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.
Credited as the birthplace of the modern Gay Rights Movement following the 1969 riots, The Stonewall Inn is the first building in New York City to be recognized as a landmark based on its place in LGBTQ history. The bar itself has undergone changes over the years, but it endures as a symbol of LGBTQ resilience and strength. Nowadays, the spacious interior features a cozy bar, with an upstairs dance floor boasting a disco ball and flashing lights. Stop by on Mondays for drag queen-led bingo and Wednesdays for karaoke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Up an unremarkable flight of stairs at Italian restaurant Casa Apicii is the semi-hidden Bar Fortuna, a bar modeled after a library replete with a working fireplace and a sprinkling of tables seating no more than 20 people. Visitors to this darkly lit space tend to drop in for an aperitivo-style cocktail and crisp cacio e pepe arancini (pasta balls coated in cheese and pepper) before heading downstairs for dinner. Those who do linger for another bottle of spumante (an Italian sparkling white wine) can often be found polishing off a plate of panna cotta, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The brainchild of several industry vets, Existing Conditions specializes in experimental cocktails with the accent on the funky, esoteric and unusual. Bitter Cynar is shaken with milk-washed aquavit. Scotch and mezcal sing in harmony with Ramazzotti liqueur and acid-adjusted lemon cordial. Tequila gets dressed up with clarified strawberry, orange and lime. The unadorned space contains just a bar and a tangle of tables and chairs, as well as a fun cocktail vending machine (insert an Existing Conditions token and you’ll be rewarded with a bottled cocktail). As you drink, pad your stomach with crispy chicken nuggets, fiery crab dip and crackly latkes flanked by pear purée and horseradish cream.