by Justine Goodman - 81 Reviews - 104 List
It's been another big year in the world of New York nightlife, and as we look toward 2011, it's time to look back at the new bars and clubs that defined 2010. Nur Kahn and Paul Sevigny continued to dazzle us with insta-hits like Kenmare and Don Hill's. Le Bain brought chic back to the Meatpacking District and Ninth Ward brought a taste of New Orleans to the East Village. So, without further ado (and in no particular order), we now present our list of New York's best nightlife newcomers of 2010. (Photo: Cienfuegos)
Updated: March 10, 2011
This New Orleans-inspired cocktail den is the younger sister to nearby Shoolbred's (which appeared on this same list in 2008), and it's a welcome addition to the 'hood--not to mention a respite from the standard NYU frat hangouts. Top-notch cocktails, a swank, unpretentious atmosphere, tasty pub grub and a charming back patio made including Ninth Ward a no-brainer.
Originally billed as a restaurant (and in fairness, the upstairs dining room continues to pack them in), it's the basement lounge at this Nolita hot spot that earned it a spot on this list. Nary a week has gone by without a late-night trip to Ken; in fact, most every (good) night generally ends here. And though the door can be tough if you're an unfamiliar face, becoming a regular is easy enough, and sweet-as-pie door girl Meghan has an excellent memory. Drinks are reasonably priced, the DJs are always on point and a good time is guaranteed.
Every native New Yorker remembers the long-running Thursday night '80s party at Don Hill's, and when it closed we were despondent. But thanks to nightlife dons Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny, the Soho club has been given new life. Live music is still part of the draw (to boot, opening week "secret shows" included raucous performances by the likes of Courtney Love), but the grittiness of yesteryear has been replaced with velvet ropes and an abundance of uber-cool hipsters. Nevertheless, it's as fun as it ever was, and Don Hill's stacks up next to any other hot spot in the city.
The most exciting opening of the summer was undoubtedly this penthouse den of iniquity--complete with an indoor pool and luxe rooftop deck--located atop the Standard Hotel. A perfect complement to the Boom Boom Room (which is just across the hall), Le Bain, with its dark interior and floor-to-ceiling windows, is a perfect place to do very bad things--in a very good way.
Don't worry, Williamsburg, we haven't forgotten about you ... Commodore is just one of several new BK openings to turn our heads this year (and on that note, honorable mention goes to Good Co. and Dram Bar). From the boozy late-night scene to the backyard to the absurdly good hamburgers, there's a lot to love about Commodore.
Head up the the back staircase at Carteles, the Cuban sandwich shop on the ground floor, to access this candy-colored, Caribbean-style cocktail oasis, which caters both to serious imbibers and those aspiring to be. Early hype about the East Village rum bar may have subsided somewhat, but we're still big fans of Cienfuegos' breezy Cuban atmosphere and delicious rum-based drinks--and as someone who almost exclusively sticks to whiskey, that's saying a lot.
Sure, it sounds gimmicky: barbershop in front, swanky bar in back, but somehow pretty much everything about the Blind Barber works. Thankfully, there's no danger of getting a drunken impulse haircut, since the barber shop services cease at 9pm. But, also thankfully, other dangerous impulses--like the sort that tend to arise when you combine sexy people and a sexy place with copious amounts of alcohol--are plentiful.
Step aside, Employees Only, there's a new cocktail bar in the West Village that's turning heads. Cozy (read: small) and sometimes crowded, Orient Express nevertheless wows us with its charming decor (old-school railway memorabilia--hence the name), fancy drinks prepared by bartenders who are easy on the eyes, tasty small plates and all-around charm. Also of note: the bathroom, which is inexplicably warm and inviting, even if you have to wait in line to use it.