South of Houston Street, otherwise known simply as ‘SoHo,’ is known for ample shopping opportunities, from high-end boutiques to more affordable chain stores. With all of this bustle, shoppers need spots to sit back, relax, and recharge before heading back out into the concrete jungle to hunt for the latest trends. SoHo delivers, and this list showcases the best in beer, wine, cocktails, and bar food found throughout this popular shopping area.
Fuel up at Fanelli Café for food and drinks between shopping stops. The storefront is just the beginning of the retro vibe you will experience at Fanelli’s. This place isn’t just about creating a vibe; it actually operated as a speakeasy during the Prohibition. Stepping inside will transport you back to the 1920s, with well-chosen red-and-white checkered tablecloths and walls covered with vintage sepia-toned boxing photographs. Besides the classic but not overdone vintage ambiance, Fanelli Café is beloved in the neighborhood for inexpensive drinks, delicious, no-frills bar food (try the delicious tuna melt) and Bob, the friendly bartender who remembers the regulars’ names and favorite drinks to boot.
Visit Lure Fishbar to prove it’s not necessary to set sail on a real boat to find coastal cocktails that you’ll want to keep flowing. Lure Fishbar’s nautical-themed bar and restaurant is designed to look like a ship’s galley, complete with wood paneling and round submarine windows. Grab your mates and drop anchor here for fun named drinks like the ‘Green Tea Party’ (Absolut, green tea, citrus shiso, and mint), ‘Fire in the Hole’ (Maker’s Mark bourbon, fire roasted dates and orange bitters) and ‘Smuggler’s Blues’ (Flor de Cana, Amaro Nonino, blackberries, and cane sugar). There’s also an awesome selection of sake by the glass and bottle to complement the wide array of seafood dishes available.
If you’ve ever gone out with a huge group of friends and been forced to smush yourselves into a tiny NYC bar, you’ll adore the cavernous Houston Hall. Houston Hall is a beer hall and brew pub with an extensive selection of craft beers, huge open spaces, and tons of seating. The picnic tables, high ceilings, and cobblestone floor is reminiscent of an old barn that’s been transformed for down-time with large screen televisions so that you can catch the big game while catching up with your pals. Throw on a flannel shirt and jeans, and head to Houston Hall, where the youthful college-days vibe will make you want to try your head at the old keg stand.
As the second oldest bar in Manhattan, Ear Inn is a must-visit simply because of the rich history surrounding it. Located in a designated landmark of the City of New York, Ear Inn was once a clubhouse to sailors known as ‘The Green Door.’ It gained its name in 1977 when the owners painted the neon ‘BAR’ sign to read ‘EAR,’ after Ear Magazine, to avoid the Landmark Commission’s lengthy review of any new sign, Ear Magazinewas being published in the space above it. Better bring cash if you’re stopping in for a drink or two, as there’s a minimum charge for credit cards. With wonderful service and chatty bartenders, as well as delicious comfort food like shepherd’s pie, the unpretentious, speakeasy feel at Ear Inn really stands out in SoHo; it’s easy to see why it’s been around as long as it has been.
Swanky, spacious, and offering spectacular views of New York City’s most notable bridges and skyscrapers, Jimmy at the James is the place to be if you want to relax in the lap of luxury. Located 18 stories above the James Hotel Soho, the rooftop bar area offers its guests the opportunity to lounge poolside and enjoy NYC DJs spinning anything you can move to, from 90s music to the latest dance beats. If you visit with friends, go for one of the cocktail pitchers that serves five; the ‘Texas Sweet Tea’ is the perfect dose of country to complement the beautiful cityscape. For a twist on a classic done well, try the ‘Mint Old-Fashioned,’ prepared with Knobb Creek Bourbon, Grand Marnier, mint sprig, orange twist, and brandied cherry. The ‘Grilled Pineapple Mojito’ is quite popular among the ritzy regulars, so order one (or three) and you’ll feel right at home in no time.
If you’re looking for the perfect place to take a Francophile or wine lover on a date, look no further than Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. This French-themed cafe with tiny two-tops is romantic and cozy, perfect for a date or for catching up with a friend one-on-one. It is rather small, so it’s best to make a reservation. The wine list is extensive but by no means intimidating thanks to the charming sommeliers who know their stuff and are able to suggest food pairings for every palate and wine preference. Just describe the kind of wine you’d like to try and let them recommend something new, you won’t be disappointed, especially by their very generous pours! They have some small bites to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with the delicious cheese plate. Wine connoisseurs: try your hand at guessing the ‘Mystery Wine,’ and if you guess correctly, you win the bottle!
At the Pegu Club, cocktail lovers will be able to experience the true alchemy of a cocktail whether an old classic or new concoction, try the ‘Earl Gray MarTEAni.’ The owner promises to bring patrons back to the true art of cocktail culture through thoughtful preparation and respectful methodology. Master mixologist Harry Craddock wrote in the classic 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book that the Pegu Club Cocktail has traveled and is asked for around the world. You’d be remiss to not try it: London dry gin, bitters, lime juice, and orange curacao. It’s crisp, snappy, and potent, and bartenders take a great deal of pride in creating this and every other drink by taking their time and using the freshest ingredients. Pay a visit yourself to see what they’re crafting next!
The Handy Liquor Bar oozes vintage charm, unpretentious sophistication, and comfort. Inside, you’ll find rich mahogany couches, chesterfield tufted banquettes, a 1950’s Wurlitzer Baby Grand Piano, and a vintage jukebox playing jazz, funk, and Motown vinyls. Leather-bound books line the bookshelves while authentic, 1970s photos of rock and roll stars adorn the walls. Rounding out the perfectly themed décor are classic moldings and beautiful custom rosettes. The attention to detail in creating a cool, music-influenced ambiance is mirrored in the creation of textbook cocktails, like my personal favorite, the mint julep (Jameson Irish Whiskey, mint sprigs, mint simple syrup, mint garnish, orange peel garnish, orange zest, organic sugar and hand-crushed ice), and the delightful ‘Floorflusher’ (Absolut pears, Green Market apple, ginger and homemade cinnamon syrups, and pear cider over crushed ice).
Located on an industrial street, The Ship is so tucked away that you’d probably walk right by if you weren’t really looking for it. Before getting to the main landing, located one flight down, you’ll find an elevated seating area overlooking the lower bar area. Taking design elements from its industrial surroundings for more of a submarine-like vibe than a ship, the bar’s warm lighting, lofty ceiling, dark wood, and beautifully crafted bar is a welcome departure from decor that feels too aquatic. One favorite to order is the ‘Mount Vesuvius’ with Scotch, orange juice, pineapple, and house coconut served on crushed ice with nutmeg and cinnamon, or you can explain your dream drink with the ‘Bartender’s Choice.’ If it’s not what you had in mind, they’ll make you another, no hard feelings.
The Dutch stands out from the other bars not because of ambiance or aesthetic reasons but by simply having incredible food. Instead of opting for perfecting classic bar food, The Dutch offers regional American fare like tasty and tender oyster sliders and super worth-the-hype hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits. Even if you just come for drinks, do not skip the fried chicken. The menu reflects Southern sensibility meets seafood and a little bit of turf to complement the surf. The atmosphere is simple, pleasant, and classy. Whiskey lovers will appreciate the extensive selection of bourbon, rye, malt, and other American whiskey available.