Unique bars


It's a futile exercise trying to list the "best" bars in New York City; not only are there hundreds to consider, but plenty more are opening every month. Consequently any list is ridiculously subjective to the point of pointlessness. So instead, here's a handful of venues if you're looking for "somewhere different" - whether it's to get boozed up, live the high life or make an impression.



Radegast Hall & Biergarten (corner of N 3rd St & Berry Street, Brooklyn)

Would you honestly travel any distance to try a pub's house mustard? It's a ludicrous suggestion, or at least it is until you visit Williamsburg's Radegast Hall. Amongst the deserted lots and half-built condos of hipster central, there are a dozen craft ales and German swills to sample at the bar, while the beer hall offers long wooden benches, sausages aplenty and a full menu besides. A great place to mingle but avoid weekends during good weather; the retractable roof rolls back on the biergarten and you'll struggle to get through the door.

Boom Boom Room, The Standard Hotel (Washington Street at W 13th Street, Manhattan)
The Standard Hotel straddles the phenomenally popular High Line in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. Ditch the trainers, dress up and take the elevator to the hotel's top floor. There are actually two rooms, though you probably won't find the one with the jacuzzi. Instead enjoy the most lavish bar you've ever stepped foot in and feel a million dollars, still considerably less than was spent on the fixtures and fittings; cream and beige leathers, polished woods and chandeliers, a carpet worth more than your house and floor-to-ceiling windows with views stretching to Midtown in one direction and to the Statue of Liberty in the other.

Drinks are pricey so order a signature cocktail, make it last and enjoy a New York sunset among the well-to-do crowd. Get there no later than 6.30pm otherwise you'll have to hustle the door staff and forget going altogether if it's after dark - the Boom Boom Room is renowned for extravagantly debauched late-night parties that you won't be invited to.

The Jane Hotel Ballroom (Jane Street and 12th Avenue, Manhattan)
In a former life the Jane Hotel was a seaman's refuge, the same that provided lodgings to the broken and traumatised crew of the Titanic. Now it's perhaps the best place to stay in Manhattan when your budget is tight, but even the guests miss the discrete entrance to the ballroom leading off reception. It's a place to try out for the atmosphere rather than any specific drink recommendations; the crowd is young, cosmopolitan and flush, 20 and 30-something year old New Yorkers, and the ballroom is actually a sweeping open study suspended in near-darkness.
Barcade (388 Union Avenue, Brooklyn)
More craft ales than you'll manage in a week of trying, two dozen arcade machines and the opportunity to see your high score live on in legend. Pouring quarters into video games and good beer makes for a fun night at Barcade in Williamsburg. Just don't get your hopes up about smashing those high scores - according to the chalkboard suspended above the crowds, the record for Arkanoid hasn't been beaten since 2006.

The Back Rooms (102 Norfolk Street, between Rivington Street and Delancy Street)
Prohibition outlawed the sale, production and import of alcohol in 1920, leading to the rise of smuggling, organised crime and bars operating in boozy back rooms away from the prying eyes of law enforcement. In the past decade, the Roaring Twenties have inspired numerous Prohibition-themed bars across the city. While there are plenty to recommend, some well-known bars such as Death & Co and PDT (Please Don't Tell) are usually more effort than they're worth.

For the beginner, start in the Lower East Side on Norfolk Street with a low iron gate marked "LES Toy Company". Half a dozen steps beyond the gate is a long, oily black alleyway below street level, then it's up the steps to an unmarked door. The warm and comforting light at the end of the tunnel is The Back Rooms, a bohemian, upmarket bar that welcomes you with open arms, regal sofas, dimly-lit chandeliers and crimson flocked wallpaper. Serving up cocktails in tea cups may seem a tad pretentious, but it's entirely fitting for the period.

The Raines Law Room (48 W 17th Street between 5th and 6th Ave)
Before Prohibition there was Raines Law, which in 1896 attempted to curb the drinking of men working six days week - the norm for the era - by prohibiting the sale of alcohol in bars on Sundays. There was a loophole; alcohol could be served in hotels offering accommodation, which led to saloons kitting out upper floors in beds and furniture. The Raines Law Room takes its names from this, yet another failed attempt to enforce sobriety. There's nothing to suggest a bar other than a covered doorway; you'll need to push the doorbell on the unmarked entrance and wait for a response. From plush Chesterfield sofas, guests can sip cocktails and summon waiters with electric bells. Reservations are required on several nights of the week, making it the perfect hideaway to impress your guests.


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