The Best Bars in Manhattan's West Village, New York
Due West is one of the West Village's welcoming bars | Courtesy of Due West
The West Village’s sweeping, tree-lined streets may be wonderfully quiet and charming, but the neighborhood swells with bars and nightlife, too. Stop by any of these bars for a fancy cocktail, a cheap beer, a dance party or a sing-along around a piano.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, American, $$$
Blind Tiger is a stalwart of the NYC beer scene | Courtesy of Blind Tiger
Beer lovers galore flock to Blind Tiger Ale House, a staple of the New York City beer scene that flung open its doors in the ’90s. There’s always something exciting to drink: pick from the two dozen draft beers on tap, pop open a bottle of something sour or funky, or opt for a tart cider. Blind Tiger focuses on showcasing brewers’ lesser-known beers as well, so there’s always an option to try something new. You’re far less likely to go hungry here, especially when you can nosh on steak sandwiches and house-made empanadas.
Employees Only has been slinging fancy cocktails in its dim, moodily lit space for over a decade now. The bartenders float through the bar sporting white lab coats, which makes sense: the mixologists are somewhat like beverage scientists, consistently experimenting with flavors and spirits. Try the Monkey Business (Monkey Shoulder whiskey shaken with lime and pineapple juice, banana liqueur and cinnamon), or start the evening off with an aperitif, like Coffee Talk (dark roasted coffee infused with Select Aperitivo, Fords gin and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino). Food can be added to the party – and can land on your table as late as 3:30am – so sample the likes of bacon-wrapped lamb chops and corn fritters with parmesan.
Food connoisseurs in the know make the pilgrimage to Corner Bistro for the beloved burger (a puck of charred beef topped with rings of onion, cheese, lettuce and bacon, slipped onto a white paper plate). But the nearly 50-year-old West Village tavern has proved to be more than just a destination for a bar burger: the pub is frequented by locals, snugly sipping rounds of cold beer in wooden booths. Corner Bistro bills itself as “the last of the bohemian bars,” and it’s true: its old-school status is typified by its beers on tap, which are refreshingly cheap for one of the city’s priciest areas.
Highlands Bar is the place to go for everything Scottish | Courtesy of Highlands Bar
Whisky fans: head to Highlands for a taste of Scotland. This Scottish gastropub is beloved for is staggering selection of scotch, found straight up or shaken into cocktails. Even the food is a nod to Scotland: Scotch eggs, haggis and smoked Scottish sea-trout mousse all feature on the menu. Although the main attraction is certainly brown liquor, there are a handful of Scottish beers on tap, too.
The setting is small (that’s West Village real estate for you), but that’s part of the charm of Bar Sardine. The sprinkling of bar seats and tables means there’s often a wait (this isn’t the type of bar you can simply stand around drinking in), but no matter: once you are seated, grab a drinks list and snag a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail from the ever-changing list (past themes have included summer movies, like cocktails inspired by Jaws, Jurassic Park and Guardians of the Galaxy). In the warm-weather months, the floor-to-ceiling windows are propped open, so it feels like you’re drinking outside, while nibbling on crispy pig ears and warm olives.
Through an unmarked door in a nondescript white building on 7th Avenue South is Little Branch (you’ll see the name faintly etched into the door). Down the stairs is a cocktail haven; the low-light speakeasy teems with cocktail lovers clutching colorful drinks. While the bar does offer a menu, most drinkers opt for the bartender’s choice: a bespoke cocktail tailored to the flavors you prefer. Pro tip: visit the ATM before you arrive, because this is a cash-only bar.
The unassuming spot on the corner of Bedford and Leroy feels just like the kind of local watering hole where you could drop in every week. It’s well-stocked enough to impress anyone seeking a good drink, with a menu of custom cocktails and craft beer. You’ll also find The Book, Daddy-O’s list of more than 500 rare and fine spirits: whiskey, bourbon, gin, genever, rum, cachaca, tequila and mezcal, among others. Line your stomach with something from the food menu, too (the kitchen is open until 4am), touting the likes of dry-aged cheeseburgers and BLTs.
The Happiest Hour aims to live up to its name | Courtesy of Happiest Hour
You’ll only see a sign for The Happiest Hour on West 10th Street, a tiki-style bar with lots of choose-your-own-adventure fruity drinks (try the Eat a Peach, made with peach, honey, lemon, cava and your choice of rum, gin or applejack) and a very good fast food-type burger. Downstairs is Slowly Shirley, the glitzy, old-Hollywood speakeasy. A list of house cocktails is always available, plus a rotating selection of seasonal ones and a few small plates.
For a bit of history, there’s the White Horse Tavern. The storied bar opened in 1880 and was a favorite among longshoremen working on the Hudson River piers. But the place is now best known as a haunt for writers and artists in the mid-20th century, where Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan would stop by for a drink. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was the bar’s best-known patron, until the very end: in 1953, he tossed back 18 whiskeys, stumbled out to the street, passed out, and subsequently died at the nearby St. Vincent’s hospital. You can still imbibe in these artists’ footsteps today (perhaps just not as much as Thomas).
An unadorned sign on Greenwich Avenue simply reads BAR in neon letters – but follow it, and you’ll find your way to Johnny’s. A quintessential dive bar, Johnny’s Bar checks all the boxes: cheap drinks, shots of the day, an entirely graffitied bathroom, a dusty old jukebox, bumper stickers glued to the walls and an assortment of paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling.
From street level, the second-floor patio on the corner of Barrow and Bleecker always seems to be hosting a private party. But that patio is actually open to everyone. It’s home to The Garret, a speakeasy accessed through the back of its downstairs neighbor, Five Guys. Here, you gaze out on 7th Avenue from the fairy light-illuminated patio, or schmooze on the couches inside, sipping drinks like The Missus Wheeler (Four Roses bourbon, Giffard banana, ginger Drambuie and lemon). There’s no food, but luckily you know where to grab a burger on your way out.
Anfora blends a bit of the old world and the new: at this wine bar, you’ll find a mix of natural, biodynamic wines, coupled with traditional labels. The focus is on wine, but there’s beer and cocktails as well. Grab a seat at the bar or at one of the candlelit tables, where you’ll be greeted with heavy pours of wine and some small snacks, too, like charcuterie and cheese plates, country pâté and flatbreads.
On any given night at Marie’s Crisis Cafe, someone’s belting out a ballad. That’s to be expected, after all, since there’s always a pianist gracing the upright piano in the corner, their fingers flying across the keys. Everyone is encouraged to sing along to the wealth of show tunes, and it’s not rare for bartenders to stand on the bar and sing a few Wicked solos.
Everyone is likely on a date at The Otheroom, a corridor of a space on Perry Street with low lighting and candles everywhere. There are plenty of nooks to cozy up in and comfy velvet couches to knock back a couple glasses of beer and wine (the only booze behind the bar). If the hunger pangs hit, you’re fresh out of luck (there’s no food here), but you can meander the tree-lined West Village streets and hit the nearby Malaparte for house-made pasta.
There are two floors to choose from at Katana Kitten, billed as an izakaya (a kind of Japanese bar where small snacks are served alongside drinks) making three kinds of drink: highballs, signature cocktails and boilermakers. Some are fancy but classic, like martinis served in handheld boxes with bite-size accoutrements; others are simply fun, blue concoctions daubed with maraschino cherries. The menu is rounded out with a small scattering of sake, wine and beer, along with some small bites, sandos (like crispy catfish bookended by two slices of soft bread) and skewers.
Due West is a bar for any occasion | Courtesy of Due West
Due West serves as the kind of chameleon bar that can attract and please just about everyone. Swing by to watch the big game with a round of beer, or cozy up on the velvet banquettes for date night. Stop by with co-workers for happy hour (dollar oysters galore!) or show up with a big crowd, prepped to down cocktails, Spritzes and truffle-honey baked brie.