Photo by Ingalls Photography
This spot could have easily just been a waiting room for the Vinegar Hill House next door, but instead it offers an exceptional selection of wines, plus some super-tasty small plates. You’d be stupid not to have dinner next door if you’re already all the way over here, but you don’t have to in order to feel like your night was worthwhile.
If there’s a silver-lining to losing Harry Boland’s, it’s that this bar took its place, offering 30 tap lines with rare and delicious offerings from around the country. On the Sunday afternoon we were there, the bartender was happy to pour us lots of samples until we could figure out what we liked. And figure it out we did. Park Slope finally has the beer-geek Mecca it deserves.
Runner-Up: Mission Dolores
The first time we popped into this Gowanus spot, it was for one of our friends’ birthdays, and it was like a party of 10, but the bartender still gave us all free shots of some strawberry-infused tequila. Which is to say they’re as nice here as their cocktails, which are nice, including exceptional variations on drinks you only thought you knew.
Photo by Cody Swanson
The last time we visited this Bushwick spot—which though fairly new seems like it’s always been here—was on a Sunday night, and nobody asked us if we were waiting for someone as we slid onto a barstool. They just sent text messages, scribbled in notebooks, made idle chatter with the bartender. It’s an easy place to not be bothered as you enjoy a stiff drink.
Runner-Up: The Abbey
Photo by Jessica Nash
We went on a first-date here once, and we could hardly listen to anything our date said because awesome songs kept coming on the jukebox. (Girls! Deep-album Kinks shit! I know all these songs; they’re great!) Months later that relationship didn’t work out, and now we can’t go back there, at least for a while, but we encourage you to enjoy that excellent jukebox for us, and we will enjoy your joy vicariously.
Runner-Up: Lucky Dog
It seems like cheating to even call the happy hour at this Bay Ridge bar a happy hour, as it lasts from noon to midnight, Monday to Thursday, 12 whole fucking hours of $4 drafts and well drinks. But those are happy hour prices. Thank God we have day jobs or this place would literally cause us to die.
The idea of a sports bar is anathema to many of us here, but we imagine that if we liked such things, this Park Slope spot would be a sort of paradise, with its 100—yes, 100—televisions. There are communal TVs, a TV in every booth, TVs on top of the tables, TVs under the tables, TVs in every bathroom stall, TVs instead of mirrors... ok, so we’re making a lot of that up. Still, there are a whole lot of TVs here showing sports.
It’s a miracle that this place even still exists. While Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park has become a bustling Chinatown, this little Irish bar (where one of our fathers used to pick up construction jobs!) is still a little Irish bar, serving the last of the neighborhood’s holdouts as well as new immigrants.
Runner-Up: JJ Bubbles
The gallery space attached to this homey Bushwick watering hole is home to Fireside Follies, one of the borough’s best reading series. But it’s also home to art shows, film screenings, and more, making it a particularly vibrant cultural space in a city not wanting for such things.
Runner-Up: The Owl’s Head
Photo by Arancia Project
At every bar you go to in Brooklyn these days, somebody’s trying to offer you a free bowl of popcorn from an old-timey popcorn machine. We mean, we appreciate it, but how much popcorn can we eat in a lunar cycle? So bless this DUMBO spot by our office for mixing it up and handing out free bowls of Goldfish crackers. Man, Goldfish crackers are awesome.
Runner-Up: We don’t know, High Dive? Popcorn is still pretty good.
Photo by DumboNYC
Even the biggest Brooklyn boosters don’t travel much out to the Kensington-Windsor Terrace border, but if they did they’d find this warm corner tavern from the team behind North Slope’s Alchemy. A simple drink menu relies heavily on craft beers, with a solid if simple wine list (and a few affordable house wines on tap). It’s refreshingly welcoming, neighborhood-y, and unpretentious.
Runner-Up: Rhythm & Booze
The owners of the Bay Ridge butcher shop Frank and Eddie’s had a backroom they weren’t really using, so they decided to turn it into a bar. Set to open any day now, beers will be served in the small off-the-avenue space along with sandwiches from the meat market next door. We imagine this is going to become our private clubhouse, and we’re so super psyched. (In reality, it probably won’t.) The nearby wine bar Owl’s Head is in what used to be the old Meat Village’s meat locker—it’s like a trend! A trend we love.
Photo by Henry Stewart
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s in Park Slope: the key to a kid-friendly bar, after all, is not only that ownership is cool with having little ones running around but also that your fellow alcohol-swilling patrons don’t really care. This spot offers a relaxed atmosphere, 25 beers on tap, and three bocce lanes. The food is simple enough for even the pickiest kid, with the added bonus that its lack of culinary ambition will keep away the kind of food-and-drink snobs that would totally be pissed at having kids underfoot. Space to stretch out, decent food, and good cheap beer lets you forget you’re a parent for a little while. We’re assuming that’s why parents drink.
Runner-Up: Der Schwarze Koelner
After hours, this South Williamsburg spot is lighted almost entirely by candles, which means that, yes, you too are cast in universally flattering candlelight. Along the back wall, it’s quiet enough to make conversation pleasant (a real commodity in this neighborhood), but lively enough to fill in any lulls, too. Plus, the tables and chairs are so small that you’re practically in your date’s lap from the moment you sit down so, uh, we think you can take it from there.
Runner-Up: Maison Premiere
Photo by Clément Pascal
Time has taught us not to trust our dumb drunk friends with darts or pool cues or even bocce balls, so when it comes to bar games, shuffleboard’s the only one we’ll hazard. It’s safe, slow and relatively low impact. You know, fun. This Greenpoint spot has a table where you can play for free and it’s far enough off the beaten path that you never have to wait too long to play.
Runner-Up: Full Circle Bar
Photo by Free Williamsburg
Not to say that it’s isn’t a great all-purpose bar—cocktails, brunch, first dates, whatever; it’s basically a Swiss army knife of drinking options—but this Greenpoint staple is really at its best and most reliable on sweaty weekend nights, when they ditch the live piano and bring in a DJ. Not so crowded that you can’t dance, but crowded enough that you can always “bump into” whomever you have your eye on. It doesn’t hurt that the crowd tends to be as drunk as it is friendly, which is very.
Runner-Up: Night of Joy
Photo by Kirstin Roby
If there’s one element missing from every other bar’s outdoor area, it’s definitely voyeurism. Right? Anyway, this place has an elevated deck that overlooks the rest of the bar through a huge plate-glass window. Any smoke break is far more interesting when you can quietly keep tabs on everyone who’s still inside—or your date, as the case may be.
Runner-Up: Lavender Lake
Photo by Empire Guides
Assuming your eyesight is in good shape—the lighting can get pretty dim—this place has every other element of a perfect bar for when you’re not quite ready to go home but not really in the mood to go out out. Ample seating in booths or at the bar, a sound system that’s actually appropriate instead of abrasive, and a long list of absinthe cocktails, which always seem somehow literary to us, at least when we’re drinking them. Maybe because the bar is relatively new, the weeknight crowd tends toward neighborhood regulars. In other words, you don’t have to talk to anyone unless you want to.
Runner-Up: Union Hall (off-peak)
It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that the people responsible for 285 Kent and Trip House know how to throw a good party, but still, in Bushwick’s sea of nearly identical low-key bars, this has been a welcome (if frenetic) change from our weekend routine. It’s also drawing an impressive roster of DJs and a packed-to-capacity crowd just a couple of months after opening. And, even though it’s not their doing, extra points for the taco stand outside.
Photo by Katarina Hybenova
For years now, people have been doing their best to isolate “The End of Williamsburg As We Know It.” Of course, it’s kind of silly to talk about neighborhoods in these terms, but if, for a brief and lovely moment in the early part of this century, Williamsburg was the international capital of urban bohemia, the closing of Zebulon (to be replaced by condos), is truly the end of that. The neighborhood will never again have room for an exquisitely appointed bar dedicated to fostering a community of thoughtful and talented artists, with profit as an afterthought.
Runner-Up: Sweet Ups
Photo by Gavin Thomas