A terrific old dive with all the gritty trappings you're looking for: kitschy decor, cheap shots, real characters. In a city that's becoming more and more polished, 169 has retained its edge and 100-year-old patina. Not to mention a leopard-print pool table, loud music, and fake palm trees.
There's a strict door policy (no party larger than four) at this cocktail bar, which you access by walking through a second floor Japanese restaurant in the East Village. Low-key and well-lit, it's a great place for a date, or early evening catch-up with old friends.
This discreet bar on a residential street was once the speakeasy responsible for the 21st-century classic cocktail craze. The bar has moved on, but two key bartenders have stayed behind, and now craft cocktails with the same whiz-bang precision, but without the secrecy and reservation system. Mixology to the max.
Live piano music entertains the upper-crust. Order a champagne (or a Bloody Mary, as that's what they're known for) and take out your camera: pictures of you, with gold-leaf ceilings and whimiscal murals in the background, will impress your Facebook friends.
Dress to impress at this subterranean jazz venue and restaurant. The room looks good, the crowd looks good, and the music sounds good. It's that kind of Manhattan experience you picture yourself having before ever visiting the city. Upstairs is Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster, a hot destination for fashionable Harlemites. The bar scene up there is on point too.
A cabaret space with early and late shows (music, comedy, performance art) next door to The Public's lucky stages (their contemporary productions usually lead to stints on Broadway).
You will pay dearly for your stiff drink, but it's worth it for a little taste of a bygone era. The legendary watering hole is the best place to impress a guest and keep it classy.
Not-so-secret bar accessible via telephone booth from within grease-coated Crif Dogs. Satisfy drunken cravings with buttered popcorn rum and a deep-fried dog of your choice.
The kind of bar you wish could be your local. A former stable has been turned into a quirky little gem of a watering hole — drinkers elbow to elbow, downing cocktails in coup glasses and reaching for another oyster. The bartender probably has a handlebar mustache, but this place is proto-hipster: small-batch, crafted with care, and focused on the details.