2010 Superlatives: The Best In NY Nightlife

by Mara Siegler · December 29, 2010

This was a year of late nights.  Memories were created at 4 a.m. that will last a lifetime or at least be talked about with friends until the next momentous occasion happens. And when it comes to New York nightlife, anything can happen, any night of the week. Below, we categorize our favorite spots, both new and old, of 2010.

Best Overall: Don Hills

Don Hill'sDon Hill's reopened during Fashion Week with a line-up that secured its spot as the place to be come sundown. It saw Iggy Pop, The Yeah Yeahs, Crystal Castles, and Courtney Love singing Lady Gaga. Scenesters like Terry Richardson and Waris Ahluwalia filled the room, and random celebrities from Mickey Rourke to Juliette Lewis brushed elbows with downtown cool kids. It's gritty, it's glamorous, and it has kept the momentum up post-Fashion Week as the number of one place to go when you want a guaranteed good time.

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Best Non-Concert Venue To See A Show: Rose Bar

Axl RoseChris Martin, Adrian Grenier, the Kings of Leon, The Strokes, Ryan Phillippe, Natahsa Poly, Angela Lindvall, Zoe Kravitz, Josh Lucas, Jen Brill, Chrissie Miller, Fabrizio Moretti, Bink Shapiro, Albert Hammond Jr, Emily Haines, Sophia Bush, and many more were drawn to Nur Khan's Rose Bar Sessions to see some amazing artists perform. The most memorable of the year? Axl Rose and Liza Minelli.

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Place you're Most Likely To Meet A Movie Star: Boom Boom Room

With its floor to ceiling windows, bathrooms that allow you to do your business while overlooking Manhattan, and decor that hearkens an old movie, this is still the place to be. From Madonna to socialites like Ivanka Trump to fashion's top designer, Marc Jacobs, just about every celebrity has graced the venue's banquettes. It's basically true that in 2010, you were nobody until you partied there. If you want to increase your chances of getting in, we've got some great tips.  For example, do NOT wear a sports jersey. We'll see if the new name, Top of The Standard, starts to stick in 2011. We doubt it.

Bar(s) We'll Miss: Max Fish, Mars Bar

This one is a tie between two downtown dives that are closing. Max Fish and Mars Bar have a special place in the hearts of those who frequent them and will be hard to replace. Sure, they are dirty, they are smelly, the bathrooms are environmental hazards, and they are full of the kind of people who could be categorized as misfits... but that's what we like best and of course, what we'll miss the most. That, the cheap whiskey, the cheaper PBR's, the jukebox at Mars Bar, and the pool table at Max Fish.

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Best Place To Get A Cocktail: The Summit

SummitUnlike Pegu or Death & Company, this cocktail bar comes without pretension. The bartenders are knowledgeable, friendly, and usually cute (which always helps when deciding what to order). Whether you choose to imbibe in The Situation, a drink mixed from Afghani Raisin Infused Rittenhouse Rye, the Shu Jam Fizz, the She Loves Me, or something off the menu, each drink is always well-crafted. As an added bonus, there is a back patio for smokers who don't enjoy standing a block down the street outside the bar. Speaking of which...

Best Bar For The Upscale Smoker: Bar and Books

Bar and BooksThis bar has three locations: Hudson, Lexington, and Beekman.  It's old New York at it's finest: Amazing Scotch, James Bond movies on the TVs, waitresses in little red dresses, and the stench of cigars and cigarettes. "Light up, drink down, curse Bloomberg's cruel legacy; if you're going to die a hideous death, you might as well feel stylish doing it," we've been told and we follow it. They enforce a strict dress code so make sure you look the part.

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Best Cigarette-Friendly Dive: Lit

Lit It's rowdy, it's dirty, and the air downstairs is thick with hipster sweat as they rock out to a live band or DJ.  But venture back a bit further and the smoker can find their way into a different kind of stank: one of fifteen cigarettes lit at once. Sit back on the ripped couch decorated with stains of unidentifiable nature, take a sip of your drink, and light up. The Health Dept has been giving the owners some problems, and they've been warned on noise violations, so enjoy while you can. The only rule: If you see me there, remember to buy me a drink and tell me I look pretty.

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Best Pick Up Spot: Standard Beer Garden, The Jane Ballroom

Whether you are in your early 20's or early 30's, the Standard Beer Garden is the place to go to meet someone.  The crowd is mixed, though there are more frat/sorority types because it is, after all, in Meatpacking. Say hi and play some ping pong or offer to buy that cutie a pretzel to go with that lager. Scope out the room and choose a spot on a bench next to the person you fancy.  Don't forget to buy beer tickets on your way in. You don't want to have to interrupt some good conversation to go stand in line to get tickets and then stand in line again to actually buy your hottie a drink.

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Jane BallroomIf you're looking to meet someone who doesn't have a wardrobe exclusively of polo shirts, we suggest the Jane Ballroom.  Take advantage of the cozy surroundings and snuggle up on a couch next to someone special. Winter is the perfect time to take advantage of the romantic feelings sitting in front of a warm fireplace can inspire.   If things go really well, don't bother going home. Just get a room at the hotel for a night.

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Best Non-Dance Club To Have An Dance Party: Belmont Lounge

This unassuming bar off Union Square doesn't look like like it would be a great place to shake your booty, but walk through the front section and into the back and you'll find a raging dance party. The DJ plays early '90's, '80's, as well as Katy Perry and all the other contemporary favorites you're ashamed to admit you like. The crowd is diverse and the place is casual so you can wear anything from stilettos and a short skirt to jeans, and the T-shirt and not feel out of place. Also of note-50 cent wings for happy hour if you're not the type who wants to show off your choreography.  Apparently, Josh Harnett is a fan. [Via]

Best Restaurant/Bar Mainstay: Schiller's

The food is good.  The ambiance is good.  The drinks are good.  Go.  Order the Casablanca.  It tastes like a McDonald's strawberry milkshake...with booze.  Close runner up: Kenmare. It's not the new Beatrice we'd hoped for, and the NY Times finds the culinary offerings "inconsequential," but we'll overlook that because of the dance parties downstairs.

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Best Bar For Surprisingly Good (Non-Live) Music Uptown: Whiskey Park

As the name would imply, this bar has great whiskey.  It also has a pool table and sports on the TVs.  It's basically bro heaven.  But look past the suits, and pay attention to your ears.  They play surprisingly good indie rock, a strange phenomenon for a bar filled with bankers, located on the edge of Central Park.  If you're looking for a place to lounge on a couch, have a nice (albeit expensive) drink, and hear some music you both like and can actually talk over, this is the place to go uptown.

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Place To Watch Sunday Football: Riviera

Riviera is packed on Sundays, but you can usually find a seat.  They have a ton of TVs, all with different games playing.  Cheer with your fellow bar-goers or shed some tears over a beer.  The food is pretty decent for bar fare, and they also serve breakfast for those weekends when you wake up at 2 p.m., rush over, and are really craving some greasy bacon and eggs to soak up last night's follies.

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Best Place To Take Out Of Town Guests: La Esquina

If you are looking to impress your guests (and why wouldn't you be?) La Esquina can't be beat.  Located underneath a taco joint, your guests don't need to know that the Mexican restaurant is only a pseudo-secret.  Make sure you point out how almost no one knows about the place and that it's exclusive. They'll love their chile relleno, and watching the pretty people.  You'll get to feel cool.

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Bar We Are Most Looking Forward To For 2011: Westway Strip Club

Will hipster really meet stripper in this new club? Jane Ballroom men Carlos Quiarte and Matt Kliegman have promised this unique and unlikely hybrid that hopes to inject some "old" New York into the scene (think Time Square pre-Giuliani).  Will they get their dream strippers (Angelina Jolie for Kliegman and Michelle Monaghan for Quirarte)?

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Did we miss something?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Let us know.