The weather is officially Hot and Sticky. Your friends are in town. And the only good thing you can think of to do with them is take them to a rooftop bar, of course. But choosing the right rooftop bar in New York City is an art! Some are always overcrowded. Some are always overcrowded with the Bridge and Tunnel crowd. Some have drinks whose ingredients consist of syrup and well liquor. No bueno my friends. Instead, take a tip or two from me. As my friend put it after I rapid-fired off some options for her last weekend via text, “I knew you would be the one to ask.”
Night of Joy
Lorimer St next to the BQE | Williamsburg
What a hidden little gem this is! So the view isn’t great. So it’s a five minute walk from the Lorimer L stop. What it lacks in sparkle it makes up for in a humble, relaxed atmosphere. There’s no surly bouncer at the door, and you’ll always be able to find a seat among the softly twinkling lights. While you sip on a solidly-crafted cocktail, listen in on typical hipsters conversations about indie music and that latest photography project. You’ll come away honestly relaxed, instead of shell shocked and angry like you would at a typical Manhattan rooftop bar.
Pros: Good drinks, never crowded or pretentious.
Cons: No view.
Washington and 13th Street | Meatpacking
Oh, you know I love this place. It has one of the best views in the city. While the drinks at night in the club are typical club BS, during the day on the roof, you can score interesting takes on margaritas and other warm-weather drinks served in reusable cups. On weekends a DJ casually spins disco-house tunes while you sink your toes into the astroturf. If you get a bit nibbly, grab a crepe from the crepe shack.
Crowd: Electronic music cool kids, French people.
Pros: Good music, great drinks, incredible view, crepe shack, manageable crowd.
Cons: Pricey drinks.
The Ides at the Wythe Hotel
North 12th and Wythe | Williamsburg
There’s a reason why the line to get in here is so long. You can’t get a better view of the sunset anywhere in Brooklyn than from this upon-high rooftop. The drinks are amazing and inventive. The crowd on a weekday consists of the subtly well-heeled, important people of Williamsburg, though on the weekends it starts getting a little Bridge and Tunnel-y. I would say make this a stop during the day if you’re doing Williamsburg, or head here on a weekday evening. Even if it starts sprinkling or gets too hot, because there’s an indoor area, too.
Crowd: Cool Williamsburg people with money.
Pros: Wonderful drinks that are worth the price, amazing view, classy design.
Cons: Overcrowded on the weekends.
Canopy Bar at Panther Room
North 12th and Wythe | Williamsburg
Come for the music, stay for the music. The drinks here are expensive and not interesting at all (and you have to pay in cash). But if your idea of a perfect Sunday is lounging on fluffy cushions, sipping a beer and listening to a live DJ set among other electronic music nerds, this is your place. You don’t need to dress up, or worry about getting hit on and annoyed by bros. Around sunset it will turn into a veritable dance party. There’s even a passable view of Manhattan.
Crowd: Bushwick artists and DJs.
Pros: Relaxed atmosphere, great music, comfortable and abundant seating, good view, great party.
Cons: Pricey and boring drinks, small cover to get in.
Pod 39 Rooftop
East 39th and Lexington | Midtown East
Ok, so this one is in Midtown. But surprisingly, it checks out OK. The decor is beautiful, with a view of the Empire State Building in all its LED glory. It gets a little bit crowded after the workday, but you can hang out in Salvation Taco downstairs while you wait. The prices are not bad for a rooftop, but for an excellent margarita and a cool breeze, it’s worth it. Just make sure you choose the non-smoking side.
Crowd: The after-work crowd, tourists.
Pros: Delicious drinks, great decor, Salvation Taco downstairs.
Cons: Some smokers, not great service.
West 27th between 10th and 11th Aves | Hell’s Kitchen
An offshoot of the Sleep No More experience, this bar evinces the same attention to detail and vintage vibe as the carefully arranged faux McKittrick Hotel it rests on. Sip veritable mixologist drinks with fresh fruit in a speak easy, secret garden atmosphere that will insulate you from the nearby drunk, unwashed masses. The only problem is that you should call ahead and come early, or even better, get a reservation. This popular spot fills up fast.
Crowd: Fashion-y types.
Pros: Perfect drinks, classy decor.
Cons: Hard to get past the front door.
Central Park at East 83rd Street | Upper East Side
Why, you say you want some culture with your drinking? Be my guest. After you’re done taking in the Charles James exhibit, retire to this roof for an unobstructed view of Central Park. Make sure not to go in the late afternoon/sunset time, because that’s when it gets uncomfortably busy and the drink lines get much too long. Instead, head there during the day or after dark. And of course, there is usually some sort of art exhibit going on that you can take in while you imbibe.
Crowd: Uptowners and tourists.
Pros: Great view, no-douche crowd.
Cons: Gets crowded at sunset, disposable plastic drink cups, food options are negligible.
North 12th Street between Berry and Bedford
The beauty of this hotel rooftop is that nobody knows it’s there. Sure, there were some parties going on here last summer when it was under different management (then known as King and Grove). But if you show up for a view of the hot orange sunset, you’ll find only a smattering of tourists, and plenty of open seating. The drinks menu is passably good. Make it over to this roof before the secret gets out!
Crowd: A few trying-to-be-cool tourists.
Pros: Excellent view, easy door, a retractable roof means rain is no problem, not crowded.
Cons: Meh bar with overpriced drinks.
Bonus: Roberta’s Backyard
Moore and Bogart St | Bushwick
OK, so this isn’t a rooftop. But it serves the exact same function! A. It’s open to the sky and a cool breeze. B. It has a Tiki bar with a delicious assortment of beers, frozen drinks, cocktails, beer/cocktails, etc. C. And you can order the best food ever out there from this famous farm-to-table pizza joint. Screw midtown rooftops: This is where it’s at.
Crowd: Bushwick artists, foodies.
Pros: Great drinks, pleasant covered patio bordered by a garden, access to top-notch food, relaxed crowd.
Cons: Can get really crowded, a little out there on the L train.