There are many reasons to love New York City. The culture, the diversity, and the chance to experience all four seasons in full force (until winter lasts forever, that is). But one of the best things about this melting pot of awesome is the bar and restaurant scene. There are some really unique New York City restaurants and bars you should make a point of visiting if you ever visit the Big Apple.
But with so many options, and a whole lot of tourists, it can be hard to pin down a cool new space to enjoy a meal or catch up with friends. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 10 unique New York City restaurants and bars.
If you’re like me and love your wine, it can be impossible to know where to begin. LelaBar came my way through a groupon back when I was a struggling 20-something and has remained one of my all time favorite wine bars in the city. With over 550 expertly selected wines and delicious meat and cheese plates, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in this intimate spot. It’s perfect for a date night or get together with friends. And bonus? They have Happy Hour from 5-7:30 (but get there early, it gets packed).
Love cocktails? Interested in shabby chic, islandy decor? Then Cienfuegos is a must. They’re known for the fruity punch cocktails and delicious rum concoctions, but the vibrant, colorful atmosphere of this breezy Cuban bar will make you want to stay a while. After meandering up an almost unnoticeable staircase you’re transported to a whole different world. It might even help you forget those subzero temps in the winter.
I have a friend that’s a huge fan of sake, so much so that she did a number of sake tastings on a recent trip to Japan. The moment we stepped inside Decibel she told me she felt like she was back in Tokyo. The basement bar (easy to miss if you’re not paying attention) takes you into a dimly lit, incredibly intimate space with distinctly Japanese vibes. The wait can be long, but if you’re a fan of sake, well worth it.
If you’re looking for a truly unique NYC experience, then look no further than Tokyo Record Bar. This incredible restaurant and bar takes pride in pairing their dining and drinking experience with custom curated vinyl playlists. For that special person you know who loves both food and music, this is an absolute must. But make reservations because they only seat 18 people for each dining slot.
For the literary nerd, you’re going to want to make a stop at Oscar Wilde. This ornate, wildly European bar will invite you in and make you never want to leave. Decorated with stained glass windows and sweeping mantles, drinkers feel as if they’ve stepped into the life of Wilde himself. Which, not surprisingly, is the point. This truly is a unique New York City restaurant all you literary fans have to experience.
While not exactly in Manhattan, The Ides rooftop bar is worth the trip across the river to Williamsburg. This rooftop, with both indoor and outdoor spaces, has some of the most spectacular views of the city you can find. Sip your cocktails on a nice spring day and look out over the immaculate skyscrapers and NYC architecture. There is always a line so be prepared to wait for your moment.
Sorry, but I’m spilling the beans. PDT is one of the coolest “speakeasies” in the city. Hidden inside Crif Dogs in the East Village (you enter through an old telephone booth), this is the best non-secret in the city. The wait is usually long, but the vibe once you get inside is totally worth it. Especially since you can nosh on the hot dogs next door while sipping your killer cocktail.
This eclectic, hole-in-the-wall bar knows how to grab attention. The first time I ventured inside was due to their insane Halloween set-up, with glowing pumpkins suspended from the ceiling, and spiderwebs in every corner. Needless to say, they go all out to pimp the place out for special occasions. But their happy hour and insane nightly DJ dance parties take the cake. Be prepared to get your dance on.
Touted “The Original Arcade Bar” this is a late night staple you don’t want to miss. Barcade was designed to cater to the kid in all of us. At this joint you can drink and play classic arcade games at the same time. From Donkey Kong to Ms. Pac-Man there’s bound to be something for the video game lover in every group.
Ah, another wine bar. This one packs a serious sommelier punch. Every server in both locations is knowledgeable and helpful. They’ll let you sip until you find a wine that’s right for you and whatever you’re celebrating. I’ve had some of the absolute best service (and small bites) at both the Chelsea Market and Union Square locations, and will continue to sing their praises until the end of time. Some advice? Try their blind tastings.