Anyone who has read my blog or known me for more than a few minutes could tell you that there are few things I hate more than pretension. So naturally, rooftop bars have a high potential to annoy the shit out of me. Chatty hipsters, strong winds—not my deal. But I have, over seven years of dreaded meetups with long-lost friends and co-workers, come across a few rooftop bars that are actually cool. Not too high brow, not too fratty. They’re few and far between, but they are there. Can’t avoid the wind chill, but I’ll only complain a moderate amount if the company’s good and the views are better. Just in time for summer…
Bookmarks at the Library Hotel: I love everything about the Library Hotel. It’s incredibly cozy, reasonably priced, and book themed. Each floor is themed to one of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System, and each room has its own library on a specific topic (you can find an index of rooms and their respective themes on the website). But the rooftop bar might be the best part. It’s friendly and relaxed, with a fireplace to sit by, two greenhouses, and a menu full of literary themed cocktails. Not to be confused with The Library bar in the East Village.
Dear Irving on Hudson: I loved the original history themed Dear Irving literally since my first weekend out after moving to the City, and was super excited when this place opened in Midtown. It’s got a slick, retro vibe—stylish, but still laid-back. The views are INSANE, and it’s one of my favorite places to take out of town guests. To sum up the *experience* at Dear Irving on Hudson, the place makes me feel like a Bond Girl. Very 60s, and very chic. I do also really recommend the original Dear Irving, which is more of a speakeasy style cocktail bar.
Brass Monkey: Super casual pub with rooftop in the Meatpacking district. The closest thing I’ve found to a dive bar with a rooftop (other than Our Wicked Lady, which I would totally have included here if I hadn’t posted about it recently). This place is a great spot to start a bar hop with friends, or finish a Thursday night after gallery openings in Chelsea. The drinks are strong, and the food is surprisingly good. Slightly fratty, but that’s really just due to overwhelmingly young clientele. Prepare for an onslaught of drunk college kids towards the end of the night.
Westlight at the William Vale Hotel: One of my more recent discoveries since moving close to Williamsburg. The views are simply unparalleled, especially at dusk—the sun sets directly over the unobstructed Manhattan skyline. That in itself is reason to go, but I also just love the energy. Stylish but not too stylish, great appetizers, and binoculars for city-gazing. In the winter, the terrace is heated and there’s a small ice skating rink. No complaints, other than the prices, which are pretty typical for NYC.
Pod 39 Rooftop: This beautiful bar feels like summer incarnate. There’s a great view of the ESB, well-priced and delicious Mexican food from Empellón al Pastor, reliably wonderful service, and not an ounce of snobbery. Note that it’s only open in the summer. Also, order the fish tacos. Trust me. If you’re visiting NYC, the hotel is pretty cool in general. It’s especially good if you won’t be spending a lot of time in your room. Pod 39 is dirt-cheap, with nicely designed rooms referred to as pods (here’s the catch)—because they’re tiny. Reminds me of Love is Blind. Anxiously waiting on season two to remind me there are people with worse decision making skills than me. In the meantime, heading to the Pod 39 rooftop ASAP.
The Crown at Hotel 50 Bowery: This simple, classy casual bar on the Hotel 50 rooftop is pretty hard not to like. It’s just well-run, chic but laid-back. Usually not too crowded, and the drinks are phenomenal. But the biggest selling point is the incredible 360 view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn skyline. There’s a very diverse clientele, so regardless of the occasion, who you are, or what you’re wearing, you’ll feel comfortable at the Crown.
Greenpoint Brewery: Super casual rooftop beer garden with a huge selection of beer on the first floor, a good view, and really good beer cheese. They have a full bar and food menu in addition to beer, a pretty / photogenic stained glass water tower, and huge screens (they use a projector rather than TVs, which makes for a nice outdoor theater style experience, especially by night).
Night of Joy: If a time traveler from the Victorian era opened a casual rooftop bar, this would be it. Very distinctive, frilly and old-fashioned decor that somehow seems cool rather than old lady-ish. The rooftop feels like a backyard party at your friend’s brownstone in Brooklyn, and they serve pretty amazing crepes, in addition to a sizable menu of creative cocktails. Some of the drinks sound odd (beet dill vodka?), but they know what they’re doing. They also have a great happy hour.
Gilligan’s at the Soho Grand Hotel: One of my absolute favorites, especially since I stopped drinking, because they also have great mocktails. Lots of plants, very tropical vibe, and top-notch pizza. Their watermelon marg is phenomenal. Across the board, Gilligan’s is the place to go for one hell of a summer night (and some gorgeous pictures).
A.R.T. NoMad at the Arlo Hotel: Sleek but casual and inviting—polished, but no-frills. A.R.T. NoMad is a relaxing place for a drink (or six) with friends, and IMO the perfect spot for date night. Amazing views, small but satisfying menu with a decent selection of Middle Eastern appetizers, all very good. Also, the glass floor is very cool but slightly terrifying (if you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry—it’s not the whole floor).
Magic Hour at the Moxy Hotel: Ah, Magic Hour. Lots of pink, roses, kitschy decor, and drunk yuppies. I almost didn’t include this one because it’s pretty annoying and clubby, at times a little snooty. But if I’m in the right mood, it’s a fun place to get wild in style, and not feel like an idiot for taking pictures because the place is kind of made to be photographed. It’s just objectively fun. Amusement park themed and currently decked out with more than 10,000 roses, they have a great menu, the food and drinks are both beautiful and delicious, and usually (should open again soon as restrictions lift) there’s a mini golf course, marked by a light-up sign that reads “foreplay”. Plenty of good, not-so-clean fun. Note that there is a dress code, so don’t show up in cutoffs and flip flops. The bouncers and hostesses can be assholes. If you’re gonna go, accept it and drink up.