Few things represent which season it is in New York better than the answer to the question: Where are you going for drinks? And when warm weather hits, the proper answer is a mof*ckin rooftop, son.
Al fresco dining street-side, open-air beirgartens and waterside restaurants brim to life when the weather turns. And picnicking in central park? Well, that is almost a collective, yearly ritual; a repetitive rite of passage of sorts for the entire city. But, rooftops – well, rooftops take the cake when it comes to representing what it means to revel in New York City in the summertime. During the week, rooftops provide a brief post-work respite from the madness of the hot and busy streets. During the weekend, they are the most coveted places to unwind, indulge and socialize for all those not going “out east” or “down the shore.”
However, rooftops don’t just have to be for summertime – we can stretch it a bit. And seeing as we only have two weeks left until the unofficial end of summer (I, too, hate myself for saying that), I wanted to take this opportunity to give you – yes YOU, dear reader – my unsolicited permission to continue roof-topping not only throughout the next two weeks, but also well into September or October or whenever these places close down for winter, if they even do.
Here are my top 5 recommendations, in no particular order:
230 Fifth - Flatiron
Best For: Groups. Birthdays. First drink of the night. This place is especially perfect for taking out friends who are visiting or city first-timers as there is an unparalleled view of the Empire State Building from every seat.
Tip: There’s really little-to-no wait time to get in, which is an enormous plus, but it still may be a good idea to reserve a table for larger groups. If it’s a hot day, request umbrella seating.
You’ll spend: About $15 on a cocktail. I’ll admit; they are not impressive, but they’re not bad either. While not on the menu, beers are available and significantly more affordable.
Atmosphere: Polished. 230 Fifth is massive by Manhattan measurements. Perhaps the biggest rooftop bar in NYC, it is glamorous while remaining entirely unpretentious. The décor is appealing and the views are aplenty. The clientele are generally young and often foreign, which makes for interesting conversation. The dress code is not very strict, but leave the flats and boat shoes at home. This is a place to get a little more done up for. After all, you’ll be taking pictures.
Pod 39 – Murray Hill/Midtown East
Best For: Casual evenings. Last minute plans. If you’re stuck in midtown.
Tip: In the same building sits Salvation Taco, a Taqueria invented by April Bloomfield and the team that brought you The Spotted Pig. So, the food is a nice surprise considering the location.
You’ll spend: $13 for a cocktail, $65 for a pitcher. Salvation Taco recently took over the rooftop bar menu and revamped the craft cocktail list, so it gets a few more brownie points.
Atmosphere: Casual. Pod 39 is actually part of a chain of newer, modern hostel-like hotels, which makes the vibe feel accepting and diversified. Overall, it encapsulates a lovely corner of eclecticism in an otherwise character-less neighborhood.
Gallow Green – Chelsea
Best For: Date Night or that friend you go to on city adventures with.
Tip: Gallow Greens sits atop the fictional McKittrick Hotel that is home to Sleep No More. Sleep No More is an off-broadway play that is just about as weird as it gets. And I mean that in the best way possible. If you’re going to Gallow Green and you don’t mind unsettling, introspective, interactive experiences, get tickets for Sleep No More first. Then, regroup with your date after on the roof for cocktails to share your experiences.
You’ll spend: A very-much-worth-it cocktail will run you around $15 here, but it’ll include something wild like real Absinthe. If you decide to opt out of the show and just do the rooftop, I suggest the bottomless brunch.
Atmosphere: Whimsical. Green. Intimate.
Hotel Chantelle – Lower East Side
Best For: Date Night on a Saturday when you want to go out after.
Tips: Make a late reservation and have your friends meet you out afterward. This is one place that can go from “romantic dinner” to “Lower East Side club” in the time it takes you to traverse two flights of stairs (it’s three levels and each has a different ambiance).
You’ll spend: A well-made cocktail will cost you $13, but they run beer pitcher specials for brunch and have a solid 5-8pm happy hour with specials as well.
Atmosphere: Trendy and different. The rooftop is very unique, intimate, and has a glass cover that makes it accessible all year round. The downstairs becomes a dark clubby dance party once 11PM hits.
Le Bain – Meatpacking District
Best For: Fancy Saturday. Girl Time. Guy Time. Gettin’ Bougie.
Tips: Don’t wear anything too short or tight, because you’ll be sitting on fake grass. I know it sounds weird, but it works. There will likely be a line, but you’ll get in eventually. If it’s too long of a wait, visit the sprawling, semi-outdoor biergarten downstairs instead.
You’ll spend: $64 for a pitcher. The cocktails are unique and delicious, but they come at a price. Opt for the pitcher split between two – gives you about 7 drinks instead of the 4 you’d get otherwise.
Atmosphere: Bougie Yuppie, yes, but still worth a planned trip. It’s a great area to spend the day or start the evening and the views are spectacular. Given the fake grass, it tends to become a sort of make-shift picnic, with everyone sitting atop one another in various circles. Best to go around 3 to claim some space, grab your drinks, and then chat and mingle.
So, there you have it, friends. If you think there's a rooftop that should be on the list, let me know!