The Best Bars in Manhattan’s East Village, New York

Bua is an East Village favorite
Bua is an East Village favorite | © Chelsey Sinclair
Amy Schulman

Food Editor

Need a drink? A fancy cocktail? A cheap beer? Well, you’ve come to the right place. New York’s East Village, after all, is home to a trove of bars. There are dives and gaming bars, hidden speakeasies with well-suited mixologists shaking craft cocktails, and neighborhood joints where you can simply get a drink and a burger.

Amor y Amargo

Amor y Amargo (which translated from Spanish means love and bitters) is a sliver of a cocktail bar: a narrow space outfitted with a smattering of stools and a few mixologists floating throughout. The shelves are lined with bitters, bottles and other craft cocktail tools (which are available for purchase). The slim menu is just as tiny as the bar, where you’ll sip cocktails bursting with bitter elements. The Empathy Robot, with notes of dried fruit, cherries and cocoa, is particularly good.

Death and Company

Since 2006, Death & Company has been slinging cocktails and spirits in a moody, candle-lit speakeasy tucked away on East Sixth Street. Waiters in smart vests and ties hang behind the marble bar, shaking and stirring cocktails. The laundry list of drinks changes with the seasons, but expect cocktails like the Water Moccasin (Bimini gin, Saika Yuzushu, grapefruit, coconut and lemon) and the Rhapsody in Blue (Rittenhouse rye, Cappelletti Amaro Pasubio, blanc vermouth, cacao and celery bitters). Wine and beer are also available, along with a snacks menu that includes cheese and meat boards, cheese curds and candied nuts.

Please Don’t Tell

Please Don’t Tell, as the name suggests, urges guests not to reveal its covert hiding place, but it’s not easy to keep a secret in New York City. Head through Crif Dogs to the phone booth, where you’ll be prompted to lift the receiver and call the bar. A hostess will then greet you on the other side and the fun begins. Space is tight here, so make sure to call ahead.

The Summit Bar

Neither reservations nor covert knocks are required at The Summit Bar. Instead, everyone is welcomed in for house cocktails, wine, beer and champagne. Snag a seat at the velvet banquette or simply belly up to the bar. The daily happy hour from 5pm-8pm offers a lengthy menu of $8 (£6) cocktails, $4 (£3) beers, $7 (£5.50) glasses of wine and dollar oysters.

Ten Degrees Bar

Everyone flocks to Ten Degrees Bar for its beloved happy hour, where every drink is two for one until 8pm, including on weekends. Choose from classic cocktails such as french 75 and mint julep, or simply down heavy-bottomed glasses of brown liquor neat. Wines arrive from Argentina, Italy and California, poured into long-stemmed goblets. Ten Degrees also does sandwiches, soups and salads, plus build-your-own cheese and meat plates.

Proletariat

From the same people behind Death & Company, Proletariat is the antithesis of its cocktail-loving cousin: a haven for hard-to-find and unusual beers. At this St Mark’s bar, the menu steadily changes, depending on what arrives that day. There are a mere 10 stools available at the bar – come prepared to wait for an elusive seat – then pair your beer with something meaty, like a lamb burger.

Bua

Pubs tend to be a hit or miss in New York City – touristy stops perched on corners with stale beer – but that’s far from the case at Bua. Tables are peppered around the brick wall-lined space, brimming with New Yorkers surrounded by a round of beer. The bartenders are primed to whip you up a cocktail or simply pour you a chilled glass of white. Happy hour is every day where well drinks and draft beer are $2 (£1.50) off and select cocktails are $9 (£7).

Sake Bar Decibel

Hidden down a sunken flight of stairs, Sake Bar Decibel mirrors the beloved underground bars of Tokyo. The low lights and speakeasy vibes make the setting ideal to sip one of the nearly 80 varieties of rice wine – poured chilled or at room temperature – paired with small Japanese plates, sashimi and noodles.

The Library

This funky dive bar on Avenue A plies its regulars with cheap beer. Music is on at all hours, streaming from the old jukebox filled with punk-rock jams, and movies are often projected on the walls. The floors are sticky, the bathroom is coated in a layer of colorful graffiti and the bartenders are just as aloof as you’d expect. But all this doesn’t matter. After all, you’re here for the friendly folk, good music and inexpensive drinks.

Ace Bar

Just a tad further east of Avenue A is Ace Bar, a cavernous space home to all things games: pool tables, Skee-Ball, dartboards and pinball machines. Let the ATM inside spit out some cash for you for the games, snag a mixed drink at the bar, then station yourself in line for a table and get ready to call “next up!”

Blue and Gold Tavern

There aren’t many places to stand (or sit, for that matter) at Blue & Gold, one of the East Village’s many dive bars. The ceilings are questionably low, the dilapidated pool table is merely functional and the bartenders are scruffy – eager to pour you a beer, but that’s about it. Yet that is the point of Blue & Gold, and the regulars who come back and come often to this watering hole will quickly tell you so.

Ruffian

Ruffian, a wine bar/restaurant slipped into a narrow storefront underneath an East Village walk-up, can barely fit the 19 seats it was designed to house. But that’s part of the fun. Here, you’ll rub shoulders with native New Yorkers, knock back glasses of natural wine and feast on an assortment of ever-changing small plates that include pork liver pâté and squid stuffed with smoked tapenade and romesco.

Goodnight Sonny

Goodnight Sonny is the kind of bar that lets you have a four-course feast, sip delicately brewed cocktails and dance to pounding music until the early hours of the morning. Come for brunch or happy hour, and slurp back oysters or chug a bloody mary.

Doc Holliday’s

Doc Holliday’s is one of the few old-time dives that remain in the East Village. Biker bartenders pour the drinks, shots are taken on top of the bar and country music blares from the jukebox. The wooden booths are coated in stickers, flags dangle from the ceiling and a pool table resides in the back, helmed by a crew of professional players. Drinks are wonderfully cheap, so you’ll want to stay a while.

Mister Paradise

Mister Paradise bills itself as a mix between esoteric cocktail culture and a bona fide party, smack in the middle of the East Village. The cocktails here all have cheeky names – throw back An Awfully Big Mustache (aged rum, Islay scotch, beetroot caramel, toasted sesame, lemon) or take a shot of the Crossfit Breakfast (Venezuelan rum, coffee, coconut, malted pandan, whipped cream). Whatever you choose, you’ll want to finish with an apple-pie hot pocket: an elevated version of the familiar dish you might find at McDonald’s, and the flaky pastry is crowned with house-made ice cream.

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