NYC's gay nightlife caters to every customer and occasion, whether you're in the mood to have a quiet conversation with an old friend, hang with a hip Brooklyn crowd or dance the night away in the most glamorous (or racy) of spaces. Don’t assume that Chelsea, where a good deal of the action was centered the past couple of decades, has a monopoly on the landscape; when you add in the Latin gay scenes in Jackson Heights and Washington Heights, the wild parties in the East Village, the trendy spots in Hell's Kitchen and the old standbys in the West Village, your options can begin to seem overwhelming. To help you narrow down your selection, here is a list of 10 of the best gay bars around the City.
104 Dyckman St., 646-388-4067, Washington Heights, Manhattan
If you find yourself far uptown, this is a great option. Castro Bar inhabits a long, wide-open space that's perfect for dancing and offers two-for-one drinks from its opening (at 10pm) to midnight. The pounding reggaeton soundtrack and modern-chic decor caters to a club crowd.
76-19 Roosevelt Ave., 718-457-3939, Jackson Heights, Queens
A longtime fixture of Jackson Heights' gay scene, Club Evolution is a bar with a Latin flavor and a friendly staff. The happy hour, which runs from 5pm to 11pm every day, attracts an older crowd, but things get considerably younger and dancier the later it gets. Club Evolution features all-male go-go revues Friday to Monday and a music selection that leans heavily toward Latin pop. Bartender Carlos Cubas says to come for the aguardiente drinks he custom-makes with mango—or whatever else he has on hand—and stay for the after-midnight performances by drag queen Laura Martinez.
505 E. 6th St., 212-777-2555, East Village, Manhattan
Located in the heart of the East Village, Eastern Bloc is a dimly lit bar with great party vibes. Serving cheap drinks poured with a heavy hand, this is a place where you go to dance in an unpretentious environment. The bar features multiple disco balls, heavy red lighting, go-go dancers and nightly parties that attract the likes of celebrities Andy Cohen and Lady Gaga—her handwriting is literally on the wall. But it's not for the faint of heart; pornography covers the back wall and plays on two small monitors above the bar. Patrons will enjoy the taxidermied animals and the, er, cheeky phrases spray-painted on the barstools.
78-11 Roosevelt Ave., 718-397-7256, Jackson Heights, Queens
Friend's Tavern, from the same owners as Club Evolution, has been open since 1990 and is less than a block away from its offspring. While Club Evolution is a dance party waiting to happen, Friend's Tavern is more of a place to meet, greet and hang out with, yes, friends. Though the music—supplied from a DJ stand high above the long bar—is loud, the atmosphere is intimate.
1211 Myrtle Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn
Happyfun Hideaway is by far one of the most gay-straight mixed bars on this list, with a neighborhood clientele that happens to include some of the most exciting up-and-coming creative types citywide—musicians like Hot Sugar and artists such as Molly Soda can be frequently seen here. The staff is very friendly—they won't hesitate to mix you one of the bar's signature cocktails or make you a Frito pie off the late-night food menu—as is the clientele. There's a back patio, though it closes during the winter months. Be friendly here; you just might meet the next big thing.
355 W. 52nd St., 646-476-2747, Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan
If you're looking for a great place to go dancing and see famous drag queens, look no further. Industry hosts performers ranging from RuPaul's Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio to She's Living for This host Sherry Vine. The bar features a number of disco balls, huge projection screens behind a dance stage, a rotating cast of DJs and snakeskin couches for when you get sick of dancing. Thanks to Industry's two bars, diverse crowd and what bartender Arden Ytterberg calls "heavy pours," you won't do better for a night out in Midtown.
159 W. 10th St., 212-243-1928, West Village, Manhattan
Just around the corner from the iconic Stonewall Inn, Julius' is the oldest gay bar in New York City. (On April 21, 1966, it was the site of the "Sip-In," a protest conducted by early gay rights group the Mattachine Society, during which three gay men were refused service—an event that precipitated the legalization of serving alcohol to gay patrons in New York City.) The bar doesn't shy away from its history—the walls are covered with signed headshots of celebrity customers dating back to the 1940s. You won't find any loud music here; longtime patron Tom Bernardin calls it a "gay men's conversation bar." The crowd is somewhat mixed but skews more adult, with many coming for the food as much as the company: Julius' burgers are among the best in town.
559 Lorimer St., 718-599-4444, Williamsburg Brooklyn
A bar from the same ownership as This n' That, Metropolitan is the loungy equivalent to its dancier younger sister. Metro, which has been around since October 2002, attracts a wide range of ages, sexualities and nationalities. It's both a local dive and a place where you can dance the night away. Bartender Pietro Scorsone says the crowd ranges from college kids—it heats up in September—to patrons in their 60s. Don't miss the giant back patio (weather permitting) or the karaoke on Tuesday nights. Saturday nights alternate between Gag!—the longest-running gay party in Brooklyn at over 10 years—and Metro-Sensual, the brainchild of Westgay impresario Frankie Sharp. If you're not up for any of that, just hang out and play pool with your friends.
The Tool Box
1742 Second Ave., 212-348-1288, Upper East Side, Manhattan
The Tool Box is the neighborhood bar for the Upper East Side's gay scene. With TVs on the wall, two-for-one drinks nightly from 8pm to 10pm and DJs that play music on request, the Tool Box attracts a diverse crowd. Check for featured drinks on the large mirror behind the bar—when we went in it was the "Pink Pussy," incorporating vodka and Chambord—and stick around for some lively conversation in cozy quarters.