Now in their third glorious, heavily researched year,
The L Magazine’s Bar Awards celebrate excellence in facilitating an activity performed just as efficiently, far more cheaply, and arguably more safely in the comfort of one’s own home. The establishment reviewed on page 10 of this magazine implies that bars exist so that “You don’t have to drink at home”; but why? Well, because of the opportunity to get drunk in a different place, with different people; for the drunk food that’s better than what you can cook, stumble down to the deli for, or have delivered (don’t forget to overtip in a drunk-math panic!); for the drinks you can’t mix with what you have in your own cabinet; for the new location, of which you are not already direly bored, with a vibe best described as something other than “late postcollegiate”; for the fun new activities that are available to you, or would be, if you’d just go to one of these bars, the honorees of
The L Magazine’s Third Annual Bar Awards.
FOR SOCIOLOGICAL OBSERVATION!
Best Bar at Which to Rethink Your Long-Term Caste Aspirations:
Brooklyn Ice House (318 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn)
It was while spending, uncharacteristically, an afternoon at this wood-paneled local, on a blue-collar, red-brick street in subway-remote Red Hook, that we realized: we want to quit this journalism racket and become a machinist or dockworker, so that we can come in here on our lunch break, watch day baseball and drink Carling Black Label (one dollar a can until 8pm!). Or else we could just wait until we’re retired, and be the kind of old dude who’s hanging out outside when the early-shift bartender comes by to unlock the place.
Best Bar at Which to Confirm Your Long-Term Caste Aspirations
: Henry Street Ale House (62 Henry St, Brooklyn)
Then again, that way we’d never be wealthy enough to live in Brooklyn Heights, and thus be able to knock down to the pub on a Sunday afternoon like a British person or something.
East Village Hot Spot We Are Most Surprised Not to Despise:
Heathers (506 E 13th St)
We guess we should worry that despite its DJ nights and glossy-mag write-ups this place has been pretty empty most of the times we’ve gone, but mostly we’re too busy marveling at how much nicer bars are when nobody’s in them…
East Village Lounge We Are Most Surprised Not to Despise:
Musical Box (219 Avenue B)
… Especially bars like this — deep couches, chintz, candlelight and far fewer bankers than you’d resignedly expect.
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East Village Sports Bar We Are Most Surprised Not to Despise:
Standings (43 E 7th St)
For the shabby team-spirited vibe of the copious wall hangings, the pitchers and the free pizza on Friday nights. It’s almost enough to make a fella glad there are places like Bounce around to filter off the chaff.
Best Bar to Bask in Smith Street Gentrification over Vintage Cocktails and Small Plates:
Clover Club (210 Smith St, Brooklyn)
Julie Reiner has borrowed from the David Wondrich manual of style, inebriating her well-to-do clientele with just about every Calvin Coolidge-era concoction you can think of.
Best Bar to Bask in Williamsburg Gentrification While Pretending You’re in a Deadwood Saloon:
Hotel Delmano (82 Berry St, Brooklyn)
Not the one owned by the mustache guy — but the nice one across the street. Hotel Delmano is pricey, but the cocktails are great and the ornate, antique-y space nicely balances W-burg’s abundance of faux destitution.
Best Bar to Witness Soon-to-Be Park Slope Parents Sip Pricey Wine and Talk about Radiohead:
Brook-vin (381 Seventh Ave, Brooklyn)
Park Slope needs a wine bar like Bono needs another political cause. But this one’s decent, with a solid — if pricey — wine list, the option to eat headcheese and bacon-infused bourbon.
FOR THE ABSORBENT GOURMET!
Best Bar to Witness an Extreme Number of Former Vegetarians Eat Sausage:
Radegast Hall & Biergarten (113 N 3rd St, Brooklyn)
Williamsburgers congregate en masse to chomp brats, schnitzel and giant frothy mugs of German and Czech beer. It might not be as authentic as the owners’ Bohemian beer garden in Astoria, but at least the barmaids dress like the St. Pauli girl.
Best Bar to Drink Away the Radioactive Glow You Picked Up Skinnydipping in the Gowanus Canal:
Draft Barn (530 Third Ave)
This medieval beer hall feels like the Hogwarts School cafeteria and is highly conducive to throwing back mead. The hearty Hungarian menu couldn’t be better suited for beer (deep-fried nuggets of beer-soaked bread!), and nearly all of it resembles those brontosaurus ribs that tip over the Flintstones’ car.
Most Counterintuitive Bar Food:
PDT (113 St. Mark’s Pl)
Everyone’s favorite phone booth speakeasy pairs highbrow cocktails with lowbrow fare from Crif Dogs. Try the Wylie (named for its creator, New York celebrichef Wylie Dufresne): a deep-fried hot dog with deep-fried mayo.
Best Place to Hip-Check a Plate of Steak Frites:
Schiller’s Liquor Bar (131 Rivington St)
The Keith McNally brasserie is bustling enough during dinner hours, but after 9pm, the bar crowd begins to spill over into the dining area. Go ahead, steal a french fry. We dare you.
FOR THE (DIFFERENT THAN USUAL) DRINKS!
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Best Bar At Which to Remember the Time you got Alcohol Poisoning in High School and Swore off Bourbon:
Char No. 4 (196 Smith St)
Char’s mammoth American whiskey collection is dangerous. But sipping Michter’s 10 Year Rye while enjoying Matt Greco’s pork prowess is worth the throbbing headache and hole in your stomach lining.
Best bar at Which to Realize that Absinthe Kind of Tastes like Cough Medicine: White Star (21 Essex St)
Sasha Petraske’s hidden Chinatown boite demonstrates just how complicated pouring this green elixir is, what with all the spoons, contraptions, sugar and water. While you’re waiting, order a whiskey.
Best Bar at Which to Realize that Overpriced Absinthe Kind of Tastes Like Cough Medicine:
Apotheke (9 Doyers St)
Unmarked, secret, opium den, speakeasy in a Chinatown alley…blah blah. And yes, the prices are so inflated the house-made absinthe should come with Van Gogh’s ear and those hallucinogenic effects that science says are a myth. But all the assorted apothecary detritus is pretty cool.
Most Likely Bar At Which to Find a Sideburn Hair in Your Impeccably Made Cocktail:
The Jake Walk (282 Smith St, Brooklyn)
Thanks in part to bartender Ari Form — whose vintage mixology skills are as large as his lamb chops — The Jake Walk manages to serve foodie-caliber wine, mixed drinks, whiskey and cheese without being annoying. Though you will hear a few people do that strange air-sucking thing after tasting their wine.
Best Beer Bar in Which to Realize You Actually Know Nothing About Beer:
Beer Table (427 Seventh Ave, Brooklyn)
Beer Table owner Justin Philips is the Alton Brown of beer. The dude can talk hops for hours and — for a fee — he’s willing to come do it at your next party. We’re hoping one day to get him drunk, convince him to let us in his basement of aged beers, and lock the door from the inside.
Wine Bar in Which to Concede That You Know Nothing About Wine:
D.O.C. Wine Bar (83 N 7th St, Brooklyn)
The staff is used to dealing with young, inexperienced drinkers (they’re in Williamsburg, after all), so stop pretending to know what tannins are and just ask for a recommendation already.
Most Attention to Detail:
Death & Co. (433 E 6th St)
Sure, it takes a while, but ordering a cocktail feels extremely important with the bartenders endlessly tweaking the ingredients before restirring and tasting each drink.
Best Beer Menu:
Blind Tiger (281 Bleeker St)
It’s diverse and eclectic, but not so overwhelming that you’ll panic and try to order a Coors Light. The beers on tap are rotated regularly, which explains the dedicated crowd of regulars.
FOR THE ATTRACTIONS!
Best Back Garden at a Fort Greene Bar Named for a Hitchcock Movie About Gay People Who Kill for Pleasure:
Rope (415 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn)
We’ll take Rope over Strangers on a Train, because the former has a terrific jukebox and also the latter does not exist.
Best Bar in Which You Can Actually Compare the Eponymous Owner with Pictures of the Eponymous Owner With his Arm Around Muhammad Ali:
Jimmy’s Corner (140 W 44th St)
No, it’s not on the corner, that’s not why it’s called that. Boxing. It’s a boxers’ bar, owned by Jimmy Glenn, a fisticator-turned-trainer (he actually fought Floyd Patterson!) who can often be found hanging out in his own bar listening to all the Staxx songs on the jukebox. Not a good place for a random bar fight.
Angel’s Share (8 Stuyvesant St, 2nd Fl)
What could possibly rival the expertly mixed cocktails for our attention? How about a mural of caucasian cherubs surrounding a be-horned Asian devil baby?
Best Bar with an Explicitly Placed “No Hippies” Sign:
Double Down (14 Avenue A)
By hippie, we’re pretty sure they just mean anyone who’s ever listened to more than one Cat Stevens song. That’s ok, though, the soundtrack (ahem, jukebox) at this little slice of old hardcore East Village will offer you plenty of alternatives.
Most Telling Design:
Five Leaves (18 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn)
Is it just us or does the bar at this Aussie boîte look like a boomerang?
Most Entertaining Bartenders:
Desnuda (127 E 7th St)
The guys pouring your wine double as chefs at this itty-bitty ceviche bar. Ignore your date and watch the bizarre oyster preparation.
Most Contrived Concept:
The Eldridge (247 Eldridge St)
Too many trendy touches (no signage, wooden menus, ambitious cocktails, an out-of-place saxophone player and laser-engraved cards doled out to VIPs) make for one mixed-up bar that never quite became “the new Beatrice,” as the owners had hoped.
Most Serendipitous Location:
Oulu (170 N 4th St, Brooklyn)
The Finnish cocktail bar is right next to the Williamsburg outpost of San Loco, whose tacos are basically built to absorb that stomach full of Earl Grey-infused gin.
Best Place to Get Primitive:
Peasant Wine Bar (194 Elizabeth St)
The basement-level lounge looks so much like a cave that if we didn’t already have a date, we’d club a girl on the head and drag her back here for a bottle of Soave.
FOR THE POTENTIAL FOR INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP OUTINGS!
Best Place to Bring an Entourage:
Enid’s (560 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn)
The Greenpoint bar is usually packed on weekend nights, but can always squeeze in a half-dozen more, like a Tecate-fueled clown car.
Best Spot for Outerborough Flâneurs:
Union Hall (702 Union St, Brooklyn)
The fireside seats at the Slope favorite are the best place to recover from last night’s microbrew binge at the very same bar.
Best Bar for Recession Denial:
Rose Bar (2 Lexington Ave)
Forget your fiscal worries atop plush velvet stools while surrounded by celebrities, models, and an authentic Warhol. Order the “Diamonds and Pearls” martini — it’s like a stimulus check for your liver.
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Best Bar for Recession Acceptance:
Sweet & Vicious (5 Spring St)
The misfit Soho spot is usually filled with laid-off creative types, sidling up to the bar for a machine-churned frozen margarita or chain-smoking in the back garden.
Turkey’s Nest (94 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn)
Wondering why every sunbather in McCarren Park is sipping from a Styrofoam cup? They probably made a pit stop at Nest for a frozen margarita to go: North Williamsburg’s answer to the brown bag.
Best Spot for Irresponsible Vomit-Inducing Binge Drinking:
The Frying Pan (Pier 66)
The L, of course, does not advocate irresponsible vomit-inducing binge drinking (to which we are not invited! Zing!) (Actually that was not a joke, are you planning a binge soon? Can we come? We’ll bring several varieties of potato chips! So absorbent). But if we did, we would point out that the West Side’s Frying Pan is, technically, a boat, which means you can a) throw up over the side, and b) claim that you only threw up over the side because you were seasick.
Best Place to Sneak Off to for a Drink While “Running to the Bathroom” on a Family Outing to the Brooklyn Museum:
Sepia (234 Underhill Ave, Brooklyn)
Because it’s close to the Brooklyn Museum, see? (In truth the one time we went to this bar we were already very drunk, and remember very little else about it. It was nice, in a sort of bordello-looking way, we think? Spacious. There may have been arm-wrestling, though that seems likely to have just been us. Don’t think that just because we haven’t been back it’s not a nice bar. It’s hard to get to Prospect Heights if you don’t live there.)
Bar Which No One Should Visit Even if All Other Bars in New York Explode:
Pulse Karaoke Lounge and Suites (135 W 41st St)
Two Words: 1) Times Square. 2) Pulse. •