The Best Bars in Greenwich Village

Existing Conditions is known for its innovative drinks
Existing Conditions is known for its innovative drinks | © Eric Medsker
Amy Schulman

Food Editor

The best bars in Greenwich Village run the gamut from storied music venues to subterranean beer dives. There’s something for every kind of drinker, and you’ll taste it – whether you’re tossing back mixed drinks in a plastic cup or eloquently sipping experimental cocktails.

Grab a Belgian beer and a cone of pommes frites at Vol de Nuit

Since opening in 1995, Vol de Nuit has remained a Village staple for Belgian beers and crispy fries. Stroll through the unassuming orange-painted entryway to access the front patio area, or snag a bar seat in the dark, intimate space and let the bartender fill up a pint glass with frothing beer. There are eight beers on draft, more than 40 bottled (mostly Belgian) beers, plus lambics and wine. You’d be remiss not to pair a pint (or two) with a cone of pommes frites, which is accompanied by plastic cups of aioli and ketchup for dunking.

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Amelie Wine Bar is a must-visit for fans of French cuisine

This buzzy French wine bar is frequented by Francophiles and actually run by French people: co-owners Samie Didda and Germain Michel. The pair has designed a space that resounds with a cacophony of French and English chatter and clinking wine glasses. The knowledgeable bartenders are happy to guide you through the comprehensive wine list and provide tastes before you make a decision. While you drink, you can nosh on Hudson Valley foie gras, salmon tartare and escargot swimming in garlic-parsley butter.

Dante NYC is the king of the negroni

Though the beloved Caffé Dante (a Village institution) closed down in 2015, the space’s new owners have reinvented it as a cocktail-focused bar. The most popular drink here is negroni (there are 12 different kinds!) – each a riff on the classic, which is on tap; between 3pm and 6pm, a glass costs only $10. There’s a laundry list of other cocktails, martinis, wines and spirits, plus a host of Italian- and Spanish-inspired small-plate dishes – salads, salumi, pasta, sourdough flatbreads and cheese plates – to pair with a drink.

Descend the staircase to The Up & Up

You may be in New York University territory, but that doesn’t mean that you have to drink like a student. Enter The Up & Up, which, despite its name, is a subterranean cocktail bar. It’s stationed in the former space of the legendary Gaslight Café, which was a haunt of musicians. Now it’s a destination for cocktail connoisseurs, where drinks arrive thick with jasmine tea, clarified milk, Brooklyn gin or Irish whiskey poured into highball or martini glasses and perched on napkins. As you peruse the vintage wallpaper and settle into an intimate booth, pick away at Murray’s cheeses and salumi, dried fruit and olives.

Sample Japanese food and drink at Bar Moga

Moga were 1920s Japanese flappers who dressed in Western fashions and listened to jazz. A Japanese cocktail bar, Bar Moga, too, fuses East and West. The bartenders blend Japanese spirits into typical American Prohibition drinks – the Naomi, for example, is stirred with white rum, kabosu (a Japanese citrus), awamori (a distilled liquor made from rice) and jasmine tea. Western comfort foods are also Japanized, with crispy, nubby croquettes stuffed with snow crab; curry gratin tossed with béchamel rice and four different cheeses; and the famed omurice, a runny omelet that is wrenched apart down the middle, revealing a mass of rice flecked with chicken.

Head underground to Sweetwater Social

Through an unassuming door on Broadway is Sweetwater Social, a lively underground cocktail lounge that features foosball and shuffleboard tables, old-school arcade games and a photo booth. Beverages range from elevated classics to large-format punch bowls, along with tiki drinks, frozen cocktails, and beer and wine. The small food menu includes snacks like cheese fries, spicy chicken wings and beef jerky.

Café Wha? is a Village institution

Café Wha? on Macdougal Street is a celebrated basement-level performance space that hosted the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen early in their careers. This hangout is still home to nightly live shows and unremarkable mixed drinks, but that’s OK because you’re here for the tribute shows and house bands, the stories and the history. The charmingly grungy downstairs is flanked by leather booths and a small elevated stage. If you get hungry, there’s a small food menu, but you’re better off getting a falafel sandwich at Mamoun’s next door or a paper cup of Belgian fries at Pommes Frites down the street.

Catch a live band at The Bitter End

The oldest rock and pop club in New York City has echoed with the voices of Stevie Wonder, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell and Lady Gaga. Musicians still mount The Bitter End’s red-brick-backed stage seven days a week to play rock, blues, jazz, funk, hip-hop and country. The distinctive blue awning and wood-paneled doors lead to the bar, papered behind with colorful stickers, where you can quaff frothy draft beer and assorted brews in cans.

Enjoy the finer things in life without breaking the bank at Air’s Champagne Parlor

You might think that a bar dedicated to champagne would be dripping in luxury, but Air’s enforces the idea that the drink is not just for the wealthy. Here you can get the best bottles of the stuff at reasonable prices, allowing you to sample labels that would be too expensive at other places. Champagnes and sparkling wine from Italy, Germany and Greece are popped in the sleek space, which is replete with a marble bar, blue velvet stools and a mingling of verdant palm leaves. And while bottles are affordable, you won’t want to drink champagne without indulging in caviar, oysters and wedges of soft cheese.

Analogue is the height of Greenwich cool

This cozy cocktail den lining West 8th Street invites you to lounge in leather armchairs and banquettes, facing cases storing antique record players and vinyls slipped into their respective sleeves. Here, mixologists stir bourbon, whiskey and scotch into cocktails. Nurse cheekily named cocktails like Dogs Playing Poker and Five O’Clock Sombra while watching weekly live performances. As you imbibe, tuck into mini lobster rolls and bacon-deviled eggs.

Play board games and feast on pizza at The Uncommons

Boxes of Scrabble, Connect Four and Trouble sit in the window of this quaint board-game café-bar. Here, you can settle down at one of the communal tables and choose from games ranging from the innocuous (Apples to Apples) to the complex (Terra Mystica), and as you channel your competitive aura, you can offset moves by enjoying 20 different kinds beers and hefty pours of wine. On the food menu, you’ll find pastries, pizzas and chicken fingers.

Craft beer is the way forward at 124 Old Rabbit Club

Even if you’ve walked down Macdougal Street hundreds of times, you might not have noticed 124 Old Rabbit Club. It’s the kind of place you simply have to know about, since you enter it by stepping down a few steep stairs through an unmarked door scrawled with graffiti and a painted rabbit off to the side. Inside is a craft beer lover’s paradise. The dark, narrow, brick-lined space barely fits more than a bar and a scattering of stools, but you’ll find patrons sipping New York chocolate and cherry beers, German lagers and sour ales from Colorado.

This article is an updated version of a story created by Maryann Aita.

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