THE WINNER: HOLD FAST
“I knew Shane back when he was our bartender at Mercury Bar,” says Lynnette. “When I learned he’d be opening a bar, I was so excited to support a local friend as he made such a big career move. It’s no small feat.
“Beyond the local HK connection of having seen Shane go from bartender to bar owner, I also love the ambiance. While there are tons of amazing places in our neighborhood, Hold Fast always feels like home. Jason and Shane are always there to greet us with open arms and a welcoming smile – plus, they know exactly what ‘the usual’ is for almost every patron.
“It’s no surprise that the bar also attracts the most vibrant and talented of our local Broadway shows. There’s never a night where you don’t see at least one cast member, dancer, producer, or other member of our thriving cultural community at this bar. Its always buzzing with the most uplifting energy, it’s quaint, never dingy, and truly feels like you’re home. The unreal food is the icing on the cake.”
“Hold Fast is a true neighborhood bar,” agrees Patricia. “The owners, Jason and Shane, make everyone who enters feel like a family, long-time friend, and regular. That feeling is not common in many of your neighborhood bars anymore. Even if you only stop in once, they take the time to get to know you and will most likely remember you when you return.
“Hold Fast is committed to our Broadway industry and has hosted many a cast party and other celebrations. They care about Hell’s Kitchen and the community. Their food is great, and their drinks are fabulous.”
Hold Fast, W46th St – 8th/9th Ave
RUNNER UP: POCKET BAR (AND BACK POCKET)
“Every time I go to Pocket Bar, no matter who I’m with or what day of the week, I leave knowing several new fun people, danced to George Michael and Mariah Carey, sung ‘American Pie’ at the top of my lungs along with the whole bar, eaten my weight in popcorn, flirted with a bunch of cute guys, and I’ve laughed my head off,” says Ben. “What more could you want in a bar?”
“What’s not to love?” says Amanda. “Well, maybe the hangover the next morning …
“I know I love this place because I never want to leave. The staff and music are fantastic, and I always run into fun people. I especially like that it feels pretty discreet. What happens at Pocket Bar stays at Pocket Bar (I hope!). There may or may not have been a night where I was singing ‘Gloria’ at the top of my lungs.”
“I first fell in love with Pocket because of Suzy, Joe, Lo (and, of course, the sangria with a shark in it),” says Brian. “Then the day Back Pocket opened a few years later, I stopped by early to bring Suzy a congratulations gift. I helped by hanging the mirror in the bathroom and met my soon-to-be ‘wife’ Pip. Since that day, Back Pocket Bar has been my Cheers, always warmly welcomed by staff, owners, and patrons alike. Being in Back Pocket is like visiting your favorite people – it’s a warm, fun, loving, safe refuge where you meet someone new every time. I’m looking forward to all of us gathering again soon, celebrating with many glasses of Canard-Duchêne champagne and Pocket Bar rose.”
Pocket Bar, W48th St – 9th/10th Ave
Back Pocket Bar, W49th St – 9th/10th Ave
RUNNER UP: RISE BAR
“Rise is the quintessential neighborhood bar,” says Derrick. “It’s a place where all your friends go. The staff is amazing, Teddy is a warm and friendly owner, the drinks are strong, and the music is always a good time. You just know you’re going to end up there at some point, whether it’s for an early happy hour drink or two, a post-brunch cocktail with your crew, a drag show midweek, or a night out with your friends. It’s the go-to spot for HK, no, Manhattan, nightlife. I pray it survives COVID-19.”
Rise Bar, 10th Ave – 55th/56th St
RUNNER UP: FLAMING SADDLES
“This is the bar the previous owner of my first Hell’s Kitchen apartment took me to,” recalls Dean. “We sat at the bar, and the bartenders were so friendly. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was playing on the TVs and the dancing on the bar was a highlight. It became my go-to when guests would come to town (my mom had a great time there with me too).”
“Flaming Saddles is the most welcoming bar in Hell’s Kitchen,” says Jackson. “The entire staff has a great energy and I never feel judged or out of place. On top of that, who doesn’t love the cute cowboy bartenders doing line dances on top of the bar through out the night? They have an old-fashioned jukebox to play music, some nights they have beer pong, their happy hour kicks ass … the list goes on. I really am not someone who likes the Hell’s Kitchen bar atmosphere, but Flaming Saddles is really something else. It’s my favorite place to take friends to, have a no frills, no drama, no BS, great, fun night. I could not recommend this bar more.”
Flaming Saddles, 9th Ave – 53rd St
HONORABLE MENTION: AS IS
“As Is serves the best craft beer in Hell’s Kitchen, by a long shot,” says Charlie. “Whether you crave a fresh, hazy double IPA, a monster stout, or an unique sour, As Is has you covered with its rotating beer list highlighting local brewers. Order a Sigmund’s pretzel and a few small pours and try as much as you can. It’s a beer geek’s delight.”
“I love As Is’s wide, unique selection of beers, and its hip but casual vibe,” says Brian. “I found it was a great place to meet up with co-workers back when I had a 9-to-5 job and then, during my freelance life, it has been a fun, relatively spacious hub to meet up with friends and get caught up. I had my birthday there last year and it was a great atmosphere – we all loved the vast beer selections and bar food.”
As Is, 10th Ave – 50th St
HONORABLE MENTION: ARDESIA
“Mandy and the team are so hard working,” says Shannon, “always attentive to their guests, and go the extra mile. During COVID, they have done everything they can to support their team and the community.
“We try to venture further afield, but often end back on those bar stools, visiting with each other and the staff, enjoying interesting wines and sharing small bites.”
“The owner creates a neighborhood type of environment while keeping food and drink at a sophisticated but not stuffy level,” says Amanda. “It is truly a neighborhood wine bar with excellent food. I love the steak, lamb, and the deviled eggs are especially delicious. Mandy’s special events around the holidays generate a neighborhood feel, like her pumpkin carving contest. It’s a great place to go solo or with friends.”
Ardesia, W52nd St – 10th/11th Ave
HONORABLE MENTION: RUDY’S
“Well first off, there’s the pig right out front. Classic!” says Rich. “Next, it’s the red, faux leather upholstery held together with duct tape. Classic #2!
“Next, it’s the hot dog you get with your drink order. Classic #3!
“Lastly, or maybe it’s all of the above rolled into one, it’s the vibe. Whether it’s hunkering down in a snow storm or watching football on Sunday afternoon which turns into Sunday night, or just an after-work beverage to take the stress of the day off your shoulders, Rudy’s is a great place to hang!”
“Rudy’s is the ultimate dive bar,” says Jack, “cheap beer, great people, and free hot dogs. I’ve spent many nights there – it’s always a great after-work place with my colleagues to grab a few drinks and a few dogs.”
Rudy’s, 9th Ave – 44th/45th St (currently closed)
HONORABLE MENTION: HIBERNIA
“We always feel so comfortable when we go to Hibernia,” says Jillian. “It’s a true neighborhood staple. We know all the kind Irish staff, enjoy the outdoor seating (where we always bring our pup, Ernie – they immediately bring over a doggie bowl). They have the BEST wings we have had in NYC, hands down. “
Hibernia, W50th St – 9th/10th Ave