21st Birthday in NYC
November 1, 2021 11:23 AM   Subscribe

My niece is turning 21 in a few weeks. We live in NYC and I want to give her a night on the town! Any recommendations for really fun bars and restaurants to ring in the legal drinking age?

I want to splurge on our night out; I have a budget of $300 max.

I originally thought of going for a fancy meal and then to a bar, but I realized entrees at a fancy restaurant would add up pretty fast. I think we would have more fun splurging on quantity: lots of appetizers and lots of drinks. Good food but it doesn't have to be fancy.

I would also like a really fun, festive atmosphere (without it being absolutely impossible to hear each other). Somewhere to make the most of being of legal age. And where she might be able to get a little fuss made over her for her birthday.

My fiance recommended Barcelona Bar in midtown; he said it's a divey bar focused on silly themed shots where the bartenders make noise if you order a particularly notable drink. That sounds totally like the vibe I'm going for, except that we need food too. So restaurant recommendations near the theater district or Hell's Kitchen would work so we could get food and then go to the bar.

But it doesn't have to be midtown! I'm open to other neighborhoods with the caveat that I'll be coming from Queens (R train) so I don’t want to go somewhere super inconvenient like Washington Heights.

Thanks for any ideas you may have. We're very excited to celebrate!
posted by Neely O'Hara to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (6 answers total)
Rolf's is one of the most festive places in NYC and you could do dinner and drinks.

For just drinks, Dear Irving is pricey but it would be a very special and memorable place for birthday cocktails.
posted by cakelite at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2021

Death and Company (E Village) is one of the best cocktail bars I've ever been to. The drinks are expensive and it's not a place to go when you're sloshed, though—it's the kind of place where you start the night rather than end it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2021 [6 favorites]

If you do end up in the theater district/Hell's Kitchen for dinner, Toloache is fun, tasty, and not crazy expensive.
posted by praemunire at 1:23 PM on November 1, 2021

The place should be memorable - and the first joint that occurs to me is McSorley's
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 11:11 PM on November 1, 2021

Tiki drinks at Otto's Shrunken Head. I believe it may be cash only.
posted by kellyblah at 3:25 AM on November 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Consider the basement cocktail/tequila bar at La Esquina in Soho which is kind of a cool clubby space with food/small plates that a 21 year old might get a kick out of. Cutting through the restaurant kitchen to get to the "secret" bar, etc.

I don't know of bars where the bartenders/staff do fun festive things for birthdays though.
posted by windbox at 5:37 AM on November 2, 2021

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