If you’re heading out for a cocktail in New York City, chances are, you’ll be spending more than a few bucks. Lucky for tourists and locals alike, though, the Harlem nightlife scene has been making a big splash uptown. It seems like everywhere you turn, a trendy new bar or restaurant is opening in the neighborhood, and with fewer crowds and lines to compete with more traditional late-night joints further downtown. And while many New York City neighborhoods are known for catering to a certain clientele (Murray Hill is for recent grads, Meat Packing is for big spenders), one of the best things about Harlem is that there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual beer, an artisanal cocktail, or a quiet glass of wine, these five Harlem hotspots are definitely worth a trip uptown:
Ginny’s Supper Club
Directly downstairs from Red Rooster, chef Marcus Samuelsson’s ode to American soul food with a Swedish twist, you’ll find its sister venue, Ginny’s Supper Club, a warm, intimate lounge buzzing with live jazz, soul, and R&B. This speakeasy’s subtly retro décor evokes the spirit of a hopping Harlem Renaissance nightclub, and the drink menu pays homage to the neighborhood’s rich heritage. Try the signature cocktail Langston’s Muse, a blend of chamomile-infused Bulldog gin, honey, and lemon bitters ($14), or the Harlem Mule, featuring Ballantine blended scotch, ginger, basil, and Peychaud’s bitters ($15). A selection of soul food-inspired snacks and small plates, including corn bread, roast pork belly sliders, and bourbon beans, completes the vibe.
A few blocks up from Ginny’s Supper Club, this neighborhood coffee house by-day transforms into a cozy wine and beer bar at night. With its wooden floors, exposed brick walls, and vintage light bulbs casting a warm glow over a handful of small tables and mismatched chairs, it’s the perfect place for a low-key date, or just for grabbing a reasonably priced glass of wine with a friend (glasses start at $7). The café also hosts frequent jazz nights, as well as free poetry and spoken word performances.
A relative newcomer to Lenox Avenue, this bar and comfort food restaurant is almost always packed, especially during their weekday happy hour ($5 mixed well drinks, $6 wines). Part sports bar, part laid-back dinner destination, Corner Social offers a wide range of reasonably priced craft beers and wines by the glass ($6 to $10), as well as a line of signature cocktails, including the Uptown Mojito ($13), the Social Margarita ($14), and the Hibiscus Royale ($12), a blend of Prosecco, Chambord, and candied hibiscus flower.
With its vintage wooden tables and Prohibition-era tin ceilings, this cozy bar in Spanish Harlem has embraced the speakeasy trend while still retaining a friendly neighborhood feel. Its tapas menu features Mediterranean-inspired treats, including gambas (pan-seared shrimp, lemon and garlic, $6), and datiles (goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta, $5). They also offer a range of refreshing craft cocktails, such as Halleys Comet, a blend of Maker’s Mark bourbon, blueberry jam, lemon juice, and sage leaf ($9).
If craft cocktails aren’t your cup of tea and you’re just looking for a no-frills night out with beer, burgers, and a lively crowd, Harlem Tavern has you covered. This casual neighborhood bar and grill features an enormous outdoor patio and large communal tables and booths inside. For the most part, the drinks menu doesn’t throw any curveballs, but they’ve done well to stick to the classics, offering affordable, generously sized mojitos, margaritas, and cosmos (ranging from $8 to $11). For the fall, try their Honey Harvest beer cocktail, a blend of Angry Orchard apple cider, Wild Turkey American Honey bourbon, and ginger ale ($10).