Belle Shoals. 10 Hope St. Brooklyn. NYC. 

It wasn’t very busy on the last Friday night of last year, but this bar doesn’t really get going until midnight. Food is average – the house burger is a solid bet for only $10 – but the cocktails are excellent refreshing concoctions, tailored to your preferences. Service really puts this bar above most others in Williamsburg. 

$$

Bedford Ave (L)

Masa y Agave. Under Rosa Mexicano. 41 Murray St. NYC

Tequila/Mezcal passports from the folks at Good Passport brought us here, and once the staff figured out what it was all about, they treated us like kings; before that we were mere coupon-crunchies. So we obviously had an interest in the agave spirit, and we were talked through the combinations used in our cocktails by the mescaliers: the Tamarind (Fidencio Clásico mezcal, tamarind, canela agave and lime) and the Mezcal-isco (Pelotón de la Muerte mezcal, Espolón reposado tequila, lime, agave nectar and orange). Both drinks had definite bite to them, but were well concocted. Even the happy hour specials – the house marg and the frozen pomegranate marg ($8) – were excellent cocktails. Two tacos or a quesadilla can be bought for only $6, and the Alambre de Carne of the former, and Res of the latter, are both sound choices. The bar is packed from 5.30pm for obvious reasons, but it clears out a little when happy hour fades from view. Lighting is low and noise levels can be high, but it’s a great little spot for dates and groups if you get in early and stake your space.

$$
Subway: Chambers St

Cull & Pistol. Chelsea Market. NYC 

A ‘cull’ is a lobster with one of its claws broken off, a ‘pistol’ its pitiful clawless crustacean buddy – I didn’t know this until I had seen the paintings in their bathroom (a great way of avoiding the inevitable public bathroom lines in Chelsea market) on my third visit there. Happy hour is tremendous here – all oysters and clams are a dollar each and there are chowder, tacos and drinks specials. Naragansett pints ($4) and Sauvignon Blancs ($7) will make you want to stay longer, while the Pistols on Horseback (fried oyster wrapped in Jamon Serrano on a ramp crepe with smoked aioli: $7 for 2) might tip your bill over into triple digits. Service is a little harried but you can hardly blame them. Expect long waits from 4-6pm. 

$$$

Subway: 8th Ave (L)

  

Nancy Whiskey Pub. 1 Lispenard St. TriBeCa. NYC.

Shuffleboard and a quick snack brought us here, and the crabcake
basket with fries was perfectly serviceable. This place has a lot of regulars and a resilient history as the dive bar that stayed open after 9/11 and high rents. The choice of cheap draft beers is pretty dire though, and for a ‘whiskey pub’ there’s a very small choice of bourbon, rye and scotch – no more than ten bottles in total, in fact. The owner is a real character though, seemingly intox’d all day long, and there is a down-at-heel pop-in-n-out vibe here, with a sweet little smoking patio in the front; perfect for a quick drink before walking the few steps into the subway. Also popular with off-duty cops and harmless freaks.

$
Subway: Canal St. (A,C,E,1)

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‘Disiac Lounge. 402 W 54th St. NYC

As in ‘aphrodisiac’, because they really do push the sensual descriptions and indulgent ingredients of all the cocktails and some of the food too; just be thankful they didn’t name the place ‘Afrodisiac’ as it does technically go under the description of a Moroccan bar. It was very busy on a late spring Sunday afternoon with a varied crowd, mixing the moody with the energetic.
We tried a pitcher of the Tantric Red Sangria, a Dark’n’stormy and a Seductive Storm (Makers Mark, ginger beer, green tea and sweet vermouth): all were excellent. Guacamole and humus plates were also tasty but took an eternity to emerge from a kitchen that was apparently ‘really backed up’ according to the sweet, apologetic staff that deducted an arbitrary $5 from the final bill. Unpretentious and friendly, it’s such a cute little patio in a part of town not full of these sorts of places, so we will be back.

$$
Subway: 50th St/ 59th St

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Mayahuel. 304 E 6th St, East Village. NYC

The tiny upstairs restaurant above the even smaller bar area is cosy and warm, aglow with red light and decorated with a large ceiling-mounted tarantula. Indeed, Mayahuel is the fertility goddess of agave alcohol and libations should certainly be poured in this sacred space.
The food is merely good, and not too dear at all: most starters are under a tenner while mains are $14-$18, with a creamy saffron paella to share at $28. The Elote (corn-on-the-cob covered with crema agria, cotija cheese and chile de arbol) was great to share and the quinoa and avocado salad looks like a winner for the summer. Flautas, tacos and ceviches are all available, and the Tres Leches for dessert was a firm, muscular piece of coconutty milk-soaked cake. But it’s all about the drinks here: the cocktails list is succinct and impressive, with all the emphasis on agave. It won Best New Cocktail Bar in the World at Tales of the Cocktail in 2010, and we can see why: the Dijahbone (Sotol, duck fat infused Grand Marnier, carrot juice, lime and cumin) was rich and smoky, while I Love Lamp (tequila, rum, banana, pineapple, lime and bitters) was a heady hit of a tropical beach. Cerveza cocktails are tempting too; the Fade to Black (mezcal, rum, ramazzotti, whole egg, xocolatl mole bitters topped with Negra Modelo) was one that everyone wanted to try. They’re all $14 so you’ll need to watch your bill as it’s all too easy to run up a large one. Service is slow but friendly, and bookings are not taken so you’ll have to turn up early.

$$$
Subway: 1/2/3 Av, Astor Place

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Yuca Bar. 111 Avenue A, East Village. NYC

New Year’s Day brunch at 4pm? Not many restaurants in Manhattan would be happy to cater for a group of six, hungover and hungry, but Yuca was there to indulge our cravings. Officious service brought us feasts from the Kitchen of Earthly Delights: Crab Cakes Benedictos were fabulous, Yuca Benedictos remained sturdy and tasty under the pressure, and the grilled skirt steak special was what I actually wished I’d chosen – a quality churrasco cut with chimichurri. All specials come with tea/coffee as well as a choice of Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, frozen Margherita, mimosa or sangria; BMs were peppery perfection. For $17 it’s decent value, and all come with excellent rice and beans or home fries.
The space is bustling and energetic, beautifully lit and even though the servers can be curt, they are quick to respond to special requests. We’ll be here more than just the first day of the year.

$$
Subway: 1st/2nd Ave

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