The Best Restaurant Bars in Manhattan

More and more the meaning of “restaurant” is changing to include fully-evolved drinks programs. In today’s Manhattan it’s easier than ever to find a glass of something good to go with one’s meal, whether it’s an obscure white wine from the Jura, a handcrafted beer or a carrot juice-infused Collins. Some of these places are elegant, once-a-year kind of experiences with white-glove service and formal conversation (Le Bernardin, Daniel), while others are indicative of the last decade’s revolt against the white table cloth (Momofuku Ssäm Bar and Fung Tu), while still others are classic New York experiences that may not have the best wine or the best cocktails (Balthazar, Keen’s, P.J. Clarke’s), but are still icons worthy of a visit. This list is, by no means comprehensive. Rather, it’s a wide sample of some of the best bar experiences to be had in Manhattan right now.

  • 1

    Balthazar

    Perhaps the most iconic of all the city's modern restaurants, Balthazar represents a blend of grandiosity, nonchalance and timeworn detail that feels as New York as the Empire State Building.  And while it's turned this block of Spring Street into one of the most tourist-ridden stretches in lower Manhattan, it still has a dedicated following of New York regulars. The bar, with its brusque barkeeps, mini-booths and two-deep crowd is always cozy, if difficult to get at seat at. And while the wine list, which still offers lots of depth and value, isn't quite what it used to be, and the cocktails leave much to be desired, ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • good wine
    • day drinking
    • oysters / raw bar
  • 2

    Daniel

    Truly one of New York’s most radiant bars, Daniel’s salon lounge acts as a seamless segue into the next several lavish hours. Its polite and charming bar staff can do all the classic tricks—Martinis, Old-Fashioneds, French 75s—but there’s something light and fruity for the neophyte (the un-ironic White Cosmo), and something weird and savory for the adventurous (the tomato-, miso-, shochu-fueled Mizu Mary 21). On the wine front, Vaidya's list of considerable depth offers one of the city's best opportunities to drink vintage wine, and to do so with the aid of warm, attentive service. And while classics are the name of ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • French wine
    • vintage wine
    • bar food
    • full menu
    • champagne
  • 3

    Del Posto

    This grand shrine to high-concept Italian cooking houses an equally, and unexpectedly, grand bar that executes all of the classics with subtle elegance. And while a four-star restaurant might not be the obvious choice for bar dining, it doesn't take the full experience to appreciate this Batali behemoth. Beyond the canon, newfangled drinks with ingredients like Sriracha bitters and horseradish syrup are also excellent. If you're here in search of wine, Del Posto is home to one of the restaurant group's deepest and most impressive lists of Barolo, as well as a fantastic selection of Italian whites from Friuli.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • craft beer
    • Italian wine
    • bar food
    • good wine
  • 4

    Donostia

    This tiny East Village tapas bar is a shrine to sherry and the Basque tradition of the pinxtos taverna—the ubiquitous incarnation of bar or tavern where locals gather to snack on small plates (called pintxos), gossip, tell stories, and most importantly—drink. By integrating sherry so seamlessly into its taverna concept, Donostia has accomplished something quite meaningful. In effect, it has managed to rescue the category from the realm of hipster esoterica and return it to its native context as one of the world’s most versatile food wines. Rather than treat the wines as a newish fad or curiosity, the list facilitates ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • lots of sherry
  • 5

    Fung Tu

    At Fung Tu, a restaurant that melds Chinese with new American with New York ingenuity, sommelier Jason Wagner has built a list of cocktails like the Sherry Shao Xing that both reflect the restaurant’s modern Chinese philosophy and interact with the food in the same thoughtful way his wines do. Located in the bowels of Chinatown, Wagner's short refreshing list of oddball wines from Italy, France and Spain is certainly worth the trip alone. But it's Wagner himself, all boyish charm and exuberance, who makes the wine experience here so unique. Quite simply, this is where you should be drinking if you need to be reminded ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
  • 6

    Keens

    Keens is the sole cultural leftover from the heady days of the late 1800s when Herald Square was the entertainment center of New York. During its heyday, it was the haunt of actors, politicians, writers and journalists, many who joined the “Pipe Club,” an homage to the tradition of clay European pipe smoking. The pipes of celebrity provenance—which includes Teddy Roosevelt and Einstein—now line the ceilings. Better known as a restaurant, where the mutton chop reigns ever supreme, Keens' ancient bar is nonetheless an attraction in itself. Underneath a large oil painting of a reclining female nude sit more than 200 ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • lots of whiskey
    • oysters / raw bar
    • day drinking
    • historic
  • 7

    Lafayette

    Andrew Carmellini's restaurant group has done a tremendous job of tailoring the cocktails to each restaurant's ethos and palette of ingredients. This includes the elegant drinks at Lafayette, which employ under-utilized ingredients like calvados and pear liqueur. The stunning bar is usually packed to the gills, but it's open all day long, so the dinner rush hour is not the only option for cocktails and a plate of oysters. In fact, the big, bustling room is most pleasant during the afternoon hours, between lunch and dinner service.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • French wine
    • champagne
    • craft beer
    • full menu
    • oysters / raw bar
  • 8

    Le Bernardin

    Perhaps the best way to get a seat at Le Bernardin—without blowing a fortune and waiting weeks for a reservation—is to show up early or late and grab a seat at the bar. The service is formal (to be expected), but conversational, and the silver trays of endless bar snacks (cheese crisps, candied walnuts, popcorn) are perfectly paired with the elegant drinks that appear from behind the smooth, glowing bar. The impeccable detail applied in the kitchen also makes its way into the drinks. Classics are remade with unexpected seasonal syrups and dainty garnishes almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • bar snacks
    • craft cocktails
    • craft beer
    • French wine
    • German / Austrian wine
    • vintage wine
  • 9

    Locanda Verde

    Chef Andrew Carmellini's Locanda Verde is one of the best high-volume Italian restaurants in New York. It's also home to one of the longest, most beautiful bars. Set beneath soaring ceilings and crawling with a good-looking downtown crowd, the bar offers the best seat in the house, whether you're stopping in for a midday glass of wine and a plate of bread and ricotta (do this) or a full dinner.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • brunch
    • craft cocktails
    • good wine
    • Italian wine
    • craft beer
    • day drinking
  • 10

    Lupa Osteria

    There are fewer more comforting meals to be had in New York City than at Mario Batali's Lupa, where a bowlful of bucatini all'amatriciana and a bottle of Barolo have been satisfying hungry New Yorkers for over a decade. Under the guidance of Jeff Porter, now wine director for all of the B&B Hospitality restaurants, the list is better than it's been in years, with expanded depth in Piedmont and Tuscany and a renewed focus on top-quality regional wines. While the cozy front space is one of the best small dining rooms in the city—especially in the winter—nothing beats dining at the tiny bar, which seats about seven.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • Italian wine
    • vintage wine
    • low wine markups
    • lots of amari
  • 11

    Maialino

    Danny Meyer's Italian crown jewel, Maialino, is off the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel and functions as an all-day Roman holiday with breakfast service trickling into lunch and on through aperitivo hour into dinner. The centerpiece bar looks out onto Gramercy Park, and boasts a mighty collection of amari and a mile long list of Italian wines. As with all of Meyer's restaurants, the list here offers an uncommon amount of value, particularly on the high end. So if you're on the hunt for old Barolo, specifically, there are few wine lists that will properly satisfy the craving at prices this low. Currently under the ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • Italian wine
    • champagne
    • vintage wine
    • low wine markups
    • lots of amari
  • 12

    Momofuku Ssäm Bar

    Cocktail menus within the Momofuku empire tend toward equal parts classic, almost-classic and brand-new, deploying everything from scotch to sherry to Asian ingredients—like yuzu, shichimi and shiso—with finesse. Since the days when madman-genius Don Lee worked behind the bar, and now with John deBary manning the drinks, Ssäm has maintained a bar program, that, in true Momo fashion, balances whimsy, originality and approachability.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • good wine
  • 13

    NoMad Bar

    The hotel bar so popular it outgrew its hotel, the NoMad Bar is a clubby, wood-paneled stunner that began winning awards the minute it opened in 2012. So far it’s racked up a Spirited Award and a James Beard Award for outstanding restaurant bar program. Bar manager Leo Robitschek’s epic list of original cocktails has rendered it a must-stop for global cocktail pilgrims. Drinks lean toward the spirit-forward and complex, and a reserve list employs rare, luxury spirits in classics like the Jungle Bird and Vieux Carré.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • hotel bar
  • 14

    P.J. Clarke's

    A squat, two-story building nestled among east Midtown’s glass towers, Clarke’s is a holdover from the days when this part of Third Avenue was known for slaughterhouses and the rumbling elevated subway. There are other P.J. Clarke’s around town (the bar became a chain in the early 2000s) but this is the original. As grand in décor and as old in pedigree as Old Town Bar and Pete’s Tavern, it has a distinctly better-heeled clientele. This is where tailored Wall Street arms go to bend, and neighborhood regulars come for oysters and crab legs. There are spacious halls out back where you can fill up on fairly nondescript ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • oysters / raw bar
    • full menu
    • day drinking
    • historic

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