings – you won't be disappointed.

Lower East Side
Mr. Purple

Positioned high above the city on the Indigo Hotel's 15th floor, Mr. Purple is the Lower East Side's newest darling. Spanning 6,000 square feet and a rooftop pool, the space is reminiscent of an artist's loft, with low-hanging lights and concrete complementing polished wood. The restaurant pulls together the best of the area's best – guests can sample Melt Bakery, 2nd Avenue Deli, Beecher's Cheese and Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery. As for liquid fare, Mr. Purple's speciality is the classic cocktail – the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan both make appearances alongside more modern carbonated craft offerings, hand-squeezed juices and Irving Farm Coffee Roaster brews.

Positioned across the street from the semi-famous Bavarian beer hall in Astoria, The Sparrow Tavern is a good place to get sauced before heading over to drink beer out of a boot. Along with a healthy collection of cocktails, including a fine Bloody Mary, their brunch is top-notch and their burger rivals some of the best in town. A "classy" dive, this is a place where you wouldn't feel bad bringing your parents. In fact, it may even inspire some old college tales – like that one where Dad met Mom over body shots and Flaming Dr Peppers. Oh wait, that's just us? Moving right along then...

East Village

It's no secret that the majority of New York bars can barely fit the clientele in without inducing mild-to-severe claustrophobia in half of the patrons. The overabundance of these teeny tiny watering holes makes the ones with space even more desirable – especially when they're able to cram in a couple of Skee-ball lanes, pool tables, dart boards and video games. If you're into gaming while drinking, allow us to introduce you to Ace Bar in Alphabet City. Along with all the funsies, the bar also boasts one of the best jukeboxes in New York City, as rated by The Village Voice, NY Mag and Rolling Stone Magazine.

East Village

Not everyone loves d.b.a., but that shouldn't stop you from going. The bartenders are grouchy, the menu is inconsistent, and the weekends are impossibly crowded. That said, there's something about this East Village gem that keeps regulars coming back in droves. Perhaps it's the extensive beer menu, the rare whiskey/scotch list or the lovely outdoor patio that draws the crowds? Or maybe it's the tabletop Ms. Pacman game inconspicuously gracing the floor? Whatever the case, d.b.a. holds a certain level of charm that's tough to find anywhere else in the 'hood. Try your tastebuds out on something you haven't heard of before - chances are it's relatively cheap and you may discover a new favorite.

East Village

The Wren is where you envision yourself drinking when you finally "grow up." Reminiscent of a country cottage, the Wren turns out drinks that are delicious, inventive, and yes, pricy. Unless you're a finance "mogul" or PR "maven," this certainly isn't somewhere your wallet can comfortably afford 5 nights a week, but it's more than worth the occasional bi-weekly visit. When deciding what to order, don't miss the Wren-quila, a margarita spiced up with house-made habanero-infused tequila, or a keep it simple with a classic like the old-fashioned. The Wren also dishes out really delectable seasonally sourced food from their kitchen, and bonus: the basement is available to rent out for private parties.

West Village

Jazz, board games, billiards, ping pong, tabletop shuffleboard – is there anything that Fat Cat doesn't offer? Not really, unless you're a stickler for windows. After waiting in the inevitable line that's queued up at the front, pay the (nominal) cover and climb down the stairs to this basement playground. Sprawled over what seems like a ridiculous amount of space for a New York bar, Fat Cat draws all kinds of locals for wholesome-ish fun, brought to you by buckets of PBR and good old-fashioned competition. During the week, jazz legends mix-and-mingle on stage with amateur performers for late night, after hours shows that are equal parts inspiration and music industry networking.


Meet Andrea Wien

Andrea Wien was bitten by the travel bug from an early age, and has lived in New York, Seattle, Cleveland and Sydney, Australia since 2007.

When she's not traveling or planning a trip, you'll...  More About Andrea