When you think of the nightlife in New York, you might be surprised to find out that the flashy, ostentatious bars and clubs in Manhattan are not necessarily guaranteed to be the best night out. I have seen more celebrities in small, dingy bars than I have seen in expensive nightclubs. I also got to pick tunes on the duke box and order pitchers of beer while chatting to them! This is because of the popularity of the so-called “dive bar” in New York. It provides a spot for celebrities to hide out and an inexpensive, laid back atmosphere for us mere mortals. The suits, NYU students, labourers, tourists and bar hogs all come together with one common goal in what turns out to be a strange but interesting conglomerate.
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Nightlife in New York: Rudy’s Bar and Grill
Take, for instance, Rudy’s Bar and Grill, a Hell’s Kitchen landmark since 1933. Its concept is straightforward. Sell customers reasonably priced drinks (explained very clearly in a large drinks menu above the counter), offer them free hotdogs with every drink, provide a jukebox to control the songs and…red PVC plastic chair booths to sit in. Ok, so this last part is just a bit trashy. Still, the only way to embrace it is to see it as one of the marvellously random features of Rudy’s, just like the giant pig statue that stands outside as a greeter to lonely wanderers (and is often decked out in costume, depending on the season).
You can expect a wonderful mix of people in this gem of a bar, especially after 5 when office workers come in search of their fix, and the place starts to really fill up. Rudy’s Bar and Grill is located at 44th Street and Ninth Avenue, just two blocks from the hustle and bustle of Times Square.
Nightlife in New York: Jimmy’s Corner
Jimmy’s Corner is another neighbourhood gem that is well worth checking out. Located near Times Square, it boasts the most boxing memorabilia of another bar in the city, squeezed into the tightest space. Its owner, Jimmy Glenn, is a former trainer of professional fighters and a regular at the bar. The crowd of charming regulars mixed with the odd tourist gives you a funny reminder that even in a city as crazy and fast-paced as New York, there are still locals who have their own routines. A small storefront presence from the street makes this gem a little challenging to find. Once you enter, you find yourself in a long cavernous bar with backroom tables: Good for groups of three or four, but anything larger than that is a bit on the ambitious side, given the lack of space. Also, don’t try to bust a move inside the bar, although the jukebox has some of the most soulful hits you’ll find in the city. Instead, be amazed at the price of $3 for draft beer and $5 for cocktails, a veritable anomaly in New York, not to mind Times Square. So if you fancy sporting memorabilia, down-to-earth staff, cheap drinks and good tunes, this is your spot! Jimmy’s Corner is located on 44th Street between Broadway and Avenue of the Americas.
Nightlife in New York: The View Restaurant and Lounge
If you desire something a little fancier, Times Square’s View Restaurant and Lounge is a fabulous find. This establishment is virtually impossible to find from the street. It is situated above the Marriott Marquis Hotel on 45th Street and Broadway. There is no experience comparable to dining right in the heart of Times Square Theatre District in the only revolving restaurant in New York City. That’s right, it revolves! Prepare to take in some breathtaking panoramic views of the city at night. This is not a place for tight budgets since food prices start at $50 and run considerably high. There is a pre-theatre special of $69 for dinner that ends at 6:30 pm. The dress code is business casual. The View is wheelchair accessible.
Nightlife in New York: Apotheke
This bar in Chinatown is an experience, to say the least. This lavish prohibition-style speakeasy/cocktail lounge is literally hidden down a street in Chinatown named Doyer Street, which has to be the shortest in Manhattan at just a block long and, from my experience, the sketchiest. Don’t let this put you off, however. At the end of the street sits a “restaurant” called the Golden Flower with (conspicuously enough) a bouncer outside it; once you go through the door, you are greeted with a soothing scent, the reason being that the light sconces are filled with an absinthe-like herbal liquid that emits the scent. As for the bar is a 30 foot long and 6-foot wide performance bar (the previous owner used to light liquor on fire along the length of the bar before it was put to a stop), built using marble and pressed tin purchased from an antique store that also sold the owner a 200-year-old door equipped with a cool sliding peep-hole. The ceiling is painted with gold leaf, the furniture is sparse; an oversized red couch here and a small ottoman there.
Interestingly enough, the lounge used to be an opium den. It is now modelled to look like an old European apothecary. The bartenders are famed for their mixology skills, with an extensive menu offering over 250 specialty cocktails. If my memory serves me correctly, every drink I tried was delicious. However, I didn’t try as many as I wanted to since they start at a whopping $15.
Try to get there early, around 8.30 before the bar fills up, and it’s still easy to get in. And if you prefer jazz over house/techno, make sure to visit on a Monday, when there is a fantastic jazz band playing (which I thought was a lot more fitting). Apotheke is located at 9 Doyer Street, and the closest subway stops are the 6, J, M, N, Q, R, W, Z at Canal Street.
This is simply a run-down of the watering holes that I have frequented often and make it my duty to go back to every time I visit NY.
Nightlife in New York: The Brooklyn area
Brooklyn is also an absolute favourite of mine, with Williamsburg being a particular hotbed of activity for hipsters and tourists alike. Try Sea Thai restaurant on Bedford Avenue and North Sixth Street for some delicious and affordable bites in a beautifully atmospheric renovated warehouse if you want some dinner. While you’re there, check out the eclectic bars and nightclubs with their various genres of music. If you’re heading to the East Village and Alphabet City, on the other hand, quench your thirst at Beauty Bar for the utmost in trend, with its former interior as a 1950’s hair salon still intact (and avail of a $10 cocktail and manicure special!). Finally, for the best pizza in town, in my opinion, head to Grimaldi’s underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and enjoy a real authentic Italian experience!
Whichever establishment you find yourself wandering into, remember to have a good time, be daring, try something you’ve never had before and if you’re part of a tour group, try your best to wake at a reasonable hour the following day!