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Loverboy pizza at Loverboy
Loverboy pizza at Loverboy
Photo via Loverboy/Facebook

20 NYC Bars with Legitimately Good Food

Standout burgers, perfectly shucked oysters, and crisp wings for when a stomach needs lining

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Loverboy pizza at Loverboy
| Photo via Loverboy/Facebook

It used to be that eating dinner at a straight-up bar in New York would likely mean deep-fried pub grub or unsatisfying toasts at a fancier establishment. But as the cocktail scene has exploded, so too has the diversity of food options at watering holes across the city. No one would mistake these spots for proper sit-down restaurants, but if one drink turned into a few, it’d be easy to make a meal out of their excellent dishes. These are the best bars for scoring a standout meal.

Note: This list is arranged geographically, north to south.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

The Penrose

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Upper East Siders in search of a well-executed classic cocktail repair themselves at The Penrose, a refined but genial bar covered in obligatory old-timey decor. But drinkers can also eat a full dinner with affordable, superior renditions of gastropub fare. Fried pickles, fish and chips, and fried chicken sandwich are options. Live music happens every Sunday at 8 p.m.

Hands grab for various dishes on a wooden table, such as wings and a cheese plate
The Penrose
The Penrose

Valhalla NYC

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At Valhalla in Hell’s Kitchen, regulars catch games on the TVs and beer geeks dive into the 48 craft beers on tap. It also serves sports bar-style food, including messy nachos, crispy buffalo wings, and a beer-braised bratwurst with impressively hot and fresh hand-cut fries. The daily lunch special offers any draft beer with a food item for $14. Show up early, as Valhalla gets packed in the evening.

The Jeffrey

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Tucked under the Queensborough Bridge, this unexpectedly roomy shrine to beer with a back patio is a pleasant place to hang. It helps that the inventive food menu doesn’t skimp, whether it’s the crack monsieur — Pullman Bread with bechamel, fontina, Swiss and black forest ham — at brunch or a robust sandwich list and vegetable options like the Mediterranean salad and red beet deviled eggs.

The Pool Lounge

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If a high-roller dinner at Major Food Group’s new the Pool feels too lavish, tuck into the adjacent Pool Lounge. The redesigned mezzanine, previously in the old Four Reasons restaurant, has a relatively easygoing atmosphere and a view of the diners and famous pool below. Thomas Waugh’s cocktails are named for their ingredients, enticing customers to try bold, original spins on classics such as the jalapeño margarita. Chef Rich Torrisi’s bites, including ribbons of foie gras and sea urchin toasts, are nearly as pretty but much more decadent, and absolutely do not skip pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s desserts.

uni toast Nick Solares

Fine & Rare

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The sumptuously decorated Fine & Rare strives to conjure a bygone, luxe New York, pairing live jazz every night with a collection of rare spirits. It’s also a fine place to enjoy lunch or dinner while watching a show. The food menu jumps from a short rib burger to seafood paella, and includes a variety of raw bar options.

Old Town Bar

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Operating since 1892, Old Town is not only one of New York’s most historic bars, but also one of its most reliable. A tap beer served by one of the charmingly gruff staff members always comes out the same. That’s also true of the notable burger, which has a thick patty and comes with fries that still have potato skin on them. The fiery wings rival the hall-of-famers in Buffalo. A downstairs booth is ideal for lingering with a small group.

Old Town Bar
Old Town Bar
Mick B./Yelp

Julius'

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This historic LGBTQ-oriented, straight-accepting West Village neighborhood dive is not only a place to pick up wisdom from some of the oldest out-and-proud residents of the area, but it also outdoes more hyped nearby burger joints with its right-off-the-griddle beef patties. They come hot, moist, and served without nonsense. Cash only.

A facade of a gay bar called Julius with stucco walls and a large window with lettering in green.
Robert Sietsema
Robert Sietsema

Bar Sardine

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From Gabriel and Gina Stulman of West Village gems Joseph Leonard and Fedora, Bar Sardine seems to be named for the diminutive footprint as much as its emphasis on casual stool seating. Expect punny cocktails like the aquavit-based There’s Norway I’m Drinking Vodka and food like the Fedora burger and steamed shiitake mushroom buns.

Bar Sardine
Bar Sardine
Bar Sardine

Please Don't Tell

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The bar that jump-started the speakeasy trend in New York that never seems to die has more than a phone-booth entrance and stellar cocktails overseen by Jim Meehan going for it. There’s also the fact that it’s adjoined to Crif Dogs and turns out gourmet variations on its neighbor’s weiners. The Momofuku-branded Chang Dog is wrapped in bacon, deep-fried, and submerged in a pile of kimchi, making for a fat-meets-acid showstopper.

Pegu Club

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This upstairs den in Soho from mixology maven Audrey Saunders has long been on the must-visit list for cocktail aficionados. The large windows looking out to Houston Street provide amusement alongside modern alcoholic classics like the Earl Grey-infused gin martini. But don’t sleep on the zippy, vaguely Asian-influenced dishes, especially smoked trout deviled eggs and orange-glazed braised duck in crispy wonton cones.

Pegu Club
Pegu Club
Lisa I./Yelp

This unpretentious neighborhood sports bar doubles as a rare East Village outdoor destination thanks to its expansive patio. But its no-frills facade also hides a secretly great burger, made with a juicy beef blend, cooked to order. Top it with gruyere and crispy bacon. Other items like the kale and artichoke dip with house-made tortilla chips are also worthy options.

Royale
Royale
Greg R./Yelp

The Summit Bar

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While it can get crowded on weekend nights, The Summit almost always delivers a sense of relative peace amid the East Village that’s worth the schlep out to Avenue C. Its cocktails, including the delightfully tangy Ground to Glass made with tequila and red bell pepper puree, can be consumed in the covered back patio. Get there between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. for the daily happy hour, which in addition to drink discounts features raw East Coast oysters at $15 for a dozen and pulled pork sliders for $7.

The Summit Bar
The Summit Bar
The Summit Bar

Loverboy

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The owners of beloved cocktail haven Mother’s Ruin opened Loverboy in Alphabet City with idea of keeping the drinks and adding pizza. The casual yet sophisticated space has large open windows, and its rectangular, thickish-crust pies and chicken parm sandwich will easily coat a stomach for a few more highballs.

Loverboy pizza at Loverboy Photo via Loverboy/Facebook

Bar Goto

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From Pegu Club veteran Kenta Goto, this small, woody Lower East Side bar mixes Japanese-influenced cocktails with comforting izakaya-style food. Chicken wings slathered in miso sauce and the okonomiyaki savory pancakes dotted with pork belly, rock shrimp, and squid bring out the umami flavors of the libations.

Maison Premiere

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Raw bars are common enough in New York, but it somehow took Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere to realize that oysters are perfect mates for an absinthe fountain. The bar emphasizes the anise-flavored spirit with several drip options, also used in cocktails. Alongside seafood-heavy brunch and dinner plates, the exhaustive, though pricey, oyster selection spans the entire country. The space itself is the crown jewel, with an oval indoor bar and lush back garden out of a fairy-tale wedding.

A bartender behind the bar at Maison Premiere Daniel Krieger

The Topaz

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In the no-man’s-land between Williamsburg and Bushwick off the Montrose L stop, The Topaz has staked out its turf as the go-to cocktail bar since it opened in 2015. The vibe is decidedly laid-back while still upscale, thanks to the serious bar program and Las Vegas-inspired, white-hued decor courtesy of owner and Nevada native Brandon Davey. The tart, tequila-based Mexican Standoff goes down easy with destination fries, small, torn pieces of russet potato with a spicy aioli. For something more substantial but affordable, get the $15 plate of Acme smoked salmon with a pastrami-style rub.

The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog

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Opened in 2013, The Dead Rabbit is not short on acclaim, having scored the number-one spot on The World’s 50 Best Bars list in the past. The Financial District cocktail den draws devotees who wait long after work hours in the narrow space for its beautifully executed Irish coffee and other ambitious drinks. The kitchen takes a similar approach to classic Irish food, improving on shepherd’s pie with bits of curried lamb that get a nice char before being blanketed in mashed potatoes.

Dead Rabbit’s lamb shepherd’s pie Serena Dai

61 Local

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This high-ceilinged Brooklyn pub in a former carriage house is a raucous backdrop for weekend parties, but also an essential standby for rotating tap beers and consistent, slightly fancier versions of bar food. Roasted garlic achaar, a type of Indian relish, brings understated funk to deviled eggs. The charcuterie board and buffalo cauliflower are also highlights.

Clover Club

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Owner Julie Reiner’s Clover Club has been a rock in the constantly evolving Brooklyn cocktail scene. The design is delicate and thoughtful, while both the bar and kitchen still turn out exemplary items that nod to a previous era. The brunch in particular shines with cobblers and sours that pair with hearty American fare, including baked eggs and duck confit hash browns.

The main bar at Clover Club sits fallow before evening service, with lights hanging above Clover Club

Rockaway Beach Surf Club

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Far Rockaway might not exactly be a food destination, but the local Surf Club has helped send droves of hungry beachgoers there. The chef behind the shuttered Rockaway Taco has taken up shop in a food truck in the back garden of the hippie-ish dive. The cheerful bartenders make a stiff margarita, and the outdoor space is a tranquil setting for scarfing down the California-inspired fried fish tacos, at least until peak bathing suit season hits and the lines nearly spill onto the sidewalk. Cash only.

Rockaway Beach Surf Club Photo: Rockaway Beach Surf Club

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The Penrose

Hands grab for various dishes on a wooden table, such as wings and a cheese plate
The Penrose
The Penrose

Upper East Siders in search of a well-executed classic cocktail repair themselves at The Penrose, a refined but genial bar covered in obligatory old-timey decor. But drinkers can also eat a full dinner with affordable, superior renditions of gastropub fare. Fried pickles, fish and chips, and fried chicken sandwich are options. Live music happens every Sunday at 8 p.m.

Hands grab for various dishes on a wooden table, such as wings and a cheese plate
The Penrose
The Penrose

Valhalla NYC

At Valhalla in Hell’s Kitchen, regulars catch games on the TVs and beer geeks dive into the 48 craft beers on tap. It also serves sports bar-style food, including messy nachos, crispy buffalo wings, and a beer-braised bratwurst with impressively hot and fresh hand-cut fries. The daily lunch special offers any draft beer with a food item for $14. Show up early, as Valhalla gets packed in the evening.

The Jeffrey

Tucked under the Queensborough Bridge, this unexpectedly roomy shrine to beer with a back patio is a pleasant place to hang. It helps that the inventive food menu doesn’t skimp, whether it’s the crack monsieur — Pullman Bread with bechamel, fontina, Swiss and black forest ham — at brunch or a robust sandwich list and vegetable options like the Mediterranean salad and red beet deviled eggs.

The Pool Lounge

uni toast Nick Solares

If a high-roller dinner at Major Food Group’s new the Pool feels too lavish, tuck into the adjacent Pool Lounge. The redesigned mezzanine, previously in the old Four Reasons restaurant, has a relatively easygoing atmosphere and a view of the diners and famous pool below. Thomas Waugh’s cocktails are named for their ingredients, enticing customers to try bold, original spins on classics such as the jalapeño margarita. Chef Rich Torrisi’s bites, including ribbons of foie gras and sea urchin toasts, are nearly as pretty but much more decadent, and absolutely do not skip pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s desserts.

uni toast Nick Solares

Fine & Rare

The sumptuously decorated Fine & Rare strives to conjure a bygone, luxe New York, pairing live jazz every night with a collection of rare spirits. It’s also a fine place to enjoy lunch or dinner while watching a show. The food menu jumps from a short rib burger to seafood paella, and includes a variety of raw bar options.

Old Town Bar

Old Town Bar
Old Town Bar
Mick B./Yelp

Operating since 1892, Old Town is not only one of New York’s most historic bars, but also one of its most reliable. A tap beer served by one of the charmingly gruff staff members always comes out the same. That’s also true of the notable burger, which has a thick patty and comes with fries that still have potato skin on them. The fiery wings rival the hall-of-famers in Buffalo. A downstairs booth is ideal for lingering with a small group.

Old Town Bar
Old Town Bar
Mick B./Yelp

Julius'

A facade of a gay bar called Julius with stucco walls and a large window with lettering in green.
Robert Sietsema
Robert Sietsema

This historic LGBTQ-oriented, straight-accepting West Village neighborhood dive is not only a place to pick up wisdom from some of the oldest out-and-proud residents of the area, but it also outdoes more hyped nearby burger joints with its right-off-the-griddle beef patties. They come hot, moist, and served without nonsense. Cash only.

A facade of a gay bar called Julius with stucco walls and a large window with lettering in green.
Robert Sietsema
Robert Sietsema

Bar Sardine

Bar Sardine
Bar Sardine
Bar Sardine

From Gabriel and Gina Stulman of West Village gems Joseph Leonard and Fedora, Bar Sardine seems to be named for the diminutive footprint as much as its emphasis on casual stool seating. Expect punny cocktails like the aquavit-based There’s Norway I’m Drinking Vodka and food like the Fedora burger and steamed shiitake mushroom buns.

Bar Sardine
Bar Sardine
Bar Sardine

Please Don't Tell

The bar that jump-started the speakeasy trend in New York that never seems to die has more than a phone-booth entrance and stellar cocktails overseen by Jim Meehan going for it. There’s also the fact that it’s adjoined to Crif Dogs and turns out gourmet variations on its neighbor’s weiners. The Momofuku-branded Chang Dog is wrapped in bacon, deep-fried, and submerged in a pile of kimchi, making for a fat-meets-acid showstopper.

Pegu Club

Pegu Club
Pegu Club
Lisa I./Yelp

This upstairs den in Soho from mixology maven Audrey Saunders has long been on the must-visit list for cocktail aficionados. The large windows looking out to Houston Street provide amusement alongside modern alcoholic classics like the Earl Grey-infused gin martini. But don’t sleep on the zippy, vaguely Asian-influenced dishes, especially smoked trout deviled eggs and orange-glazed braised duck in crispy wonton cones.

Pegu Club
Pegu Club
Lisa I./Yelp

Royale