There are many reasons to love the West Village. It’s “cute,” it’s charming, and it has cobblestone streets. Also, it’s one of the best places to drink in the city. There are all kinds of bars in the area - from a speakeasy in a basement to a piano bar where you can sing show tunes - so here’s a guide to help you figure out where you should be drinking.
If you want a great cocktail in the West Village, but you don’t want to have to go to a speakeasy or order from someone in a tie, go to Katana Kitten. It’s a Japanese-themed bar on Hudson Street, and the drinks here are excellent. They’re made with things like yuzu, matcha, and Japanese whiskey - and we especially like the house gin and tonic, which comes in frosty mug lined with shiso leaves. You can either hang out at the bar upstairs or grab a drink in the darker basement area, and there’s a short menu of great Japanese-influenced bar food, too.
If you can get a seat at Bar Sardine, it’s one of the best places to drink in the neighborhood. Sit at the bar and have a few cocktails, or order some oysters and a burger (theirs is one of the best in the city). In the summertime they open up their huge windows, so it’s almost like you’re drinking outside. The thing is, this place is really small - like 15 counter seats, a couple of tables, and no-standing-room small. So don’t come here with a group, but do bring a date.
The Happiest Hour is another spot we’ve come to rely on for its combination of fantastic burgers and strong, good drinks. And if you’re looking to talk to strangers and possibly meet someone you’ll date for a month or two, this place is great for that as well. The retro atmosphere and big open space tend to draw a crowd, and you’ll usually see at least one person celebrating his or her 25th birthday here.
Walk into The Happiest Hour, and you’ll find a second bar, Slowly Shirley, down a set of stairs. This place is surprisingly spacious for a basement bar, and while tiki-inspired cocktails are the main thing here, you can also order food from upstairs. (Have a burger.) Just know that this speakeasy-type spot gets busy. Nights and weekends tend to be packed, so expect a wait or come early.
Rusty Knot is either where you start your night, or where you end up at 2am drinking something out of a tiki mug. Regardless of whether you can remember your experience the next morning, chances are you had a good time. The Rusty Knot’s nautical theme, strong drinks, and fun crowd are its main draws, but it also serves a pretzel dog that has saved our night on several occasions.
Employees Only is over a decade old, and it was one of the original craft-cocktail spots in the city. Now that every other bar serves drinks in fancy glassware, this isn’t necessarily a place you cross the city for - but if you’re in the West Village looking for a fun night out, it’s one of your best options. It still gets busy, the bartenders still wear white lab coats, and you can still get some bacon-wrapped lamb chops after you have a third Manhattan and realize you need to eat something.
St Tropez is the perfect place to go if you have a first date in the West Village and you want to seem like the sort of person who reads books and has concrete plans for retirement. It’s a wine bar with floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of little tables where you can sit with a date, and they serve some solid French small plates as well. Have an order of meatballs and a plate of charred octopus with whatever you’re drinking. The entire wine list is French, and there are some affordable options if you don’t feel like spending your utilities budget on fermented grapes.
The Garret is a speakeasy in the sense that it’s hard to locate. To get here, you walk into the Five Guys at 7th and Bleecker, then walk up a hidden staircase in the back. Upstairs, there’s a casual cocktail bar with a few skylights and some windows looking out on the street. It isn’t as stuffy or expensive as some other cocktail bars, but it does get busy, and they play loud music. It’s a good place to bring someone who’ll be impressed by the hidden location.
Why this place is called The Spaniard, we have no idea. It’s a good-looking gastropub in the West Village, and while it isn’t overtly Spanish, it’s still a nice spot to hang out in a booth and eat a burger while you have a cocktail and look for new people to talk to. This bar is also pretty big, and it’s a good place for a group hang as long as you don’t mind crowds.
The Otheroom isn’t where you go to have a wild night out. It’s where you bring a date, or a friend who won’t be weirded out by the fact that everyone else here is on a date. The space is dark and candlelit, and it’s on a nice, quiet street in the far West Village. They only serve beer and wine - but if that’s OK with you, this is a great spot for a relatively calm drink.
Due West is sleek and loungey, and it feels like it should be in a neighborhood like Tribeca or the Meatpacking District. But it’s actually on West 10th Street, and you’ll find it useful if you have to plan a nicer date or grab drinks with some clients in the West Village. The space has white brick walls and velvet banquettes, and at night it gets pretty dark and crowded. They also have a little dinner menu with things like crudo, oysters, and a pretty good burger. Just be aware that it isn’t a huge place, so make a reservation if you want to play it safe.
This is the oldest operating gay bar in the city, and it shows. In a good way. They use barrels for stools, there are wagon wheels hanging from the ceiling, and there’s a whole wall of framed black and white photos. The crowd here skews a little older, but it’s also a good place to spot random celebrities. So if you’re looking for a divey, low-key, West Village institution, stop by Julius’. Just know that it’s cash only, and there’s a little kitchen in the middle of the room where you can get a burger and onion rings.
Little Branch was an early pioneer of the speakeasy scene, and you can still find it behind an unmarked door on 7th Avenue. The underground space is limited to a strict capacity (first come, first served), which keeps the mood inside pretty intimate and perfect for a date or small groups. They also have live jazz sometimes, but keep in mind that it’s cash only.
Anfora is a very good and very useful wine bar. You’ll find solid cocktails and small plates here in addition to the wine, plus a great Happy Hour. At this point, you’re probably catching on to the fact that the West Village is full of spots that are perfect for dates. This is another one.
The Blind Tiger is the West Village’s most popular beer bar, where people come to either geek out over things with ample amounts of hops or just drink something good while they watch sports. If you can deal with crowds, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent selection of uncommon draft beers and very solid bar food.
Blue Ribbon has a few brasseries, some sushi spots, a fried chicken place, and a couple of bars, like this little one on Downing Street. On busier nights, it can be hard to find a seat here, but it’s the perfect place for a few drinks and a snack (like steak tartare or a cheese plate). Try it for a second date when you want to keep things casual but impressive, or stop by on a 200th date when you want to have wine somewhere other than your couch.
Automatic Slims is, above all, a very normal bar. It isn’t divey, but it isn’t especially nice, and it never really gets too crowded. It’s a place that would be pretty unexceptional if it were anywhere other than the West Village. But here, it’s great. It’s only few blocks below the Meatpacking District, and it’s like a little oasis on weekends when all the other bars nearby are full of people trying not to slur their pickup lines. It’s small, but there are a few little tables to hang out at, and the soundtrack is always pretty decent.
Daddy-O is a true neighborhood bar - nicer than a dive, but not a fancy cocktail bar by any means. That middle ground can be pretty hard to find, and Daddy-O does it well. The cocktails are unexpectedly good, as is the bar food. You’d probably be pretty happy to hang out here any night of the week. Bring friends.
One day, one of your seven or eight children will look up at you and ask what Marie’s Crisis was like. And you’ll want to be able to answer that question. This is an old, divey basement bar in the West Village where there are Christmas lights year-round, and someone is always playing show tunes on an upright piano. Everyone is invited to sing along, and every once in a while a server will set his or her tray down and sing a solo. This place is cash only, and if there’s a particular song you want to sing, try throwing some money in the fish bowl on top of the piano.
Highlands is a Scottish bar that serves - you guessed it - Scotch. But not in a sedate, sip-from-a-tumbler-in-a-leather-chair way. Highlands is more of a party, and it can often get crowded. Think of it as the West Village version of The Wren.
This is as straightforward a bar as you’ll find in the city. Classic rock, beers, and well drinks are the key components here - it’s all familiar, and that’s a good thing. This is the perfect place to take a break from the routinely expensive, sceney, and packed bars that you keep going back to. You’ll leave wishing you had this place on your corner.