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Here’s W42ST’s pick of the ten coolest rooftop and patio bars you absolutely MUST be hanging out in this summer. Writer Hillary Reeves is having a margarita …
New Yorkers are great at lots of things – like not toppling over while standing on a packed, hurtling underground train or walking really fast when said trains are inexplicably stalled due to “signal malfunctions.” But we’re also fantastically talented at making use of every space we can find, which makes sense when you think about how many dollars we pay as a sacrifice to the square footage gods every month.
Perhaps that’s why the rooftop and patio bar has morphed into a religious experience for New Yorkers, come summertime. When the temperature gets above a certain degree, plans with pals or coworkers flip like a switch from “let’s find the coziest, closest happy hour” to “let’s find the best outdoor spot that hasn’t been discovered yet.” Luckily, Hell’s Kitchen has a few under-the-radar gems that offer sprawling views of the city, ivy-covered trellises or a kick-your-feet-up atmosphere that we only get to take advantage of these few warm months of the year.
Take a look at our fave rooftop and patio bars in the nabe; and find the one that fits your idea of a perfect night out.
The Nightclub of Teenage Dreams: Hudson Terrace
Ah, Hudson Terrace. The nouveau classic go-to spot for many, it’s sworn by for some and reviled by others. But we say it’s one of those places that feels New Yorky, if sometimes in a cheesy way. Like, not everyone likes to visit Times Square – some straight-up refuse – but no one can deny that being there, among the billboards, tourists and twinkling Broadway lights, feels like the New York you imagined as a small-town teen with big city dreams. That’s how I feel about Hudson Terrace: it’s the nightclub that looks and feels the way you always thought one would. Floors upon floors of club spaces climax with the stunning rooftop bar, filled with a diverse collective of New Yorkers dancing the night away.
Swanky and Sleek: Press Lounge
I went to Los Angeles one time. It was for a work trip and (somehow) I got a free, one-day stay at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. I knew I had no business being out by the pool where supermodels and celebrities lounged, but as I strolled out to relax in the garden, the beautiful people who I thought might be unwelcoming, made space for this painfully pale New Yorker and a server brought me a cucumber water right way, like I belonged there or something – it was magical. I get the same feeling at Press Lounge. Whereas other venues try to force the fanciness (and fail), Press Lounge still feels exclusive in a way that’s exciting, not pompous.
Not Trying Too Hard: Cantina Rooftop
We love Cantina Rooftop. It’s colorful, spunky, and fun. Plus the drinks aren’t half bad and feature more than your typical martinis and cosmos. Order a delish margarita or on-trend michelada (Mexico’s answer to a Bloody Mary – savory, spicy and boozy!) and lounge on the wicker chairs or snack at the dining tables. While other rooftop bars try to promise ‘atmosphere’ and the perfect night out, Cantina Rooftop is more about promising authentic Mexican fare by executive chef Gonzalo Colin, which I think we can all agree beats sick beats and strobe lights any day. Plus, the retractable roof means you won’t have to give up your new favorite spot when the chilly temperatures hit!
For a Flirt: Boxers
Specifically a guy-on-guy flirt, but everyone can enjoy or appreciate the beefy, shirtless eye candy at this sports bar in the center of Hell’s Kitchen. There’s an event almost every night of the week, so plan ahead and maybe you’ll catch karaoke or free pool all evening. We also love that the roof terrace is basically just one story off street level, too. It’s a nice change from the other sky-high venues.
Kid-Friendly Fun: Market Diner (patio)
When foreigners imagine ‘America,’ I suspect something like Market Diner might come to mind. It’s a wholesome spot with some real roots in the community. The retro 50-page diner menu offers a lot, but inevitably you’ll get a burger or breakfast-for-dinner, which is exactly what you should do. Mirrored surfaces and formica countertops tie it all together, plus there’s super cheap beer every afternoon from 4pm to 7pm. Sure, there might be traffic zooming by the huge (by NY standards) patio, but that’s exactly what we want out of a roadside, classic American diner.
No-Nonsense After Work Spot: Beer Authority
I’ve never been to Beer Authority other than at 5.30pm on a Friday and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The sports bar and beer hall is exactly both of those things, but with enough space that the baseball bros aren’t in your face. Their rooftop spot is perfect for a big group, with unfussy picnic tables and snacks to feed a crowd (think nachos and wings, but tasty ones – not the kind that leave you angry that you paid $15 for a pile of microwaved Tostitos).
For the Picky Patty: Tequila Park
And by ‘picky,’ we mean ‘hard to please.’ And I am very guilty of being that girl. Sometimes you make plans and spend more time trying to find the perfect spot than you’ll even spend at the bar. Atmosphere is important, you guys! Luckily, the team at the Hudson Hotel just south of Columbus Circle gets it right every time. Their ‘Library Bar, Tequila Park, and Hudson Lodge all sound way too kitschy to work, but work they do, to stylist perfection. The summer spot features tasteful Mexican-inspired decor plus more margarita options than you ever knew you needed.
Going Clubbing: Sky Room
Every once in a while, the velvet rope treatment is what you’re after. Sky Room should do the trick, where you’ll find bouncers and fist-pumping DJs. This midtown hotspot atop the Fairfield Inn & Suites does have one of the better views you’ll see, with the Empire State Building just a few blocks away, but be prepared for a potential Bobby Bottleservice sighting (hey, sometimes that’s exactly the kind of night you’re looking for).
If You’re Looking for Something More than a View and a Fancy Drink: Terminal 5 Rooftop
Get tickets to a show then pop up to the music hall’s roof deck beforehand for a breezy beer. You won’t get a panorama view like other roof locations, but the open air and cool kid vibe will give you that Brooklyn feel of climbing up your friend’s fire escape in Bushwick, without any L train drama.
For Foodies: Ardesia (patio)
Their patio is simple and unassuming, but it’s one of my favorite spots to sit and sip on a summer evening. While most other rooftop spots emphasize the drinks and views, Ardesia’s also got some serious foodie chops. Grab a chilled glass of something sparkly and share a toast or two. The airy and welcoming restaurant/bar inside ain’t half bad either. Keep Ardesia in your head as the perfect choice for those will-it-or-won’t-it-rain hazy summer days.
Looking ahead: Kashkaval Garden
It’s not open yet, but we got in touch with Kashkaval Garden’s owners to ask about the ‘garden’ part of the neighborhood favorite. We hear that the space out back behind the restaurant, a small yard between a few buildings, will have lots of windows and a roof made of a special high-tech translucent material, which will hopefully make it feel light, airy, and outdoorsy. They’ll call it the Garden Room as the ceiling-high windows will open onto a vertical hanging garden. The space will also be open all year (including winter) when it will be heated, meaning we don’t have to say goodbye to outdoor spaces come September!
This story was originally published in Issue 8 of W42ST Magazine in July 2015.