So here’s my Best of ’09. It’s from my experience as a nightlife patron who is always seeking a good deal and a good time… preferably on the west side of Manhattan. I’ll be the first to say that I haven’t thoroughly assessed every bar in NYC, so if this seems a bit skewed or unfair, it is. At the same time, many categories had so many contenders that it was quite difficult to choose a best and two honorable mentions. So if a person or bar is left out of this list, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate or enjoy it/her/him. And I hope your appreciate and enjoy my list.
And those of you from out of town: hopefully this can be a resource for when you travel to NYC. Just be warned: a) this may not be the best list if you want the over-the-top Fabulous NYC Life experience (we’re on the Blackout Budget here) and b) venues and parties change all the time, so check with the venue and/or promoter.
I’ve been thinking about doing periodic “What To Do in NYC” nightlife postings, so this may be the kick-off to a new segment.
In NYC, you can’t get any better than $4 well drinks every night until last call. The bartenders pour heavy! Honorable Mention: XES and The Hangar.
(Barracuda on Mondays, MaleBox Tuesdays @ The Ritz, Catttle Call Wednesdays @Therapy, Sing Out Sister Karaoke Sundays @ XES)
I recently told a friend that she’s the type of drag queen who makes new gays not be afraid of drag queens (they used to terrify me!). She’s funny and engaging, and she knows how to move a show, even when things don’t go as planned. Honorable Mention: Vodka Stinger (Pieces on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays) and Victoria Chase (Boots ‘N Saddle Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays).
Photos taken from Joey Israel's Facebook profile.
As far as I can remember, Israel has been the most consistent promoter whose parties I’ve really enjoyed. One promoter’s party switches from open bar to 2-4-1 with no warning. Another tries to claim that $1 drinks are their version of “open bar.” Yet another mixes up the comp list. Somehow these “realities of the nightlife business” have never affected me at one of Israel’s parties (likely because he allies himself with tried and true nightlife brands like Michael “Formika” Jones and bars that don’t deal in shadiness). He may not bring the open bar every time, but his venues have reasonable prices and there’s always some type of special. His parties by far have the most innovative and original concepts. And most importantly: he delivers on his promises. Honorable Mention: Dougie Meyer and Chris Ryan.
He could be playing a whole set of shit I’ve never heard before, and I’ll still be feeling it! And he mixes in the obscure pop that no one else will play (do you know how crazy I went when he played RichGirl at a party) with the hits everyone can toss their hair and lip synch to. Honorable Mention: Scotty Rox (DR!P on Wednesdays, Posh on Tuesdays/Thursdays and G Lounge every other Friday, Lucky Strike on Saturdays) and Sidewalk (Campus Thursdays @ Splash, lower level, Notorious Saturdays @ Rush, Rewind Sundays @ Splash).
Best Happy Hour:
Photos taken from Vlada's website.
They have infused well vodkas. I’m not talking about Absolut Citron or other call liquors that add $1-$4 per drink. You can get a flavored screwdriver or vodka-cran or whatever your standard vodka drink is for the cheapest price (17 different flavors freshly infused in-house!). Plus there’s an ice bar to keep your drink chilled as you converse. And they take cards! Happy hour is daily 4-8pm. I think they raised the prices, so now happy hour drinks are $4 for well mixed drinks. The after-work crowd is more sophisticated than cute with a few token male divas thrown in. It’s a very convenient and laid back place to meet after work (but be prepared to stand as the tables along the wall go quickly). I try to avoid eating at bars that aren’t primarily restaurants, but they do serve food, and I've seen many patrons order. Honorable mention: Barrage ($4 wells, 5-8pm & 11pm-12am daily!!) and Pieces ($2 wells, M-F)
It says something when at least 2 bartenders know my drink. And I’ve gotten more free drinks there than anywhere this year. Almost everyone on staff is very welcoming and friendly to newcomers. Honorable mention: Suite and No Parking.
Can I just say that however invented the cock-sock style underwear is a genius. These guys aren’t go-go boys: they’re go-go gods. It’s mostly muscular guys, but they throw in a lean guy every now and then. And there’s even the occasional girl (who can work it!). In addition to looking amazing and often being great movers, these guys consistently engage their audience. And it’s very much a hands-on show. There are usually 2-4 go-gos that take a few short shifts throughout the night and share the bar towards the end. If you can’t make it uptown, a few of them also go-go at Urge in the E.vil. Honorable Mention: Boybox Tuesdays @ G Lounge and Fri-Sun @ The Hangar.
Promoters Lee Chappell and Shequida took a fabulous space and enhanced it with amazing club kids and entertainment. The drinks are expensive, but the 2-4-1 for two hours helps. It was sad to see this shut down for the winter, but they promise to bring it back in 2010. Honorable Mention: The F Word Saturdays @ Santos Party House (but see Best Open Bar) and Vandam Sundays @ Greenhouse.
Best Open Bar:
The F Word Saturdays @ Santos Party House
Photos taken from Joey Israel's Facebook profile.
Cazwell provided an awesome pop and hip-hop soundtrack during and after the two hour open bar, and when Joey Israel sent out the F Word of the week, we said it at the door for comp admission. It was crowded enough to be a scene, but we still had room to dance. Will re-open in January at Rebel in midtown (Fridays) and is no longer open bar. I haven’t checked it out since the move, but I’m sure the producers/promoters associated with it (Michael “Formika” Jones, Mark Nelson* and Joey Israel) have maintained their history of throwing consistently fun parties. Honorable Mention: Big Gulp Tuesdays @ The Cock (all night) and Vandam Sundays @ Greenhouse (formally 10-11pm, now 10-10:30pm).
*Not too familiar with his club events: mostly associate him with bigger annual parties.
Best Bar (no cover) That Allows Dancing*
It’s centrally located in HK, they have fun DJs, and the drinks are cheap and strong. Couple that with cute, friendly bartenders and a down-to-earth crowd, and you have a great formula for a good weekend night out (especially if you start out around the corner at Barrage’s late-night happy hour: 11-mid). Honorable Mention: The Ritz and Pieces.
*This in an important distinction because many bars in NYC do not have Cabaret Licenses and can be fined if people are dancing. It’s dumb, but the City Council never repeals it when it comes up for a vote.
Best Club (with cover)
I have no idea who the DJ is (it changes periodically), but the music is consistently good on a Friday or Saturday, mixing pop with R&B, hip-hop, Latin music. The heavily Dominican (yet culturally inclusive) crowd is a mix of WaHi locals, Bronx residents, and adventurous downtown boys. It gets crowded, but there’s just enough space to dance. And the $5 cover is one of the cheapest in the city. Honorable Mention: Splash (downstairs) and The Cock.
For all the reasons described above, it’s the most bar for your money. Sure, the crowd may be slightly younger, louder, and more messy than other bars on the weekend. And you may have to keep your coat on during the day because the heat isn’t on (not that I drink during the day… I’ve heard). But between Tuesday night Karaoke, their monthly parties (Karaoke on the third Saturday, and the Underwear Party where you get a free drink for checking your clothes every second Friday), and their all-out seasonally themed decorations, it really can’t be beat. Did I mention the cheap drinks? Yeah. Honorable Mention: Posh and The Ritz.
And remember: this year is Twenty-Ten (unless sounding common and uneducated is your thing). Oh-Ten is also acceptable when accompanied with the just-kidding laugh.
Click here to check out a ridiculous night in Brooklyn and Manhattan.