The VICE Guide to New York City: Where to Drink and Party

Places to drink and spend your nights in NYC come and go with an almost impossible-to-fathom speed, but here are our favorites right now.

by VICE Travel Staff
Dec 15 2015, 6:44pm

Places to drink and party in NYC come and go with an almost impossible-to-fathom speed. That's why you'll see people who are devastated about clubs less than five-years-old closing. Five years feels like a very long time for a place to survive. Never underestimate a New Yorker's capacity for instant nostalgia. We miss you already. But for this section we're NOT mentioning places that will have a long line or will turn you away for not having a pretty face or proper attire.

Caveat: These places lean towards the divey. That's the sort of bar that we believe New York excels at. BUT PLEASE NOTE, speakeasies are by definition illegal. You're not in a speakeasy, no matter what the guidebook tells you. We are just trying to live a life as free from corniness as possible.

Second Chance Saloon: Staffed by many veterans of Williamsburg's much missed punk bar, Sweetwater Tavern, this is a no-nonsense drinking establishment with a superb jukebox and a staff that will, while probably not smiling, happily discuss sports and baseball with you. There's a pool table if you feel like getting into arguments with strangers.

124 Old Rabbit Club: Belgian Beer Bar. Pitch black except for candles. Lots of loud, good music. We work out of here a lot. You don't have to threaten our life in the comments. You can come by and kill us yourself.

The Scratcher: East Village local where the bartenders pour the Guinness correctly. There's live music on Sunday nights that's usually comprised of touring Irish musicians, so be prepared for impromptu sing-alongs to go with your pint.

Sid Gold's Request Room: Being a human person with a big heart, a substance abuse problem, and a sense of shame that waxes and wanes with the moon, you doubtlessly love karaoke. Hey, girl. Us, too. Sing someone else's body electric. The videos with the subtitles are nice, but it's time to up the ante and do live piano karaoke. Co-owner Joe McGinty, who for years has organized the songwriter tribute series, Loser's Lounge, leads the karaoke at Sid Gold's Request Room. McGinty has compiled an impressively diverse song list that, while perhaps not as overarching as your usual five-books-of-dreck-to-be-sung-ironically karaoke collection, still has something for everyone. Especially if your tastes run towards 70s AOR/R&B and Nine Inch Nails. As we assume they do.

An Beal Bocht Café: Described as "the most Irish of Irish spots," An Beal Bocht is what you're going to do if you find yourself in The Bronx and have the overwhelming urge to pour one out for poor Joe Heaney. Good times for both ex-pats and those that like to ogle them. Good music and better than decent Irish pub food. They have bangers. They have mash.

Cocktail Bars
Obviously no-one says mixology, someone just invented that word to make cocktails look stupid. That person was a dick and probably a misogynist, because obviously cocktails are great; they get you drunk and taste like raspberries. The only problem is that they take ages for the artisans behind the bar to make them, so if you want to drink them, please go to a place that specializes in them, don't try and walk the poor untrained bastard behind the bar through Empellon Cocina's Fat-Washed Mezcal while other people are trying to get a beer.

To start with, The Dead Rabbit and Dutch Kills are fine, delicious options if you don't mind tucking in your shirt and want to drink like a steampunk.

If you can't be bothered to slip out of your laundry day ensemble but you're still in the mood for a killer Old Fashioned, Lucey's Lounge welcomes you at the bar. The prices are reasonable, the freshly popped seasoned popcorn flows freely, and co-owner Henry mixes fast and clean.

Maybe you want to pretend, if only for a moment, that you're a classy adult right out of an episode of Mad Men. Or maybe you just have to kill time before hopping a train to the suburbs to visit Aunt June. Why else would you be in Midtown? Make a stop at Lantern's Keep at the Iroquois Hotel.

Other Bars/Parties
Home Sweet Home is a basement bar where your phone will not get service and you should go on Wednesdays or Fridays. Wednesday is the Nothing Changes (formerly Wierd when run by artist Pieter Schoolworth) party. When it was Wierd it was a purist minimal synth party where goths drank Campari. Nothing Changes takes a slightly more freewheeling approach, but the party is regularly full of attractive people in kohl. There's a live band at midnight.

Fridays is Jonathan Toubin's (of New York Night Train/Soul Clap fame) party. He plays all rare soul and funk 45s, often with guest DJs like Kid Congo Powers, James Chance, and Ian Svenonius. It can get extremely crowded, but with people who want to dance to old soul and funk, so it's delightful. Whatever you're thinking of requesting though? He doesn't have it.

Over the Eight: Owned by David Castillo, one of the main dudes at Saint Vitus, Over the Eight is a great place to listen to metal, goth, and hardcore while staring out the window. We can't stress enough how valuable and dwindling a commodity that is. There's a well-curated beer menu and Venezuelan street food served by Santa Salsa in the back, plus regular readings, karaoke, and live music. Fred, a dude from VICE, runs a monthly night there where we all spill beers on the decks while playing whatever is considered cool at that moment.

Tuesday, Baby Tuesday: This party is the longest running of its kind in NYC. It started in 1993, the year Vince Staples was born and is still crazzzzzzy popular. In a country as bereft of old shit as this one, 22 years basically makes this our pyramids.

Tropical 128: Tropical 128 is a tiki bar/pool hall with a secret weapon in Prince Terrence. Terrence has been a downtown figure for years, throwing mixed parties that invariably are disgusting (in the good way). Prince Terrence will still play goth, new wave, and post punk, but Terry plays hip-hop.

Bossa Nova Civic Club: The tropically themed Bushwick club has shockingly reasonable drink prices and brings in some of the best international and local DJs. It's generally where you need to go if you love techno and house, but don't want to be surrounded by seven trillion yahoos.

Apt. 78: A neighborhood restaurant/bar that over time, through an enviable roster of DJs like Schoolboy and Venus X, has become, in the words of DJ/musician Pal Frog, a.k.a. Dances with White Girls, "something important."

Saturdays at Tijuana Picnic: Speaking of Frog, he is the occasional guest DJ at this new regular "open forum, rap, cool stuff, rap" party by Scrap. Other guests include Sean Kinney of Eddie Eddie by Billy Tommy and PJ Monte. Expect girls dancing with each other, and a lot of PPP alumni drinking. Maybe they'll sign your autograph book.

Famous in Bushwick: Jimmy the Gent's multi purpose arts and music organization throws some of the best soul-satisfying hip-hop and affiliated arts parties around. One of the few roaming events that both underground rappers and get-lit-at-all-costs populists agree on.

Vogue Knights: Mike Q is an amazing house DJ/musician that runs one of the most exciting labels in NYC right now, Qween Beat. Qween Beat is the vanguard of contemporary vogue culture and Vogue Knights is the Monday night vogue party that Mike Q deejays. It's the return to glamour that we've missed since electroclash. Please dress like an adult—a beautiful, beautiful adult.

Good Room: Formerly the Polish discotheque and (awful sound) rock venue, Europa has been transformed into a, well, discotheque with great sound. Hosting diverse DJs from all the DFA usual suspects to the Carry Nation party to Tropical Goth night (no, we don't know what the deal is with all the tropical themed club shit... the zeitgeist must enjoy bright colors), Good Room is a safe bet for non-excruciating club culture. The 94th Precinct is right down the street, so keep your outdoor moronicisms to a minimum.

Club Shade: Sometimes things are so beautiful, so pure, so transcendent and good that they can only be described as "a roving queer/fashion crowd party that's hella cool."

Sugar Hill Disco & Restaurant: Open since 1979 and, according to Akesha Freeman (her father, Eddie, owns the place), "the longest black owned running nightclub in Brooklyn," Bedstuy's Sugar Hill is a goddamned wonder. They don't have a website because running a website is a pain in the ass and you really shouldn't be forced to do so just because you run a popular bar. Great comfort food, excellent dance space and periodic home to some of the most fun parties NYC has offered in years; Mean Red and Tiki Disco.

OK. This gets tricky. We trust you. We totally don't think you're a cop. We also don't think you're a thief, a coke vulture, or a sexual predator. But how do we tell you about afterhours without risking an influx of all of the above? We're going to do this. Follow Slutlust, Dances, Prince Terrence, Bury Me in Brooklyn, and The Favor on Instagram. See what happens. Try prayer. Don't be a cop and, for the love of Christ, don't ask your bartender "what's open" at 4 AM and then say "I thought this was the city that never sleeps" when they say, "I dunno, man." They'll invite you if you seem like someone they'd want to hang out with. Afterhours can and will happen... but they're invite only.

Read more in the VICE Guide to New York City.