Upper Manhattan East is a place where art and culture thrive. The area’s “Museum Mile” includes gems such as the Guggenheim and Museum of African Art, while Central Park goers can enjoy open-air Shakespeare productions. But there’s more to this part of town than meets the eye.
While the Upper East Side in particular evokes an air of luxury from its Met Gala, “Gossip Girl,” and “Real Housewives” associations, the area is home to plenty of cozy, down-to-earth cocktail bars and dives alike, while East Harlem offers myriad spots for great bites after a night out dancing.
Here are nine of the best places to drink in Upper Manhattan East.
Best Place for Date Night: Pil Pil
Cozy up at this airy, no-frills tapas spot for shareable plates and a stellar Spanish wine list. Pil Pil is a garden-inspired gem on 78th Street, complete with branches and vines on the ceiling and an exposed brick wall. At brunch, enjoy sangria specials and choose from small bites organized by the Spanish region they hail from, or share plates of patatas bravas and chorizo with a small group over dinner.
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Tip Jar: The space includes a private room in the back that’s perfect for hosting intimate parties.
Address: 265 East 78th Street, New York, N.Y., 10075
Best Place to Relive the ‘90s: The UES
Speakeasies may be slightly passé depending on which New Yorker you ask, but nostalgia is absolutely back in style. And what better way to embrace the trend than at an ice cream shop slinging cocktails à la mode? The spot includes a fully functioning ice cream shop on the street level, where thirsty patrons are sent through the freezer down to an underground “storage room,” which serves elaborate cocktails. The space itself is full of plush furniture and ‘90s hip hop decor. The UES also hosts throwback movie nights on Sundays, so you’ll definitely want to stop by for a banana split paired with a ‘00s rom com.
Tip Jar: The UES enforces a very specific dress code for its storage room, which mandates that guests come in cocktail attire and avoid wearing hoodies, caps, jerseys, ripped jeans, or athletic gear. Plan accordingly.
Address: 1707 2nd Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10128
Best Place to Spend an Afternoon: Craft + Carry
If you find yourself on the Upper East Side looking for a solid tap list, Craft + Carry is hard to beat. With eight locations across the city, Craft + Carry has something sure to please every kind of drinker, from hop-driven IPAs, root beers, and ciders on draught, to a built-in bottle shop featuring an array of brightly colored cans and large-format beers to go. It’s no surprise that the local chain has gotten so much love from city dwellers.
Address: 1630 2nd Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10028
Best Place for Tropical Vibes: Bar Goyana
Owned by a Belgian-Brazilian couple, Bar Guyana is a tropical oasis in lower East Harlem. The walls are adorned with paintings of jungle birds and Monstera leaves, and the menu features Brazilian-inspired cocktails as well as classic regional dishes like queijo coalho and guacamole. There’s also a sprawling Belgian beer selection.
Tip Jar: The couple behind Bar Goyana also runs MOJO Mousse Bar next door. Stop by for a Belgian chocolate-infused dessert.
Address: 177 East 100th Street, New York, N.Y., 10029
Best Place for Something Totally Different: NR
Come to 75th Street for a bowl of stellar ramen paired with unexpected sips. Led by Angel’s Share alum Shige Kabashima, the cocktail program at NR features Asian-inspired ingredients like yuzu and makrut lime leaves, and creates innovative riffs on the classics like the clarified, grapefruit-infused Negroni.
Address: 339 East 75th St, New York, N.Y., 10021
Best Place for Large Parties: The Penrose
The Penrose is a UES staple that reliably serves up feel-good American fare and playful cocktails like the Dirty Pickle Martini. The drinks program also features thoughtfully crafted zero-ABV drinks, as well as a solid by-the-glass wine list and tap list of brews, which patrons can be found sipping on during Live Music Sundays, The Penrose’s weekly jazz, blues, or folk performance. For larger events for 30-plus guests, consider renting out one of the bar’s private rooms.
Tip Jar: The Penrose can get a little “bro-y” in the late evenings, so make this one of your earlier stops on a weekend night out.
Address: 1590 2nd Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10028
Best Place to Get Cheesy: Earl’s Beer and Cheese
With a quirky vibe and extensive tap list, Earl’s Beer and Cheese defies the UES’s shi-shi ambience. The bar and restaurant is known for its delicious brunch fare, starring mac and cheese and the TBD egg sandwich, best washed down with one of the many unique brews on tap.
Address: 1259 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10029
Best Place For a Classic NYC Night Out: Bemelmans
Bemelmans is a storied, iconic lounge located inside the Carlyle Hotel. The spot is a true homage to old-school New York, complete with live piano performances and servers sporting red jackets and black bow ties. The bar is named after “Madeline” author Ludwig Bemelmans, and the space features enchanting murals echoing the book, all painted by the author and artist. Bemelmans has long drawn celebrities, artists, and politicians with its chic setting and impressive cocktail list. A jazz trio performs daily beginning at 5:30 p.m., transporting patrons to simpler times.
Address: 35 East 76th Street, New York, N.Y., 10021
Best Place to Feel Like an Insider: Perch Bar
Designed to look like an overturned boat, Perch Bar is a tiny spot owned by the same folks who own East Harlem Bottling Company, just a block or so away. Complete with one long, narrow table that can host up to 25 diners, Perch has a fun, romantic feel, with dark wooden decor and tropical wallpaper. The spot’s knowledgeable bartenders serve a wide selection of seasonal, craft, and classic cocktails, as well as small bites and a stellar wine list.
Address: 1693 Lexington Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10029