The cheapest (and riskiest) time to visit the Big Apple is winter of course. It’s cold, there’s the possibility of snow or even a polar vortex, oh, and it’s cold.
But we took our chances, paid a little extra for travel insurance, and booked a long weekend in Manhattan. And ended up having some of the best experiences. of. our. lives.
This was our second visit to the city as a couple and we had some sightseeing on the agenda, including Downtown, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, MoMA, Central Park, etc. However, as we do with all of our trips, we sync our itinerary with bar stops recommended by bartenders, friends, and our own research.
New York City is home to some of the top bars in the world (according to those lists that come out every now and then by people who make lists). One of the lists that we usually look to is the annual World’s 50 Best Bars. You may recall we referred to this same list for our London visit.
So without further ado, here are the bar experiences that will keep us going back to NYC time and time again.
In the top 10 of the World’s Best Bars list for the third year straight, this is not your average hotel bar. The richness of the space is a foreshadowing of the extensive menu - classics, new twists, unexpected ingredients, low ABV and no ABV options. But it’s not so posh that you feel out of place ordering the truffle fries and eating them with your hands. But then it IS so posh that I definitely overheard a major Midtown Manhattan development deal before reading about it in the Wall Street Journal the following day.
Get there early. The NoMad can get 4 to 5 people deep at the bar. Never fear though, you will be served and it will be done pleasantly. We bellied up to the bar right as they opened and had great conversation with our bartender, Jack. The Mr. ordered a Martinez while I fought off a sinus/cold with a delicious mocktail (which are, thankfully, becoming more and more popular in the industry).
2015 AND 2016’s Word’s Best Bar was named so for a reason. The coziness, the variety, the hospitality and service are unlike anything we’ve experienced thus far. It is an Irish bar, but you’re not limited to pints and Irish whiskies. The ground floor pub, The Taproom, is their take on a traditional Irish pub, while the second floor houses The Parlor where their craft and classic cocktails are mixed with care and respect.
Like NoMad, our bartender served up great conversation and drinks, and he introduced us to their legendary Irish coffee (indeed the best we’ve ever had and the perfect drink on a cold NYC day).
The coasters at the bar read “born in a hurricane, forged in a fire,” a testament to their perseverance in opening the bar after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the city and the fire that broke out at the bar during the summer of 2018. Even with 2018’s fire The Dead Rabbit came in at 16 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list.
An institution in New York and the bar industry (and placing it 9th on the World’s Best Bar list), Dante is a bright Italian cafe in Greenwich Village. Dante first opened in 1915 and is the place to go for a Negroni, espresso, or really anything. The Mr.’s Martini came with options - an extra bit of martini, an olive, a twist, and an onion. Meanwhile, my Julep was a beauty comprised of Monkey Shoulder, Becherovka, cosmopolitan cordial, mint, and prosecco.
We highly recommend you make reservations as this is a place to see and be seen. We were grateful to belly up to the end of the bar for a bit before heading out to dinner.
While the following establishments are not currently on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, we definitely endorse a visit as the service and drinks are right up there with the best of them.
Walking into The Campbell it immediately felt like home! Located in Grand Central Station, it is as beautiful and classic as the terminal itself and we can’t describe it any better than The Campbell itself:
“Paying homage to the legacy of John W. Campbell, a Jazz Age financier who converted the space to his private office and reception hall in 1923, The Campbell showcases many of the thirteenth century Florentine-inspired design intricacies that upheld its legendary allure, including soaring, 25-foot hand painted ceilings, a grand stone fireplace, Campbell’s personal steel safe, a century-old leaded glass window and original millwork.”
We visited on our last day in NYC and I realized I was about to leave town without having a Martini. The Mr. and I remedied that situation and followed it up with milk and cookies. Yes, yes we did.
As had been par for the course throughout our time in NYC, the service and bartender chat were excellent.
For history buffs this is THE place to go. For a brief overview (as there’s more history in one corner of this establishment than could ever fit in any one blog), the Fraunces Tavern played a prominent role in history before, during and after the American Revolution, serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British, and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. I KNOW, RIGHT? We geeked out a bit.
The tavern is fantastic for lunch, a beer, or a whiskey (or all three) and then be sure to visit the museum upstairs!
Note: Fraunces Tavern is right around the corner from Dead Rabbit so make it a two for one!
This venue will be a bit harder to explain. You see, it’s a speakeasy. But we didn’t go to THAT speakeasy. We went to THIS speakeasy. Yes, the second one.
To try and clarify, there is an original Angel’s Share speakeasy located over a noodle house in the East Village. It’s a small space and can only accommodate about 10 people at a time. It is also very popular and depending on the time of your arrival the wait can be a little long.
We’re not much for waiting or small spaces so we went to Angel’s Share. Haha, well we went to Angel’s Share II as we call it. It’s like the original Angel’s Share extra secret bar (conveniently located just steps from the original, although that’s for you to figure out).
Angel’s Share II, like the original, focuses on classics and highlights Japanese cocktail making as well. The space is Victorian and dim with a lovely view of the East Village through the large windows.
If there’s one place in the U.S. that I do not wish to return to, it is Times Square. It’s not my style and not my speed. BUT, just steps from the chaos and loud lights is one of the most warm and inviting bars you’ll come across - The Rum House.
There’s something on the menu for everyone - originals, classics, and rum of course - oh, and popcorn! It is one of the best bars in Midtown and a true respite for tired feet that have wandered into the dark abyss of Broadway and 47th Street.
That concludes our latest bar adventures in New York and we can not WAIT to visit again! This coming from someone who had never had a desire to go to the city that never sleeps!
Before we sign off we’ll leave you with a couple of tips to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in NYC:
Be friendly - because everyone else is! A common misconception is that New Yorkers are rude and we have found this to be completely untrue. All of our interactions - on the street, at the bar, in the subway, etc - were delightful. And bartenders really open up when you take an interest in them. Ask their name, get to know them, they love a chat (except if they’re super busy, then just be polite and patient).
Take public transportation as much as possible. Taxis and Ubers can get expensive. We found it easy to get from Newark to Manhattan in 30 minutes using the New Jersey Transit train. For two people it was just $26 as opposed to a $80 or $100+ cab or Uber ride.
And the flat fare of the New York City Subway is a steal! It can be a little intimidating and I wouldn’t call it the most intuitive subway system in the world, but it is so much better than Ubering or hoofing it.
Stay in a central location. For both our visits we stayed close to Grand Central in Midtown. It’s easy to catch the subway from here to Downtown, Upper East and West Sides, Brooklyn, and beyond. I can definitely recommend the Iberostar at 70 Park Avenue. Excellent rooms (upgrade to a king) and service, and the perfect location. Also, the traffic is even a little less quieter around these blocks for some reason.
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