The Lower East Side is Manhattan’s most eclectic grit-meets-glam neighborhood. A slew of funky, chic and trendy bars and lounges can be found throughout. Here, we look at some of our favorite watering holes on the L.E.S.
Whiskey Ward is a solid, no-frills tavern. Aside from a pile of whiskey barrels, jugs, and other Wild West furnishings, Whiskey Ward doesn’t have any high-concept flourishes to bolster its modern-day saloon motif. The walls are painted a brownish orange, and the only chromatic appeal comes from the gleam of XXX bottles behind the bar. They have a huge selection of single malts, scotch and American bourbon.
Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Mehanata replicates the drunken fervor that you experience at a concert starring gypsy punk mustache gods Gogol Bordello. The bar embraces its Bulgarian heritage by serving rakia, a throat-stinging vodka-equivalent, as well as platters of hummus and kebapche. The real draw, however, is Mehanata’s events, such as the self-explanatory ‘Trans-global Gypsy Punk Dance Party’ and ‘Gypsy Punk Rock Meltdown.’ Downstairs, you’ll find the Ice Cage, a ‘Siberian paradise’ wherein one dons a Russian military outfit and downs shots or chilled vodka.
No Fun is a proper NYC rock bar. Co-owned by drummer Jay Weilminster of NYC noise rockers, A Place to Bury Strangers, the name, No Fun (fittingly) comes from an old Stooges song. This divey rock/DJ roadhouse is perfect to close out a hazy late night with a whiskey from their extensive collection.
On the edge of Chinatown, Charles Hanson’s 169 Soul Jazz Oyster Bar is a 1970s New Orleans-themed watering hole that has all of the above plus billiards, an oyster bar, blended cocktails, and a genuinely jolly crowd. 169 Bar is campy and rowdy and you can even text the kitchen your dumpling order until 4 am.
With no menu, Attaboy serves up mixology-dream cocktails from mustached and bow-tied bartenders. Unlike the original Milk and Honey, Attaboy does not take reservations. Knock or press the buzzer. Arrive before 9 p.m. for booths or a bar stool. By 11 p.m., especially on weekends, lines form outside because of space limitations in this small and industrial, but super hip spot.
This is the NYC version of a Parisian cocktail den pouring creative drinks in a swanky setting. There are top-notch drinks and a jazzy music selection. Even the Experimental Cocktail Club’s bottled cocktails are complex and intriguing.
A Prohibition Era throwback hidden behind a toy store, this ’20s-style speakeasy (which claims to be in the same spot as an actual speakeasy from the ’20s) serves its booze in teacups. Decor of period-perfect chandeliers, velvet paisley wallpaper, tin ceilings, and a candlestick phone makes for authenticity throughout. Impress out-of-towners with The Backroom Bar.
Subject is a brick wall cocktailery with high-top tables and a vintage Coke fountain they use to pour their own homemade sodas. A refreshingly laid-back change from the typical craziness of the L.E.S., Subject is a surprisingly sophisticated change of pace but still serious about cocktails.
The Donnybrook is an authentic Irish taproom and pub with barn-wood communal tables and a marble bar. Despite sharing the name of Ireland’s drunkest and most disorderly fair, Donnybrook is actually the kind of place that refuses to serve you a black and tan if it doesn’t have the proper mixing spoon. It’s muted class all around, from the young, affluent crowd to the smartly recycled backdrop.