Here are my top nightlife picks if you’re heading to the magical isle of Manhattan:
140 West 44th Street, Times Square
Dive bar off Times Square which is a must for boxing fans or anyone wanting to soak up some old school tough guy vibes. Slip some James Brown or Stax on the jukebox and grab a bar stool if you want to while away a few hours with beer and good company. I on the other hand squeezed through the skinny bar area and sat at a back table. There I was able to marvel at the walls plastered in posters, programmes and photos of ring legends like Muhammed Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Roberto Duran. The real deal.
Rudy’s Bar and Grill
627 Ninth Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen
This bar doesn’t exactly advertise itself from the outside but once you’re in, you’re in baby. It was packed with happy NY drinkers and I felt shy at first. But after sneaking to the back and finding space on a battered red sofa chair I soon relaxed. This was helped by generous quantities of various wheat beers, liberal use of the jukebox (David Bowie, John Lennon…), complimentary hot dogs (yes!), and serendipity.
I was just about to leave and offered my seat to a group of hirsute dudes. Turns out they were a group of independent film makers looking for some hops-fuelled relaxation after presenting their stuff at The Friars Club Comedy Festival. Soon the boyfriend and I were part of a rowdy table crammed with beer pitchers. Others soon joined in, and then the whiskey made an appearance.
By 3am I was blearily aware of a Sopranos-esque guy kindly telling me he had daughters my age and had been keeping an eye on my welfare. The boyfriend had disappeared into the night and I managed to make it safely back to the hostel on my own, but that’s another story…
111 Varick Street, SOHO
I got there for the early set and tucked into dish after dish of Brazilian food. Loads of my favourites: lime, chilli, rice, seafood, with the surprise bonus of a giant banana leaf. The live band and exotic lady dancers quivering in feathers in front of the stage made for quite the show. And a deliciously exotic way to start the night.
Club Groove NYC
125 Macdougal Street, Greenwich Village
I stumbled across this open-fronted bar while trying to choose between the Village’s numerous tempations. I’m glad I did because it was soul and funk heaven. It started off as a relaxed bar hangout with cocktails and snacks brought to my table, and evolved into a live music session with two amazing RnB singers riffing off a tight backing band. Sheer class. I knew I’d hit an enjoyment high when The Isley Brothers’ Footsteps in the Dark struck up during the break. I knew I’d had had too many mojitos when I started dancing near the edge of the stage to Chaka Khan.
18 Little West 12th Street, Meatpacking District
I got there around 2am on a Thursday morning and was able to dive straight in with no queue hassles. Magnetic house and Latin house rhythms from Louie Vega and co kept me glued within the compact dance floor until chucking out time. Roots night is all about losing yourself in uplifting and seriously groove-some beats. I might have been an out-of-towner but I felt at home sweating it out amongst the inspiringly sinuous movers.