New York City Raises The Bar

Not until recently has the bar scene in NYC been redefined as more than just a place to get a drink — bar food has taken center stage. We heart New York any time of the year, but let’s face it, the winter can be harsh. So pull up a stool and keep warm with a hand-crafted cocktail.

And know that you won’t have to brave the cold to make alternative plans for dinner.  These new favorites have managed to pull off fine food and drink in a pub-like vibe that we can all dig into.


You may have heard of their “older sibling” next door: Contra.  Wildair might not look like much, with family-style bar tables stacking the interior, and a small kitchen to the south.  But rest assured, you can expect the same de rigueur service that Contra offers when it comes to the food and drink. Go solo, or on a date. We prefer pulling up a seat to the only “bar” in the space, which happens to face the kitchen. Order the house-made bread, served warm alongside a pool of chartreuse, and Occhipinti olive oil. The wine list is extensive and the staff is unpretentious. Even though it’s “a wine bar” at heart, it might be the best meal we’ve had all year.


For years, Pegu Club has ruled the roost as far as Manhattan cocktails go. So when one of their alumni (Kenta Goto) struck out on his own with “Bar Goto”, it’s unsurprising that he brought his fan club with him. This boutique “sanctuary” on the Lower East Side allows you to settle into soft ambient light. Order any one of their lovely cocktails (perhaps most famous: their Sakura Martini, served with a single, floating cherry blossom) and if you’re hungry, from their Japanese bar menu. “Miso Wings” come piled high, perfectly crisp and sweetened with touches of scallion and sesame. And finally, as with any good Japanese bar, you may order Okonomiyaki (a savory cabbage pancake) which just might be the new comfort food of 2016.


You’ll have to tap all of your best “insider” connections to get into this members’ only club on Great Jones, but it will undoubtedly be worth the favor.  Like Bar Goto, Japanese bars are having a moment in NYC, and we couldn’t be happier about it.  It’s all about the details in this intimate (25 seat) room.  In fact, it feels like you’re walking into someone’s home. There is no sign to mark the door, just a hallway that reads “Basquiat Road”, for the famed artist who died at the same address. Small plates are inspired by France and Japan. Here, we love our Japanese Whiskey served over a hunk of rectangular ice, but if you’re craving something sweeter, try a cocktail with matcha powder for a frothy good time. Tip: If your trendiest friends are unavailable, try emailing Bohemian for an invitation.


Brought to you by the cool kids who are responsible for Diner, Marlow & Sons, and the Wythe Hotel, we humbly offer you this Greenpoint tavern to satisfy your most nostalgic sea-faring craving.  Situated on what might be the last “undeveloped” corner of the East River is an historic building that used to cater to the dockworkers of the 1900s. Yes the space is cool. Yes the crowd is on fellek. The cocktails are properly made as well. But what we really love about Achilles Heel is the food.  Their “kitchen” is nothing more than a hot plate and a meat slicer, but they’re pumping out elevated bar food that speaks to your soul.  Case and point: clam toast and white beans served briny, over a dark piece of fried toast.  Go for the drinks, and stay for the unexpected.

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Photo by Victor Torres