Andrew W.K. Talks NYC Bars | doNYC
We’re getting stoked for Andrew W.K.’s Grand Piano Parties at SubCulture, and we got talking to NYC’s party ambassador about his favorite places to go out in the city. Here are, according to Andrew W.K., the best bars in New York:
“It’s always been difficult for me to pick favorites or make “best of” lists, there’s simply too much wonderful stuff in the world, and trying to narrow it all down to my top favorites is too hard and too stressful. I prefer to just enjoy it all, like a big whirling soup of experience and pleasure. Ranking stuff we love is tedious, and as most people already know, really not necessary. It’s like trying to pick your favorite friend or family member, or your favorite song or movie – there are just too many things we love to narrow them down for no real reason. This is especially the case when it comes to New York City, which has so much of everything, and so much of it is really good. When it comes to bars and drinking establishments, NYC is an embarrassment of riches. In terms of sheer quantity and quality, few places on earth offer so many wonderful options. So, this sampling of seven of my favorite bars is just skimming the surface and it isn’t ranked in any particular order. These are simply seven of the bars that I go to most frequently or have been super impressed with. I’ve actually never really been to a bar in NYC that I didn’t like. In many ways, New York City is one giant drinking establishment, and it’s my party paradise.
1. Gabby O’Hara’s Irish Pub – 123 West 39th Street (at Broadway), NY, NY
This place is in Midtown (one of my favorite parts of Manhattan) and it really delivers when it comes to excellent Irish pub food and drink. It’s clean and cozy and nice and new. It’s not over-decorated or given a false patina, it’s simply comfortable and compatible with a wide range of diners and drinkers. With all that being said, what really makes Gabby’s stand out are the bartenders. I’ve never witnessed better service at any establishment in the world, bar, hotel, or restaurant. It’s quite easy to overlook the delicate balance they maintain – a perfect combination of attention, warmth, speed, and low-key kindness. It’s truly a phenomenon and makes an otherwise relatively standard Irish Pub into an absolutely incredible place. Highly, highly recommended if you have an appreciation for good bartenders. There’s no nonsense or unnecessary flair, or an opposing lack of sophistication – just purely good gentlemen, serving purely good drinks.
2. Lindy’s – 401 7th Avenue (at 32nd Street), NY, NY
This place is right across the street from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, and right next to the Pennsylvania Hotel. This is another really exciting part of town, and Lindy’s gets a great assortment of local workers, commuters, and tourists. It usually seems that during the day, just one man or woman is running the whole place, which means they’re the bartender, waiter, and table cleaner for the entire restaurant. This can make the service slow and spotty, but that’s fine with me, as I’m usually not in a rush at this place. I just really like the location, and the feeling in the air. It really feels like you’re exactly where you are – in Lindy’s across from Penn Station. And when I’m there, there’s no place I’d rather be.
3. The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge – 543 8th Ave (at 37th Street), NY NY
This place is legendary and has lasted a long time. It has a really exotic name that used to make me think it had a tropical theme, but it’s more just a unique and straightforward dark bar. I like everything about it, including the surprisingly high prices. If they have to charge a bit more to stay open, that’s fine with me. I’d rather this place exist and cost more than close down and be gone. It’s been the same since I first moved to NYC almost 17 years ago, and that’s a true achievement for a place this unique and low-key. I really like the stone work motif out front, and the bartenders are usually women and usually very on-point. No flirting or weird vibes, just cool and calm kindness. I’ve never been there when it’s really packed, but I imagine it would get pretty crowded after 5pm and on Friday’s. It’s just a place that makes me glad to be alive.
4. Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse – 23 Vanderbilt Ave (in Grand Central Terminal), NY, NY
This place serves excellent food, but it also has an excellent and well separated bar and lounge area. There’s truly not a better location for a stimulating bar experience than Michael Jordan’s. You are literally on the main floor of Grand Central Station, looking out from the elevated mezzanine area and over the entire main terminal floor. You’re in a corner as well, so you have an expansive view of the whole place, and the ceiling, and the whole room. It’s just absolutely breath taking. I can easily sit here alone for hours and just be completely enthralled with the location. It’s incredibly dense and busy with people, but the soaring starry sky ceiling adds an unbelievably open and airy quality. It’s an agoraphobic’s nightmare, but if you can embrace the strength of the sensation, it’s deeply, deeply thrilling and stimulating. The service is usually excellent and you can have an amazing steakhouse meal right at the bar. Just be sure to sit so you can appreciate the view. It’s worthy of Michael Jordan’s name – a real slam dunk of a place!
5. Shorty’s – 576 9th Ave (at 42nd Street), NY, NY
The main reason I love this place is because they currently have what I consider to be the best Philly-style Cheesesteak in the city, at least at this point. Unfortunately, NYC has had a bizarre difficulty in maintaining quality cheesesteak restaurants over the years. A lot of great places have opened, served up stupendous sandwiches, and then mysteriously closed, sometimes quite quickly. I used to not be able to pick a favorite cheesesteak place in NYC because there were so many good ones, but nowadays, Shorty’s is really the only excellent place. Maybe so many other cheesesteak places have closed because New York is just too nearby Philadelphia, and you can easily take a quick trip on the train and get an actual cheesesteak in Philly. Either way, Shorty’s cheesesteaks are absolutely fantastic and as good as anything you’ll find anywhere outside of Philly itself. I recommend getting extra meat and extra cheese wiz, in addition to onions or peppers or whatever you like. I also recommend adding extra salt and pepper. The service is fine and they have lots of huge TVs which are fun to watch – lots of sports, but usually not too crowded or uncomfortably intense. It’s really worth whatever you have to put up with because the cheesesteaks are just so fantastic.
6. The 13th Step – 149 2nd Ave (at 10th Street), NY, NY
There are a lot of great bars on 2nd avenue, but this one just charmed me right off the bat. First of all, I love the name “The 13th Step”, and all that it implies. And I love the actual steps you have to walk down to get into the place. Any time you descend into a bar or a restaurant, or really a place of any kind, there’s a very certain feeling that comes over you. It’s cozy but also surprisingly open in this place, and they have a really awesome and very long bar. The bartenders have always been women when I’ve been there, and some of these ladies have been amongst the sweetest and prettiest bartenders I’ve ever seen in NYC – that alone can make it worth going here. These lovely ladies are not trying too hard to be tough or too hard to flirty. They walk that fine line and the end result is a genuinely attractive and friendly service experience. I always order the plain cheese quesadilla. It’s just absolutely perfect food, and it makes me feel good just thinking of that soft shell tortilla and the melty mild cheese!
7. Santos Party House – 96 Lafayette Street, NY, NY
I’m one of the founding owners of Santos Party House (I must start with that disclaimer), but I really, really love this place and not just because it’s mine! Santos is a nightclub and live music venue, so it’s not really a “bar” like the other places on this list, but we do have 3 beautiful wooden bars on our two dance floors, and the best sound system in the entire city. My friends and I built this place from scratch, which hadn’t been done in downtown Manhattan for a really long time. Most places just move into other clubs and change the name. We made this place from nothing. We had to get a brand new liquor license, and the elusive cabaret license (which legally allows people to dance), and we built the walls, floors, and everything else by ourselves. We’ve had some of the best concerts and dance nights this city has ever seen, and have had everything from death metal to Dutch dance shows. Santos is the architectural manifestation of the party spirit, and the culmination of all the party power this great city has generated. I invite you to come party at my party house!”