In a world where underground parties are a thing of the pasty and privacy is almost unheard of, city-dwellers with an affinity for exclusivity and evenings of low-key enjoyment seek refuge within the confines of the obscure drinking scene. While you may be familiar with the existence of such a reticent nightlife circuit, many may fail to notice that some of the most elite hotspots are hiding in plain sight. Many of the New York City’s most iconic bars are perched atop corporate building yet some of the most incredible locales don't rely on neon signs or flashing arrows but rather by word of mouth, from one in-the-know friend to another. That said, consider us that “in-the-know friend” as we fill you in on five bars you’ve (probably) never heard of.
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
212 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
This hidden gem is located right in the heart of Williamsburg, but seems to escape much of the trendy hipsterdom that dominates the area. The place is not grandiose. Walking in it feels reminiscent of that dive bar you used to go to in college – but it’s so much more. The Levee is known to be a “metal” bar, though it doesn’t really live up to that moniker. The crowd that fills its wall every night is as diverse as New York itself, and even includes some furry friends. Yep, they allow you to bring your dog. Until you experience drinking your favorite beer and petting some stranger’s French bulldog, you have no idea what you’re missing.
Not to mention the beers are super cheap. There are very few places in Williamsburg where you can get a $4 beer, but The Levee is of a rare breed. They also offer relatively inexpensive beer and shot combos. The “Frat Boy,” which includes a Genesee and a shot of Jägermeister, is a personal favorite of mine. To go with your cheap beverages they also provide you with unlimited free cheese puffs – which after a few drinks is an extremely exciting prospect.
Location: Financial District
30 Water St, New York, NY 10004
This bar sounds like something right out of Harry Potter, and honestly it kind of feels like it too. While there are no magical happenings, the Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog shop feels like a blast from the past. Boasting two bars in one building, called the Taproom and the Parlor respectively, this Irish-American bar pays homage to the olden days featuring cocktails crafted from 19th century recipes.
Location: Lower East Side
131 1/2 Chrystie St, NYC
You think you've found yourself outside yet another NYC art gallery but don’t let looks deceive you. Before you truly realize where you are, an overbearing doorman will quickly request to see ID, suggesting that an entirely different experience lies beyond the double-paned glass. Upon entering, many newcomers find themselves perplexed by the after-hours ghost town of a gallery which stands eerily before them. Almost vacant with the exception of whatever exhibition is currently on display, the still of silence is ever so slightly penetrated by the faint presence of muffled house music. Follow the whispers of a far-off soundtrack through the gallery to a nondescript door and step through the looking glass (a.k.a. the aforementioned door) as you enter the ultimate speakeasy experience.
Location: Bushwick, Brooklyn
212 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Drinking at Boobie Trap feels a lot like being inside a fun house. Walking in you are greeted by a fake skeleton wearing a sombrero – and that’s some of the tamest décor. From a chandelier made of Barbies to the hot pink lights that illuminate the space, it feels a lot like controlled chaos. Patrons are given board games and coloring book pages to amuse themselves while they drink the night away. A doorbell is attached to the bathroom so you can annoy the heck out of someone who is taking too long. On warm nights the huge outer windows are opened up to the street allowing guests to still mingle with their nicotine-addicted pals too. The tattoo-clad bartenders are sassy to say the least, but they work quickly and attentively.
This is definitely a grungier scene. Come to Boobie Trap wearing a white button-up shirt and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb and filled with immediate regret, not to mention that you'll have the stains to prove it. This bar is definitely an experience, and if you’re looking for a walk on the wild side -- this is the place for you.
Location: Upper East Side
1590 Second Ave, NYC
The idea of Upper East Side nightlife may conjure visions of fine wine and upper echelon indulgence but let it be known that this neighborhood too offers hidden gems like The Penrose. Staunchly out of place yet strangely at home, this quirky UES gastropub prides itself on impeccable mixology and indie-chic humility that leaves guest intoxicated on reasonably priced libations and spontaneous charm.
When it comes to Manhattan nightlife, a decent cocktail can easily break your $20 budget and on the Upper East Side, forget about it! Unless, of course, you find yourself at The Penrose where you can snag some of our favorites like a $9 gin and tonic or $5 craft beer. Brooklyn dive prices juxtaposed by the city’s most affluent zip code, a locale such as this is truly a rare yet treasured find. In addition to alcoholic indulgences, curb your craving for whimsical interiors as The Penrose beams with brazen brilliance from eclectic vintage portraits coating the exposed brick walls to the warm and inviting banquettes which rest atop brilliantly distressed hardwood floors. On one hand, we share this secret hotspot with trepidation but on the other hand, we can’t wait to hear all about your unique Upper East Side encounter as you immerse yourself the coziest cocktail nook in NYC, The Penrose.