by Emily Morris - 67 Reviews - 22 List
Whether you're on jury duty, visiting the mayor or just live nearby, the area surrounding City Hall and the city courts can seem bleak when it comes to drinking and dining. But just because you're in uncharted territory doesn't mean you should panic. There are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance of City Hall that are well worth your time--and money. (Photo: Blaue Gans)
Updated: September 03, 2009
You won't find the standard Tribeca scenesters at this down-home spot, where a "no sissies" sign is displayed above the 55-foot-long bar. You will, however, find giant inflatable beer bottles, dozens of flashing neon beer signs, foosball, darts and three billiard tables. The suspended TVs and the full-wall projector are usually tuned to sports (often extreme ones) watched by the bar's casual customers as they sip their brews. Dakota Roadhouse is cash-only, and don't be scared by the mousetraps atop the wooden bar: They're solely used to keep your bills from flying away.
This super-casual subterranean spot attracts both after-work professionals and neighborhood locals. The black and white tiled floor, wood paneled walls and booth and bar seating make John Street a place where just about anyone can feel comfortable. More importantly, with games like Golden Tee, darts and pool, John Street is a place where just about anyone can enjoy themselves. The 17 beers on tap, wide selection of whiskeys, $8 pitchers, happy hour specials and decent bar food are an added incentive.
This classy yet unintimidating bar and lounge serves bespoke cocktails--meaning that in addition to the specialty cocktails already on the menu, they'll concoct something tailor-made just for you. Simply tell the bartenders what you like (they'll provide you with a list of flavor profiles--spirit, texture, spice, flavor and fruit--to make the selection process easier) and in a matter of minutes you'll be holding the drink of your dreams. Though it sounds overly chi-chi, Ward III manages to pull off the difficult task of being both hip and welcoming. Glorified bar food like bacon-wrapped dates and a brie, apple and chutney panini are also served.
This tiny, 450-square-foot spot is located in an old carriage house, and the decor won't let you forget it. Industrial chic rules the roost, with scuffed wood floors, rough metal trim, mirrors made from giant pipes and a bathroom fashioned from an old freight elevator. The spot, with a only a few tiny tables and 7 barstools, is owned by a veteran of Employees Only and the now-defunct Beatrice Inn, but this precious spot is a lot less pretentious than either of those--although in fairness it does have an unlisted phone number. Like the space, the drink list is a bit small, with about half a dozen classic cocktails (old fashioned, dark and stormy, negroni, etc.), in addition to a small selection of beers and wines, and ritzy bar food like chicken liver pate and warm mushroom salad, all served late into the night.
Raccoon Lodge looks like a cross between a taxidermy shop and a scuzzy basement: it's one of the city's real deal dives. The overwhelmingly male clientele is no doubt lured in by the $2.50 PBRs, $4 Buds, attractive female bartenders, video golf and shooting games and pool--which get especially cutthroat on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the bar hosts competitions. Even though you'll want to avoid the grimy bathroom at all costs, the vibe here--dark wood, glass-stained lamps and a fireplace (all of which are comfortably coated in a bit of grit)--is just right.
No matter what you're in the mood to eat, chance are you'll find it at this modern, off-beat coffee bar and restaurant. The menu includes around 20 different sandwiches and 10 salads, plus entrees that run the gamut from sliders to spaghetti to seared ahi tuna steak. Mocca's hummus is particularly good, as are the ample selection of baked goods and coffee beverages. The service is casual, and given that many people are sipping coffee and surfing the web, it's a comfortable place to eat alone if you haven't yet made friends on jury duty.
This casual Austrian-American bistro thrives on a clientele that ranges from middle-aged couples to stroller moms to that ubiquitous breed of half-yuppie, half-hipster. Both the vibe and decor (high-backed red banquettes, vintage posters and a zinc bar) are without airs, as is the friendly wait staff. Blaue Gans doesn't take reservations, but that suits the customers just fine, as most seem to have found their way here by accident. The food is hearty, revolving around traditional Austrian dishes like sausage, schnitzel and spaetzle, so prepare to eat `til you're full.
This Belgian restaurant in Tribeca is one of four Petite Abeille locations in the city. The space is on the small side, and the black and white tile floors, blue and white checkered table cloths and chalkboard menu combine to give it a certain provincial charm. Menu standouts include moules frites (which come in several varieties), burgers, salads and a delectable croquet monsieur. An impressive and seemingly endless selection of Belgian beers is also available, and if you're in the neighborhood on a weekend, don't miss the Belgian waffles, which some consider to be the best in the city.
The decor (or lack thereof) may throw you off, but this bustling restaurant serves stellar Cantonese cuisine. Like many of its Chinatown neighbors, meats and carcasses dangle in the window; of these, the duck and suckling pig are the best. The restaurant's light deep-frying technique ("salt baking") results in delicious seafood options like soft shell crab. If all that sounds too robust, try the shrimp dumpling soup--it's a dish to be reckoned with.
Though Warhol, Basquiat and Patrick Bateman are no longer patrons, Odeon still attracts a hip crowd. This popular Tribeca brasserie caters to a fashionable downtown clientele that comes not for the cache but for the classic, comfortable atmosphere. The cuisine is full of French-American classics like pate, roast chicken and steak frites. Odeon is known for its martinis, so join the crowd at the bar (you may have to sit there anyway during the lunchtime rush) to sip and socialize with the best of them.