Ask the Critic: Where Do You Actually Like to Drink?

Ask the Critic

You have restaurant questions? We have answers. Where to take a dinner date? Restaurants good for parents or picky eaters? Food etiquette? Food and restaurant writer Carey Jones answers your questions. Email to submit.


[Illustration: Robyn Lee]

Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!

Where Do You Actually Like To Drink?

Hey there Carey. You do a lot of cocktail writing on the site. I love those articles and all the cocktail porn, I definitely have a cocktail geek side, but to me, there's a big difference between a bar with good drinks and a bar I actually want to drink at, ya know? I'll pay for a good cocktail but not if there are lines and snotty bartenders. Where are the bars you go to hang out at?

You couldn't be more correct: There's a huge distinction between bars with great cocktails and bars I really want to hang out at.

For instance: Unless I'm writing about it, I never go to Death + Co. It's not about their cocktails, which are beautifully crafted, or their prices, which aren't anything unusual these days. It's that I don't like waiting in line. I don't like going down the block for a pre-drink drink and constantly watching my phone for a "You're allowed in!" phone call. I don't like sitting at a tiny table in a dark room. I don't feel like I can get drunk there! I feel like I'm supposed to whisper and gaze deeply into my whiskey and think important thoughts.

That said, I'm not in the camp that believes only grimy dives can allow a good time. The Tippler, below Chelsea Market, is an invitingly dark cavern with excellent cocktails, highbrow frozen cocktails (!), and a generally relaxed vibe. Ward III in Tribeca has a great energy whether it's packed to the gills or just a few at the bar, and the drinks are the equal of any better-known bar in town. Even Employees Only, which is often mentioned as one of New York's best cocktail bars in the same breath as Death + Co., has always struck me as much more relaxed.

*Disclosure: I'm friends with the owners, but like the bar just as much when I don't know anyone behind the bar or on the floor.

But I don't only drink at craft cocktail bars, either. I like the $20 caipirinha pitchers at Beco in Williamsburg and $6 cucumber margaritas at Ofrenda. I like frozen Dark and Stormys and big outdoor tables at Battery Harris under the BQE. I like the $5 beer + shot special at Pork Slope and the beer-whiskey-patio triad at Hot Bird. I like long afternoons drinking in the light-filled Radegast or the friendly Pacific Standard or the backyard at St. Anselm. I love Sharlene's on Flatbush Avenue, which I consider the perfect neighborhood bar (and considered my second living room for four years).

I like finding out-of-the-way wine bars where people know their shit, like Owl's Head in Bay Ridge. And I like late-night weeknights at Wilfie & Nell or Daddy-O's (and weeknights only; Wilfie is great at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, crazy-sloppy at 3 a.m. on Saturday).

And I love the awesomely grimy, exquisitely old-school Montero's on far west Atlantic Avenue, with karaoke on the weekends where people sing "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" with no irony whatsoever.

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About the author: Carey Jones is the former managing editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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