Manhattan is one of the greatest cities on Earth with 1.6 million people on roughly 33 square miles. However, all those options can get a bit daunting. After years of research I’ve boiled my favorite hot spots down to a simple list for the adventurer who has a thirst for the unique and only a night or two in the Big Apple. So let’s go put the “man” in Manhattan.
It’s been my experience that the best way to approach the concrete jungle is like a game safari. Set up camp in a nice central location and mark your map accordingly. Ninja, Crif Dogs, McSorley’s, and Benny’s Burritos are always among my favorite locales that I list off. Each of these wild spots gives you as much dinner as show. For me, I always want to find the places with the best stories to compliment the best food. By the end of the night in New York City you can have experienced ninjas, a 1920s speakeasy, a Civil War era bar, and enough burritos to put down a Grizzly bear.
Kick off the night with Ninja, situated on 25 Hudson Street. It is a dark building modeled after a Japanese feudal castle. Once inside you’re served your meal by a host of sword-wielding ninjas. They blow fire, perform magic, and creep around in the shadows; usually right before they dice your sashimi with a katana. Want to impress your lady and fill your smartphone with brag-worthy pics? Hit this gem up (kimonos are acceptable, but certainly not required).
Viewfinder Tip: Call the afternoon of to make a reservation.
If secrets and mysteries are your thing but with less ninja stars, then head straight for Crif Dogs. This restaurant calls itself a hotdog stand but is really more like paradise for the sausage aficionado. The Spicy Redneck is a hotdog, wrapped in bacon, cloaked in cole slaw, smothered in chili, and showered with jalapeno chunks. Good luck. The best part of this little gem though is the phone booth in the back. Enter the phone booth and pick up the receiver, say the password, and the wall slides open to reveal one of my favorite bars in New York City, Please Don’t Tell. This modern speakeasy is a tiny cupboard of a bar with craft cocktails that boarder on the divine. The phone may ring about 30 times before they answer too. This all just adds to the experience and makes your conquest taste even sweeter. The cocktails really are worth it.
The two bars that absolutely demand a repeat visit every time I hit Manhattan are McSorley’s and the Rusty Knot. McSorley’s insists that it is the oldest operating bar in New York. It’s been said to have been patronized by such noteworthy men as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Things really haven’t changed much since that time. When you order a drink you have the choice of dark ale or light ale (both are brewed in house). My last visit we ended the night with 100 ales, half dark, and half light. The barkeep brought them all out in two trips, sloshing ale across the sawdust-covered floor. When you visit, pay attention to the gas lamp above the bar. It’s covered in dust-cloaked wishbones left by WWI doughboys hoping for a safe return. The bones left hanging are from those men who never returned to make their wish.
The Rusty Knot is a lower Manhattan staple. Located on 425 West Street, this bar is a healthy scoop of American nautical history. The walls are sheathed in wooden ships, rusty portals, and pretty pinup girls. Order a round of beers and a few shots before you settle in to spin a yarn or two with your buddies. Once you’re three sheets to the wind you can always stumble around the corner to Benny’s Burritos to close out your night. Just a few minutes away at 113 Greenwich Avenue, Benny’s Burritos is the mainstay for the twenty-something in need of a feast. I’m talking about a massive burrito stuffed with more animal than Noah’s Ark. They even have options for vegetarians, if you must.
Manhattan is a treasure box of excitement with one-of-a-kind experiences that you can’t just find anywhere. Any other time you’d want to see a Japanese feudal castle and a 100-year-old Irish bar you’d need a private jet. Make sure you claim your piece of history next time you’re in New York City.
What do you consider the best New York City bar?