This wine bar-slash-restaurant and once aquarium is tucked away in the nether regions of Chinatown. Bacaro are what are known in Italy as workingman’s tapas or “cichetti” bars. The romantic and almost whimsical nooks and crannies in the low-lit bottom cellar are fun for wandering. You can even book their quasi secret and hidden private room. The look is very similar to Peasant’s cellar, a restaurant which is also owned by Bacaro’s owner/chef. The wine list, which is from Veneto and neighboring northern regions of Italy is a tad pricey. The “ombra” (the Venetian name for a tiny glass) start at $7 (nothing working-class about that).
Hours: Tue-Sun, 6pm-midnight; Mon, closed
136 Division St., nr. Ludlow St., NY 10002 212-941-5060
This place has one of the toughest doors in the city. Brooklyn bred Johnny boy guards that door as if it was his sister’s purity. He has even gone on record saying that he has denied his childhood friends entry (I am talking about the bar here). Once you finally get in, you feel as if you were in Donatella Versace and Christian Audigier´s den. Gold and skulls galore. (It is not as bad or tacky as it sounds.) The party doesn’t get rolling till late and Sundays the crowd is a tad more diverse. (aka a bit less eurotrashy). Occasional celebrity spottings can occur. If you manage to get past Johnny, it can be fun. But just remember that not everything that glimmers is true gold. (fool’s gold bar?!?)
Hours: Tue-Sun, 10pm-4am; Mon, closed
389 Broome St., nr. Mulberry St., NY 10013 212-274-1568
German for drugstore, Apothéke is another speakeasyish bar. The twist is that they serve absinthe and have a mixologist throw it through liquid fire from flasks (not cheap). Cocktails sans fire are around $14. List of over 250 specialty cocktails will be divided into categories such as Health and Beauty (containing cucumber, rose water, floral notes), Stress Relief (lavender and sage), Pain Killers (cayenne, habanero), Stimulants (espresso, Red Bull), Aphrodisiacs (Champagne, cognac), and Pharmaceuticals (herbal elixers). The cooler aspect of this place it that it used to be an opium den and is its location: in the heart of china town, at a 90º angle Doyers St. This street was referred to in tabloids as the “bloody angle” because the Tong wars of the Chinese gangs took place there in the early 20th century. The weekends still get mobbed (minus any of the excitement of glamorized violence) Weekdays are ok. True 20ts esthetic lovers will like this place, but they will really LOVE the 1920’s the Dim Sum tea parlor next door.
Cocktail: Opium Uplifter – made from South American herbs and botanicals soaked in a Guatemalan rum essence, and is finished with house bitters.
9 Doyers St., nr. Bowery, 10013 212-406-0400
What used to be an “erotic” Chinese massage parlor is now one of the funnest clubs/lounges in NYC. The first level is a bar and the basement is more clubby, complete with the old steam rooms that now make excellent smoking or makeout nooks. This place is totally hipster without ever feeling pretentious. A rare and praiseworthy feat for a club in Manhattan. Its arty cool vibe almost feels like a Berlin club. There are tons of different events and parties with a cool mix of electro, disco, hip-hop and groove. Plus, the cocktails aren’t bad either. Ich liebe a happy ending!
Tuesdays: FREE Open bar from 11-12
Hours: Tue, 10pm-4am; Wed-Sat, 7pm-4am; Sun-Mon, closed
302 Broome St., nr. Forsythe St., 10002 212-334-9676
What a true lower east side bar should be. Subterranean, a bit gritty, and fun. Of course it is not in the LES epicenter. Maybe that’s why it’s cool. Expect taxidermy and good music (from TV on the Radio to The Cure). Good hang out spot all nites and at all times. Weekends get busy though.
Mon, 8pm-4am; Tue-Sun, 3pm-4am
Hours Mon, 8pm-4am; Tue-Sun, 3pm-4am
131 Chrystie St., nr. Delancey St. 212-226-5708