New York is at its best when most of its eight million-ish residents aren't using it. In the summer this is doubly true, when daytime can feel like the inside of a thermal pizza delivery bag stuffed with butts and tuna. The only relief is to stay indoors during the worst of it, venturing out when the sun begins to dip behind the Hudson. Luckily this city has something of a reputation for not sleeping, and honestly the sun kind of sucks anyway?
In late 2015 we released a pretty detailed guide to New York with info on the different boroughs and where to do pretty much anything you want at any time of day. So for this slight update we've decided to focus strictly on what to do in the nighttime hours. This is a completely incomplete list of the places we like to go and the things we like to do in the dark, so if you're planning a trip here sometime soon think of this as a solid template for a good time but don't be afraid to veer from our well-trodden path. One of the best things about this city is wandering aimlessly and stumbling into bizarro places you didn't know existed.
The Rusty Knot sits on Manhattan's western frontier, a block from the banks of the Hudson. Decked in seafaring garb, it's the kind of bar to which locals flock for a stiff pour and a $4 pretzel dog. We know the nautical themed stuff is a bit overdone at this point, but the Rusty Knot, birthed from the minds behind the Spotted Pig and Freemans, pulls it off without coming across as a dive designed to be a dive (which it is). They serve spicy pickles, three-buck beers, copious shandies, and heavy-duty mai tais with a real bite. Speaking of which, if you make it to the Knot early you can make prime use of happy hour (4–7 PM, 2-for-1 well cocktails), jockey for control of the free jukebox, and mentally prepare for the rest of the night.
SUNSET AND STIFF DRINKS AT THE RUSTY KNOT
More to do nearby: Walk to neighborhood staple Art Bar for the fried calamari and something called a Ginger Coolcumber, and/or see some actual art at the Burning in Water gallery, which is open late and currently exhibiting works by Ghanan artists Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Serge Attukwei Clottey.
Take the L train to Third Avenue and pop down into Decibel, a graffiti-covered subterranean bunker in operation since 1993. The sake list is hundreds of bottles deep, and the sashimi is refreshingly straightforward. Their signature okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese yam pancake served Osaka-style, comes laced with green onions and draped in sauce. The enclave is perpetually packed (when you walk in you'll be corralled in a holding area until a table opens up), and the whole vibe is part-apocalyptic, part-cozy, as though everyone had communally decided to converge in a cavernous Mad Max boîte from the future to draw sustenance from bites of unagi and several rounds of ginjo sake.
SAKE AND SUSHI AT DECIBEL
More to do nearby: Sink into a private karaoke room at Sing Sing and dial up your go-tos and a round of drinks or 12, or grab arepas to go at Caracas and eat them in Tompkins Square Park.
11 PM–2 AM
Opened in 2013 as an antidote to the twee aesthetic overtaking Brooklyn nightspots, Bossa Nova Civic Club is a divey tiki bar that makes no bones about its sweaty, dance-party intentions. The sound system is as impressive as the DJ lineup: Recent appearances include Beats in Space's Tim Sweeney, White Material's Young Male, and trans rights advocate and visual artist Juliana Huxtable. The drinks, many of them made with fresh juices, are not messing around either. Case in point: John Barclay, Bossa Nova's owner, brews his own small-batch yerba mate soda under the moniker White Label, inspired by a natural energy drink upper called Club Mate served at dance parties in Berlin. The mayimba—a tequila-honey-cinnamon concoction—isn't bad either.
WHITE LABEL AND DANCING AT BOSSA NOVA CIVIC CLUB
More to do nearby: Bushwick's House of Yes is a standby for neighborhood shenanigans. Expect acrobatics, plenty of costumed revelers, and solid, cheap drinks. Alternatively, check out the Black Flamingo, in nearby Williamsburg, a "danceteria" with a full bar serving vegetarian snacks.
Around this time the sashimi will be wearing off and you'll likely be in the mood for something greasy. Post up at the Commodore for a fried chicken sandwich doused in hot sauce and slathered in honey butter, then keep the drunk going with a slushy piña colada in a hurricane glass. Meanwhile, the bartender will top off your frosty coconut refreshment with a floater of amaretto. Note: The kitchen stays open until 4 AM on weekends but closes at midnight otherwise, so slide in on the earlier side Monday through Thursday nights. Another note: The chef hates Munchies for reasons we don't quite understand, but fuck it, the man makes a mean sandwich.
SOMETHING FRIED AND SOMETHING FROZEN AT THE COMMODORE
More to do nearby: Bagelsmith, the resident go-to, is open 24 hours at both the Lorimer (at Metropolitan) and Bedford (at North 6th Street) locations. Kellogg's Diner definitely serves edible food too.
Grand Ferry Park in Williamsburg has one of the nicest views of Manhattan in Brooklyn. Common thoughts at this spot: that's too many buildings, there's no way that's an island, someone somewhere in there is totally doing it right now. Get a coffee, take a seat on one of the benches, and let those thoughts rush through your brain while you process everything that happened last night.
SUNRISE AT GRAND FERRY PARK
Since you're on the water, board the East River Ferry. Everyone likes boats. The ferry is a relatively recent addition to New York's transit infrastructure, and just might be the savior of many a Brooklynite when the L train shuts down in 2019. There are two docks in Williamsburg, but the one you are closest to is just at the end of North 6th Street, and ferries start running at 6:30 AM. It'll cost you $2.75 (just download the NYC Ferry app to buy tickets). Deboard at Wall Street/Pier 11 and head to Mee Sum in Chinatown for solid dim sum.
SET SAIL ON THE EAST RIVER FERRY
All photographs by Stephanie Mei-Ling.