Whether you’re bogged down with shopping bags in SoHo or wandering the picturesque streets of neighboring Nolita, you know one thing for sure: you need a drink. This is the ultimate guide to bars in SoHo and Nolita, from the best places to grab drinks with your co-workers to the most idyllic spots for a first date.
Other than the loyal locals who are perched at the bar with a cold beer, the second biggest group of people frequenting this dive is SoHo office workers—along with the myriad plush sharks fastened to the walls. Spring Lounge checks all the boxes: cheap drinks, dark spaces, delightfully uninterested bartenders, and free hot dogs—cooked in beer!—on Wednesdays at 5pm.
If you’re not sipping frozen margaritas in the charming back patio sprinkled with twinkling lights, you’re doing Sweet & Vicious wrong. The Spring Street bar is big enough to accommodate a group—especially when you add in the outdoor space—and within the few hours after the work day ends, it’s the kind of place where you won’t be shouting over one another (keep in mind it does become a scene in the later hours of the night).
What was once a parking garage is now an 8,000-square-foot beer hall, overflowing with frothy steins and soft pretzels begging to be dunked in warm cheddar ale dip. Houston Hall is undeniably a crowd-pleaser for big groups, especially during happy hour (all day Monday and 4pm-7pm Tuesday-Friday) where there are $6 drinks, $6 appetizers, and $2 beef or pulled pork sliders.
Eighteen stories atop The James is JIMMY, a swanky rooftop bar. Soaring windows supply picture-perfect views of the Hudson River and Midtown, made even more memorable by clinking cute cocktails: grilled hunks of pineapple swim in the mojito, and the frosé slushie is brightened by a drizzling of cranberry juice. During the warmer months, you’d be remiss not to head out to the outdoor patio, cocktail and charcuterie plate in hand.
Between its covert entrance under Chalk Point Kitchen and the many pianists plucking away at the baby grand piano, The Handy Liquor Bar is simply impressive for both first and 100th dates. Cozy up along the leather banquette with a seasonal cocktail and a few bar snacks (you can’t go wrong with the charred shisoto peppers), then let the four-piece band work its magic over you and your date.
From the same people behind the now shuttered Experimental Cocktail Club comes La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a Parisian wine bar nestled on Centre Street. Unsurprisingly, vin is taken very seriously here—the carte des vins is over 27 pages—featuring natural wines from around the world. But you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to drink here; the staff is exceedingly friendly, providing both suggestions and food pairings from a menu dotted with esoteric dishes like kangaroo tartare (there’s plenty of cheese and charcuterie for the traditionalists, too).
The famed cheeseburger at the clubby Raoul’s isn’t the only reason to snag a stool at the nine-seat bar—though it’s arguably the best one. The hefty puck of meat rests on a plush challah roll, crowned with a mound of triple-cream Saint André cheese, watercress, red onions, and cornichons. Only a dozen burgers are served per night—making it ever the more alluring—but there’s always other French fare to devour: jumbo lump crab beignets, squares of foie gras, and steak tartare finished with a quail egg.
This second-floor cocktail lounge is certainly known for its acute focus on intricate cocktails—the martini steeped with Earl Grey is arguably the most famous—but the slim food menu is worth examining, too. The Asian-leaning fare is often just as inventive as the cocktails, including dishes like smoked trout deviled eggs, crispy wonton cones brimming with slow-braised duck, and lightly fried chicken drummettes garnished with Scotch syrup and a pear compote.
Mother’s Ruin takes everything you love about a dive bar—simple digs, inexpensive prices, unstuffy regulars—and swirls it with a smart cocktail program. There’s your everyday beers and wines, of course, along with a trim list of special cocktails (including a regularly changing frozen drink vacillating in an Icee machine). The space itself is small, but never becomes uncomfortably packed, thanks to the windows that pop open during the warmer months.
Even if you’re not here for the cash-only $5 drinks, Tom & Jerry’s will win you over with its effortless, laid-back charm (there’s taxidermy on the wall, after all). Drinks are simple and traditional—this is no cocktail den—but there’s a ton of character, maraschino cherries are often swimming in mixed drinks, and there’s a communal, all-you-can-eat bucket of Chex Mix in the back.
A semi-hidden basement is where the dancing happens at Von, a wine bar nestled on Bleecker Street. The main floor houses quiet conversation, first dates, and a fully stocked wine and liquor bar, but it’s downstairs where DJs spin everything from disco to pop to a crowd of mostly young professionals. Down here, you’ll dance, drink, make memorable conversation with strangers, then dance some more.
A couple of stairs lead you down into the sunken Botanica, a gritty haven for cheap drinks, birthday parties, and a whole lot of moving bodies. You’ll often stumble across a friendly DJ (one who usually takes song requests) pumping an always eclectic mix of pop, electronica, and ’70s and ’80s soul music.
Summer calls for drinking cocktails outdoors, on a roof, with a panoramic view of Manhattan. That’s exactly what you’ll get at Azul on the Rooftop, a bar atop Hotel Hugo. Lounge on the cozy couches with a signature cocktail (you can’t go wrong with the fruit-studded sangria or blood orange cosmo), along with a platter of the slow-cooked pulled pork tacos. Sunday nights feature live music from Cuban band Grupo Irek, while on Monday evenings the roof hosts the Rooftop Cinema Series, screening old-school classics, new releases, and live sports.
If views of the Hudson River don’t make you consistently frequent the Arlo Roof Top, then the cozy lounge seating, strings of twinkling lights, and brand-new cocktail program will. The cocktail menu was curated by a mixologist from Employees Only, punctuated with drinks like the Arlo Picante (mezcal, grapefruit juice, and spiced bitters). There’s also plenty of large-batch cocktails, perfect for bigger groups, plus a small food menu featuring things like garlic knots, and smoked ricotta and bacon flatbread.