We are constantly out galavanting during the work week, with the next morning’s responsibilities looming in the background. But this night, for the first time in several months, it was a Friday and we weren’t heading to Vermont. As a result, we had no choice but to plan a guilt free night on the town. To top it off, it was WARM! There was still plenty of snow on the ground, but on the drive in, the car thermometer read 67 degrees! In no way did we think it felt nearly that ‘un-cold’, however it was all a bunch of cooped-up New Yorkers needed to let loose. A+L met K+M on the Lower East Side. As we crossed over the Williamsburg Bridge, the level of excitement was apparent. Streets were packed with patrons and restaurant after restaurant had open patio doors letting in the (mildly) warm air. It was a great taste of spring, although in the end, just a teaser, as it snowed again just a couple of days later.
We were meeting down at Verlaine on Rivington Street, who definitely gets the award for best happy hour, as it is EVERY day and lasts until 10pm! Plus our favorite special of the night… the $5 Lychee Martini… the best deal in the city. A+L arrived first and ordered up a couple of cocktails; L was sticking with a beer, not being tempted in the least by the inexpensive fruity drinks. Even at five dollars, it just wasn’t his style. With one round down, K+M joined us at the bustling bar. Every table was full and the bar was several people deep, but A+L had used elbows to secure our piece of prime real estate. With a tab started, K+M began to catch up quickly.
The plan for the night… Martini Time! and then awesome Mexican a block away at Barrio Chino. The Mexican joint was tiny and extremely popular, especially for the late night, post-bar munchies; therefore, they offer a fabulous service. Although they do not accept reservations for groups under 8, you can stop by and put your name down and they will then call your cell phone when your table is about to open up (usually an hour or two later). Genius! This allows for ample time to pre-game elsewhere at any one of the vast watering hole options on the surrounding blocks. K+M proactively dropped our names off and we were informed of our 90 minute wait time. Sadly, we had no choice but to continue to sip Lychee libations and chat with super friendly New Yorkers until we received ‘the call’… just terribly… awesome.
Just slightly ahead of schedule, Barrio Chino beckoned us back. And it was just in the nick of time! Five dollar martinis can be a verrrry dangerous thing. We needed some food- stat! We walked the block or so to our next establishment, dodging hundreds of fun loving 20 somethings, and found the eatery to still be shoulder to shoulder, even at nearly 11pm. We were seated at four seats at the end of a large communal table and proceeded to order enough guacamole for “a giant” (at A’s request). Yum! Then some tacos, a couple of tostadas, some unique margaritas (A got the grapefruit and L, the jalapeño) and a glass of water to wash down two Advil, and it was time to head home. It’s quite possible we may regret this in the morning…
Like to give feedback? Wanna recommend your favorite restaurant, bar or New York activity? Complete our new 12 question survey!
Cocktails- 2+2www.VerlaineNYC.com Southeast Asian, Cocktails, Manhattan
Named after the French poet Paul Verlaine, the NYC version is better known for for its happy hour specials than French Symbolist poetry. At one time the Lower East Side was one of the most notorious neighborhoods in NYC, but today it is full of a very young and hip crowd who pack the bars and restaurants seven days a week. Possibly for this reason, Verlaine has one of the best happy hours in NYC. Seven days a week until 10pm the bar is packed with young locals downing Verlaine’s very famous $5 Lychee Martinis (Paul Verlaine studied at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris. Coincidence? We think not.), Southeast Asian Sangrias, Vietnamese Bloody Marys, basic cocktails, house red and white wines and $3 Yuengling beers. If none of those wet your whistle, Verlaine has a slew of other reasonably priced signature drinks with names like the Lawnmower and the Hanoi Martini.
We decided on three Lychee Martinis (A+K+M) and a Yeungling (L) and couldn’t drink them fast enough. What is it about happy hours that makes you feel the need to drink so fast? We must have put back 4 drinks each in an hour or so.
The friendly bartenders manage to keep the drinks flying off the bar in spite of the place being packed elbow to elbow during happy hour. Just step up, flash some money and be ready to order. This isn’t a place where you can step up to the bar without knowing what you want.
The inside of Verlaine is long and narrow. The ceilings are tall which is a relative oddity in this part of the city. The lighting and paint give the room an almost pink hue. Kind of what you would think a Miami club in the 80s would look like. Adorning the walls of Verlaine are themed art exhibits that change from time to time. If the conversation with your friends starts to die, you can always play the game of “what the heck is that painting supposed to be?”
If the happy hour was not enough, Verlaine has a tasty-looking menu with Asian tapas. Though we didn’t have any during our visit, the people around us seemed to be enjoying the food. It’s hard not to be happy during a happy hour with cheap food and cheaper drinks.
What we drank…
- Lychee Martinis (A, K, M)
- Yuengling Lager (L)
K: Love love love this place. Definitely the best happy hour in Manhattan.
L: A nice selection of cheap drinks during the happy hour. It was absolutely packed in there. I opted for the $3 Yuengling beers which went down extra quick as the happy hour came to a close.
M: The Lychee is a beautiful thing, these drinks go down real quick, and the price helps them go down even quicker. On the top of my list for happy hour in NYC.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- The BEST happy hour destination! Lively, fun, cheap!
- Drinks- 4: Stellar! Wouldn’t change a thing!
- Tip Worthy- 4: Double the tax and then some.
- Coordinates- 5: Block- Fun is right next door.
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green light! We’ve been too many times to count.
Dinner- 2+2www.BarrioChinoNYC.com Mexican, Cocktails, Manhattan
If you didn’t know Barrio Chino existed, you could easily walk by its plain façade with dim lighting, and illegible sign. We’d like to say it’s one of New York’s best kept secrets… but the word seems to be getting out. With Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner menus, this restaurant is bustling around the clock.
On this evening K+M proactively stopped into Barrio Chino before Happy Hour to put our name on the list for a table. As they don’t take reservations for parties under 8 people, we knew there would be a long wait on a Friday night. So, we planned ahead and put our names in, received our projected wait time of 90 minutes, and then waited for the phone call summoning us back to partake in the delicious Mexican fare.
The exposed brick walls and wooden tables give this spot a cozy, rustic feel. It is a small space, with one long communal table, less than a dozen smaller tables, and a long bar with additional seating; however, beggars can’t be choosers when the wait is nearly two hours. Fortunately the rustic, yet sexy, ambiance that overwhelms the space makes every placement comfortable. We landed four seats at the end of the communal table, right in the center of the restaurant. We were able to enjoy the Asian-inspired Mexican art that hung on the exposed brick, and Chinese lanterns that hovered above us.
As soon as we sat and got settled, our drinks orders were taken right away. A+L decided to try out a couple of the many creative, authentically prepared Margaritas on the list, K ordered a glass of sangria, and M decided hydration was necessary, so he ordered some agua fresca. We already knew Chips & Guac were a must, so we put in our order immediately…. oh, and we thought it was best to make it double! We were hungry! There is no such thing as too much guacamole.
Our freshly prepared chips, guac, and salsa were served on quintessential blue and white Mexican dishes, which added to the already homey atmosphere. All of our proceeding dishes were delicious. We especially loved the rice & beans and steak tacos. The food almost had a light quality, which was refreshing, as some Mexican food (when not prepared well) can be very heavy; it is most likely due to the freshness and quality of the ingredients. While Mexican cuisine is not usually fancy, all of our dishes at Barrio Chino were served tastefully…. though, nothing lasted very long on our plates! Mmm!
Our meal is never complete without dessert! We, of course, had to try the Strawberry Flan (flan is always a must!), and the Strawberry Tacos sounded so intriguing, we couldn’t resist trying them, too! The flan was delicious, but the Strawberry Tacos were a little too dry and didn’t go well with the tortilla. Perhaps a little fried ice cream on the Strawberry Tacos would liven them up a bit.
Barrio Chino is worth the wait…just be sure to have a 1- to 2-hour plan in the meantime. The Lower East Side is jam packed with wine bars, lounges, and speakeasys; it would be hard to NOT find a great pre-dinner spot to grab some drinks while you wait for your long-awaited phone call with the exciting news that your table will be ready in 5 minutes… just enough time to close out your tab, and walk on over to Broome and Orchard. Depending on the time you actually finish dinner, you may even want to have a post-dinner drink spot lined up, too! Fear not, fun is right next door.
What we ate…
- Grapefruit Margarita (A)
- Sangria (K)
- Jalapeño Margarita (L)
- Water- Boo! (M)
- Guacamole and Chips (2+2)
- Shrimp Tostadas (2+2)
- Black Beans and Rice (2+2)
- Steak Tacos (A+L)
- Pork and Mango Tacos (K+M)
- Strawberry Flan (2+2)
- Strawberry Tacos (2+2)
A: Loved this place! Young and fun… the perfect final destination for late night eats after a night out perusing the plethora of nearby watering holes.
K: This place is always busy… which means their food is always fresh! It is bustling at all hours of the day. The food is delicious, authentic, and cheap! Definitely plan to put your name in and have a nearby spot in the wings to hang out at while you wait for them to call you!
L: I absolutely LOVE authentic Mexican food and this place hit the spot. I could eat here every day. If you have more than two people order a double of Guacamole and Chips. It goes fast!
M: I’ll have some more Guacamole and then after that I’ll get the Guacamole. O and then I’ll take a double order of the Strawberry Tacos. I need to go back to this place, soon. (Maybe tomorrow, maybe even tonight)
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Absolutely mobbed Mexican disguised behind Asian decor and mood lighting
- Food/Drinks- 3.5: Pleasantly stellar!
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity included.
- Coordinates- 5: Block- Fun is right next door!
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green light!