When someone you went to school with sends you a DM that they “would love to hang,” what do you do? When you half-heartedly agree to meet a person who identifies as a “creator slash curator” on a dating app, where will you turn? When the benevolent couple at the dog park suggests you hang out without your dogs present, where will you convene?
Now that “catching up” is suddenly everyone’s favorite pastime, it’s time to practice the art of the hour-long drink-and-snack. These spots are ideal for first dates, coworker reunions, and third-tier friend meetups - especially because you can be in and out by 9pm to go home and watch TV by yourself.
Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights has an inordinate amount of great places to eat - Olmsted, Oxalis, Faun, Chuko, Maison Yaki, and more. But of all of the spots on this stretch just north of Prospect Park, LaLou is the best place for a low-key wine and snacks meal. The long wine list is mostly made up of natural wines, with a big selection of familiar varietals from famous regions in France and Italy, as well as lesser-known options of which we always botch the pronunciation. As a bonus, Vanderbilt is closed to traffic on weekends now, so you can eat directly in the middle of the street.
Between discounted drinks and $1 oysters during daily Happy Hour from 5-7pm, Bar Belly is a perfect choice for a casual meetup. This Lower East Side spot feels more relaxed than some of its Orchard Street, Dimes-Square-Adjacent spots. But you still get to be entertained by the skateboarders who shop exclusively via Instagram and people passing out the latest issue of The Drunken Canal.
If you left New York during the pandemic for months on end, welcome back. We know who you are, and we’re here to tell you about a new outdoor Brooklyn bar you should know about: Wild Birds. This massive Crown Heights spot hosts live music every day on their sidewalk patio, and they have tons of places to sit. Stop by for a drink from 5-11pm on weekdays and noon to 11pm on weekends.
You know what’s better than sitting inside at The Commodore? Sitting outside at The Commodore. This Williamsburg frozen-drink spot has beach chairs set up on Havemeyer Street where you can split their fried chicken and sip piña coladas in the sunshine. It will inevitably get crowded. But consider that a good excuse to innocently say, “Wow it got so busy, huh? Maybe we should give up our table.”
The original Threes in South Brooklyn is one of our go-to’s for larger outdoor gatherings and/or baby-dog conventions. But if you’re closer to Greenpoint than you are to Gowanus, try Threes’ offshoot bar. It has all the same great beer available with extended sidewalk seating. Plus, a fantastic, plump burger from the Meat Hook Burger Shop that uses top-quality beef and a cascading waterfall of American cheese and special sauce.
Earl’s on the Upper East Side is typically filled with medical residents playing board games and people on dates hanging out with a couple of interesting beers and cheesy dip. And now that they’ve built out a covered sidewalk patio, there are twice as many tables available. Don’t underestimate their sandwiches and salads, they’re way more delicious than a beer bar warrants.
Dutch Kills in Long Island City has a covered patio with separated tables you can book ahead of time to avoid waits (and therefore you can get home in time to watch multiple episodes of Selling Sunset and Curb Your Enthusiasm) . They’re fairly serious about cocktails here, so that’s what you should be ordering. Their house and rotating seasonal drinks both use housemade mixers, so we’d recommend ordering a duo.
Harlem Hops on Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard serves a lot of hard-to-find beer, specifically from small-batch breweries and businesses owned by people of color. It’s a great place to bring anyone who likes to try new beer. And if you don’t really care about the different flavor notes in East and West Coast IPAs, you’ll at least appreciate the backyard - it has tables made out of barrels and a big mural wall.
Terre is our favorite place to drink wine in Park Slope, which makes it useful for an hour-ish hang by default. They have over 100 natural wines, all available by the glass. If you need help choosing, talk to the staff about what looks interesting to you and they’ll bring you tastes of a few different options. Terre also has a huge charcuterie selection because, despite all of our hopes and dreams, wine isn't actually dinner. For all these reasons, this is one of the best casual date spots in the neighborhood.
When anyone asks us for a Tribeca bar recommendation, Weather Up is the first place we recommend. It’s popular but never overcrowded, and they now have a sidewalk patio on Duane Street with occasional live music. Get a cocktail and some castelvetrano olives (the superior snacking olive).
If you want a great cocktail in the West Village without making a big deal out of your night, try this Japanese bar on Hudson Street. Their excellent drinks are made with ingredients like yuzu, matcha, and Japanese whiskey - and we especially like the house gin and tonic, which comes in a frosty mug lined with shiso leaves. There’s also a short menu of great Japanese bar food, too. Hang out on their sidewalk while you dutifully nod your head in response to your drinking companion’s pandemic woes.
If you like to drink obscure beers and numb your pain with cheese, you’ll be a fan of Milk & Hops. It’s a little place in Chelsea that looks kind of like a fancy grocery store that happens to have a bar where you can eat a sandwich or a meat and cheese plate. The fridges are filled with beer you won’t find at your average bodega, so bring a friend who sometimes talks about different kinds of beer even when you aren’t interested, and hang out for an hour at one of the tables along the wall.
This seasonal outdoor Upper West Side bar has tons of umbrella-covered tables and open space right on the Hudson River at the south end of Riverside Park. It’s a good spot to meet someone for a summery cocktail or a bottle of wine in the $30 range. Plus, they serve classic seafood like lobster rolls and fries covered in Old Bay seasoning. There’s no table service - which makes the whole place feel even more casual. You’ll be notified by a buzzer when your order is ready at the counter.
The Immigrant is two bars in one that serves beer on the left, and wine on the right. . Why they divided it up like this, we have no idea - but it’s nice that they’re doing something different. And once you get past the unusual concept, you’ll find that this is a nice bar to spend some time in. It isn’t divey or fancy - it’s just a good, calm place to have some wine and cheese in the East Village. Not to mention the top-notch people watching on the sidewalk of East 9th Street.
If you’re meeting up in Astoria, rely on Sek’end Sun for a casual-feeling drink far away from the street. They have fairly regular specials and events like BBQs, trivia, and $8 drinks during brunch, which you can keep track of on their Instagram here. Come here during the warm weather and sit in the big backyard. There’s a big neon sign out here that says “Queens” just in case you briefly forget where you are.
If you live near Heidi’s House By The Side Of The Road, it might already be your second home. Maybe you even call it “[your name]’s House By The Side Of The Road.” This place is the most reliable spot in the East 70s for a casual catch-up involving some wine and perfectly crispy mac and cheese. If you want to prove to someone that you know the best spots on the Upper East Side, bring them here.
D’Antan is from the same people as Terre, and all you need to know is that it’s basically a replica of those places, but in Crown Heights. Expect a mostly-Italian wine list that includes more than 100 natural wines by the glass. It’s a good option for casual dates, when you want to sit at an outdoor table and share a bunch of different wines and charcuterie.