Hell’s Kitchen, close to Times Square, has long had a reputation for being unfashionable among New Yorkers. This vibrant neighborhood not only boasts a rich history but also a thriving nightlife scene. With a new generation of bars popping up all over the neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen could well become the next ‘it’ place in NYC. We check out the best bars in the area.
If ‘shot’ is your favorite four-letter word, Barcelona Bar is the place for you. With over 100 different options to choose from, ranging from the Breaking Bad themed Heisenberg to the Monica Lewinsky, there’s something for everyone at this compact 8th avenue establishment. Sure there’s kitsch to spare, but with shots like Legend of Zelda, Full Metal Jacket, and Harry Potter, the latter of which comes complete with wand, fire and Sorting Hat, it may be that a little kitsch is exactly the thing to get the night started off right.
Walking into Valhalla, it isn’t hard to see the parallels between this 9th Avenue establishment and the mythological Norse warrior heaven it is named after. Viking paraphernalia lines the interior, but it’s what is behind the pale wood bar that really makes this place legendary. Over 48 taps protrude from the wall, above which more than 40 varieties of bottled beer sparkle in the light. Looking for a lively atmosphere? Come during the week when this place fills up with the happy hour crowd, throwing back black, amber, and gold liquid from some of the best breweries around the world. But if you crave something calmer, come on weekends when the bar is subdued during the day, giving curious patrons ample opportunity to enjoy brews in peace. It may not be Asgard, but a better paradise for beer lovers would be hard to find.
Flaming Saddles Saloon
There may come a time in your life when you need to let your hair down, don a cowboy hat, and just do-si-do the night away. And at Flaming Saddles, a country western themed gay bar in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, you can do just that. With tight jeaned staff dancing atop the bar like an all male version of Coyote Ugly, the mood is set for what is guaranteed to be an undoubtedly lively night. And if all that dancing has you feeling famished, there is a full menu of Tex-Mex to get you back on your feet and onto the dance floor in no time. So come on by, and prove to your friends that those red cowboy boots you bought weren’t a waste of money.
Bar9 in Hell’s Kitchen has a dark, dive feel and some of the nicest bartenders in the boroughs; you could do worse on a weeknight than to grab a canned Tecaté (or three) and a bowl of guac and sidle up to the bar to hang with the regulars. On Friday and Saturday nights, swing by for their legendary Dueling Pianos, where a packed house creates a delightfully raucous atmosphere destined to get even the most curmudgeonly New Yorkers off their feet and onto the dance floor.
On The Rocks
With a microscopic sign set on a dark oak exterior, it would be entirely possible in all the chaos that is New York City to walk right by On The Rocks. What a shame that would be. Inside this 10th avenue tavern is a temple to whiskey, where worshippers can leaf through a selection of scotches and ryes as thick as a dictionary to choose from any of the gleaming amber bottles that adorn the walls. Small, dim, and quiet, the intimate ambience and friendly patronage of this Hell’s Kitchen watering hole make it a great spot to relax, unwind, and enjoy a few fingers of your favorite whiskey, neat or on the rocks.
The Pony Bar
If craft beer is your thing there are few places better on the west side of Manhattan than The Pony Bar on the corner of 45th and 10th. Patrons gather around beer barrels doubling as communal tables to try any one of 20 exclusively American brews, all of which are conveniently displayed on two electronic boards that update with each rotated batch. Like one in particular? The Pony offers containers to go, meaning you can feel safe knowing that you’ll be able to keep the party going even after you’ve gone home.
Rudy’s Bar and Grill
Ever wondered what a bar opened in the 1930s could possibly know about surviving in the world’s most saturated market? Well this is it: keep your drinks cheap and you’ll keep your customers coming. Those are the lessons of Rudy’s Bar and Grill on 9th Avenue, where the pints range from the ridiculously cheap $3 to the still cheap $5 and where free frankfurters come with the purchase of any beverage. Perhaps it is this commitment to low cost that has attracted the likes of Al Capone, James Gandolfini, and Sir Paul McCartney inside its doors. Or maybe it’s just Baron, the six-foot porcelain pig in jacket and tie that greets potential patrons from the street. We’ll let you be the judge.
A spin-off of the popular Chelsea venue, Boxer’s HK, a sports bar on 9th avenue, has quickly gained traction in the already LGBT friendly Hell’s Kitchen. Occupying three levels, including a 1500sqft rooftop terrace that is perfect for those balmy summer days, and a lounge with 20 flat screen TVs showing all the biggest games, the bar is a solid choice any time of year. Not one for crowds? The lower level, called the DogPound, can be booked for private events and parties, meaning with just a phone call you and your friends (and a few shirtless bartenders) can have the space all to yourselves.
Part bar, part bottle shop, Beer Culture on 45th street is the best of both worlds. While there is a strong selection of in-house drafts, the real driving force behind this Midtown West taproom is its bottle selection, which may be one of the best that Gotham has to offer. Coolers lining the walls house an impressive array of local and imported beers, with over 200 varieties to choose from.
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