The 5 Least Douchey Bars on the Upper East Side
To some people living outside of the Greater New York area, the Upper East Side may seem like a cool place to be.
Shows like Gossip Girl and Sex & the City glorify the neighborhood, presenting it as a ritzy and posh area of Manhattan. When friends from college ask me what part of New York I’m living in and I say the Upper East Side they oooh and aaah, wondering what kind of fancy job I’ve landed that has enabled me to live in such a luxurious neighborhood.
This may be true for some. In fact, as I write this I’m sitting in my friend’s beautiful apartment in the east 70s due to a mouse infestation at my place (which we’ll get into another time).
But I’d venture to guess most 20-somethings within my financial bracket know the truth about this neighborhood once jokingly referred to as “the retirement community”: it’s filled with douchebags.
But fear not, devout Buntology enthusiasts. For I, along with my two esteemed colleagues Tilly and Mike, took on the arduous task of hitting up all the local bars* on the UES so that you wouldn’t have to. *Well, at least those within a three block radius of our apartment.
Read on to weed out the fun versus the fratty in a land of old people, babies and Mt. Sinai interns.
#5. THE GAF (89th & 1st)
Bartender cuteness [1-5]: ♥ There were two of them, they were old, and they weren’t giving us nearly enough attention.
Cost of drinks: 1 Blue Moon, 1 Sierra Nevada, 1 Sam Seasonal = $18.00
Entertainment: Big Buck Hunter, golfing arcade game, Dart boards, and Metallica playing on the jukebox.
It’s hard to say whether The Gaf is douchey or not. The bar was really dark and the music was really loud, which sounds fun in theory but not when it’s Metallica. And sure, it was nearly empty save for the somewhat rowdy group of dudes who all did Irish Car Bombs together + one woman who finished 2nd in the car bomb challenge. But there was little pretension in the spacious bar, and lots of Big Buck Hunter, so we happily drank our beer.
Tilly: All the guys look the same: short and fat. Back home we’d call them a bogan or a westie. Black wife-beaters, rips down the sides, skinny but their nipples are always hanging out. They all listen to Metallica… but I like that.
Ange: I wish there was a hook for my bag.
While the Sunday night crowd was relatively small, the layout of the bar certainly lent itself to a much larger group of people. Counter-tops and stools lined the wall and offered tons of seating. The Gaf is definitely not a sports bar, as there was only one or two TVs, and the decor was very Irish pubby. God there are a lot of pubs on the Upper East Side.
#4. KINSALE (3rd ave between 93rd & 94th)
Bartender cuteness: ♥♥♥ He’s super nice, wears cute black-rimmed glasses, and the Irish accent ain’t so bad, either.
Price of drinks: 1 Guinness and 2 (strong) Red Bull & vodkas = $20.75
Entertainment: The music on the jukebox was playing standard 70s, 80s and 90s karaoke tunes.
The ambiance of Kinsale is warm, laid-back and inviting. For an old Irish pub the interior is well taken care of and includes a small dining area in the back, set away from the bar. I guess you could say it’s your dad’s bar [Editor’s note: As I’m writing these notes Steely Dan came on the jukebox. Definitely a dad’s bar. At least my dad.] The crowd was a mixture of old alcoholic-looking men and 20-somethings, plus a young couple having a full-on makeout session at the high-top table next to us.
Mike: This bar is kind of a sausage-fest and what I’m looking for is a clam bake. It’s got TVs playing sports which is a big minus for me.
Ange: *To the tune of Where Have all the Cowboys Gone?* Where have all the bar snacks gone?
#3. THE AUCTION HOUSE (89th between 1st & 2nd)
Bartender cuteness: ♥♥ 1/2 . Would’ve been hotter if he didn’t say “thank you” when I complimented the bar. What did you build it?
Price of drinks: 1 Jameson, 2 vodkas with lemon & lime = $22
Entertainment: Great tunes. Anytime I can sit on a velvet couch sipping vodka and listening to The White Stripes is fine by me.
I never knew The Auction House existed until I stepped inside of it. Besides the American flag that hangs in the window of the old bar, there’s nothing very distinguishing about it from a pedestrian point of view. But once you walk into the speak-easy style lounge, you’re instantly transported from the doldrums of Yorkville to a place far more exotic… like the Lower East Side.
Angela: Really excited about the idea of a speak-easy on the UES. Is it a speak-easy? It has curtains hiding its identity from the outside world so I’d say that counts.
Tilly: I love a good tin roof.
The walls are decorated with Victorian artwork and the high ceilings are made out of tin. The avant-garde, bourgeois style of the bar might come across as tacky in the daylight, but at night feels very sultry. And I’m not just saying that because the two girls sitting across from us were seconds away from making out the entire time we were there. The Auction House is the kind of place you’d take a date if you knew you were finally going to get lucky that night.
#2. MANNY’S ON SECOND (92nd & 2nd)
Bartender cuteness: ♥♥♥♥ Super cute, super drunk. This worked to our advantage (see “price of drinks”).
Price of drinks: Free
Entertainment: Dart boards, TVs, a photo-booth, Pacman and pool upstairs. And a jukebox with thousands of songs to choose from.
Manny’s On 2nd has got to be one of the liveliest, most friendly bars on the Upper East Side. It was 2:30 A.M. when Tilly and I got there, and the vibe (and appearance) of the bar was reminiscent of friends’ house parties during my senior year of college. The atmosphere was super comfortable and fun, which might explain why there were so many off-duty employees there drinking and having a good time. The high energy of Manny’s pulled us out of our Auction House coma, and before we knew it we were taking pickleback shots with the bartenders. That’s right, folks: there are picklebacks at this bar.
Tilly: The hotness of the guys here is really adding to my enjoyment.
#1. BIDDY’S (91st between 2nd & 1st)
Bartender cuteness: ♥♥♥♥♥ Everybody loves Corey.
Price of drinks: 2 Blue Moons = $12, but if you make nice with the bartenders you can usually get a freebie or two.
Entertainment: Dart board and one of those fun bar computer games where you get to play I-Spy with pictures of naked girls. The iTunes playlist is usually pretty legit, too.
If Manny’s is like senior year of college, then Biddy’s is like going home for winter break. It’s warm, cozy, has peanuts in the corner, and there’s always a few old Irish men hitting on you. OK, so maybe that last part isn’t entirely true, but the people there sure are friendly. Perhaps this is because the bar is literally just a big square room filled with high-top tables, and if you’re a regular like me, one that’s usually filled with familiar faces. Or maybe it’s because the bartenders there are always so damn personable, you can’t help but feel at home.
Angela: Yes! There’s a hook for my bag! Hey, do you have 25 cents for peanuts?
Some of the most fun nights I’ve had during my tenure uptown have ended in me and my roomie hanging out here after hours, drinking a complimentary night cap and recapping the evening. Biddy’s is arguably my favorite bar in New York City, and certainly the least douchey one you’ll find on the Upper East Side.