Velvet ropes and bottle service have their place in the world, but the more casual alternative—cheap drinks and a dance floor—is always in style, and a lot more accessible to boot. If you’re in the mood for the latter, check out our recommendations for the best dance bars in NYC. Get your groove on at these spots while avoiding the hyped club scene.
231 E. 14th St., 212-539-1389, East Village, Manhattan
At this converted beauty salon (note: they still do manicures at certain hours) there’s ample space to simply sit and relax with a cocktail—say, under one of the vintage dome hair dryers. But if the the dancing mood strikes (and it will), head to the dance floor in the back room. Weekend DJs play hits that echo the bar’s kitschy throwback decor; think Michael Jackson and Madonna rather than Justin Bieber and Beyoncé.
168 Borinquen Pl., 718-387-3337, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
This place is a (vegetarian) taqueria meets danceteria. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, you can go from savoring seared mofongo (mashed green plantain) tacos and a Oaxacan Mule cocktail to shimmying the night away on the basement dance floor—a transition we fully endorse. Roll up before midnight to avoid a cover charge, and expect an eclectic mix of house, funk and disco music.
325 Franklin Ave., no phone, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
The name of this roomy lounge practically begs you to hit the dance floor. For further encouragement, there’s ’70s-chic wood paneling, a mahogany bar, seasonal cocktails, a sizable dance space and yes, a disco ball. A mix of live acts and DJs play rock, synth pop, funk, indie and house music; just keep in mind that you’ll need a ticket for most shows.
9 Avenue A, 646-524-5226, East Village, Manhattan
This bi-level watering hole has an endearing split personality. In the early evening, it’s a cocktail lounge appropriate for a first date, dimly lit with well-mixed drinks and a cozy atmosphere. Closer to midnight on the weekends, the basement floor gets packed with patrons busting a move to ’90s hip-hop and contemporary Top 40. For something in between, stob by on Wednesday night when vinyl DJs take over the soundtrack.
17 Ingraham St., 347-599-2976, Bushwick, Brooklyn
Few things are more torturous than getting your group to decide on a place for a night out. The multipurpose El Cortez can spare you from that suffering. This Mexican restaurant is equipped with a tiki bar, a second-floor dance space and an outdoor patio. Order the taco salad, sip on a hurricane and dance the night away with your crew.
Ethyl’s Alcohol and Food
1629 Second Ave., 212-300-4132, Upper East Side, Manhattan
You’ve probably gotten an idea of what they serve at this bar from its name, but the red curtains, black leather upholstery and disco ball might surprise you once you step inside. The ’70s-themed bar features go-go dancers and period-music dance parties almost every night of the week.
Friends and Lovers
641 Classon Ave., 917-979-3060, Crown Heights, Brooklyn
This spot transfers the mullet-hairstyle motto to a dance bar: business in the front; party in the back. The business is a traditional bar and some additional seating to rest your dance-weary feet; the party equals a back room where DJs pump house, dance hall and R&B. Theme nights sometimes narrow the focus: deep funk one night, ’60s soul another. Get there early, bring cash for the bar and be prepared to dance.
Home Sweet Home
131 Chrystie St., 212-226-5709, Lower East Side, Manhattan
The lack of signage gives this dive bar hipster associations, a theme that continues down the steps (the bar is underground): the decorations are mostly taxidermied animals, the furniture is vintage and you may spot a few tattoos on the bartenders. Even if that’s not your scene, don’t write this spot off; it’s great for casually hanging out, sipping strong well drinks and dancing to a different DJ every night (including Jonathan Toubin on Fridays).
161 Ludlow St., 212-477-1616, Lower East Side, Manhattan
Turn to this self-deprecating spot (the name’s inspired by the Stooges’ song, not the bar’s atmosphere) to spend an evening that’s equal parts sipping and strutting. The dance floor is packed on weekend nights, but there’s still room to boogie. A plus: there’s plenty of cushy booths around when you need a breather.
56-06 Cooper Ave., 718-386-0111, Ridgewood, Queens
This expansive club has a colorful outdoor space that’s made for dancing. That won’t come as a shock when you learn the owners are the founders of long-running dance party Mister Sunday. Though Sundays are prime time for gettin’ down here, you can also hear DJs the rest of the weekend, and we’re confident that enough beer, fish tacos and floor space can turn even a weeknight into an impromptu dance party.
48 S. 4th St., 718-782-4955, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The Woods has everything a dance destination needs, namely plenty of space and plenty of food to maintain your stamina. There’s a long bar with a lengthy drink menu to match; a dance floor with a stage for live bands; and a spacious outdoor patio, with a food counter, to retreat to when the windows start to fog up. Head there early since it tends to get crowded by midnight.