In a city where space is at a premium, the rooftop bar is as much necessity as it is a treat. But oh, what a treat. It’s nearly impossible to argue with the blissful combination that is city views, sparkling sun and drink in hand. All that said, luxury comes with a price, and many of the rooftop bars in New York follow suit, charging exorbitant prices for a measly beer, much less a fancy cocktail.
Keyword being many. There are affordable (and awesome) rooftop bars to be had in this fair city, and we’ve rounded them up for you, dear Cheapos. The list that follows includes only bars with beers and cocktails in the $6-$11 range, at least during happy hour. However will you repay us? Well, we’d love for you to share your rooftop party photos and dispatches—now get to (roof) drinking!
The roof of this Lower East Side playground is equal parts sleek and airy, with a deck, potted palms and white lounges. The drinks aren’t necessarily cheap, but they aren’t the most expensive we’ve seen either. We recommend bottling this spot as a happy hour place (the scene gets a little crazy late at night anyhow). Happy Hour: $2 off every drink, Monday through Wednesday, 5-7 p.m.
You don’t get more iconic New York than the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And its roof bar, surrounded by still more art, plus Central Park and West Side Manhattan views? Well worth a $9 beer (or a splurge on a $14 cocktail). The café is open (and serving wine and beer) from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily, and the martini bar is open until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Foodie darlings Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich joined forces to bring this cheery beer garden to the roof above their popular Italian food emporium, Eataly. Many beers come (surprise) from Italy, but there are also housemade ales, brewed 30 feet from where you’ll mingle with friends, strangers, and views of the Flatiron, Empire State Building and Madison Square Park. There are also wines on tap.
125 N. Fifth Street
You don’t have to be a Francophile to visit this Williamsburg favorite. The cavernous and festive restaurant is one thing, but the roof garden takes whimsy to a whole new level. Frenchy-themed cocktails (think a Citronelle Sucre made with lemongrass gin, grapefruit juice and basil) range from low to average ($8-12) in price, and beers and wines start at an affordable $7, with some bargain wines by the bottle as well.
Any farther west and you’re in the Hudson, but what you get for trekking to no man’s land are sweeping views of the river and an extra dose of swank. We’ll be honest, a Cheapo this place is not, so the only time we recommend going is during happy hour, when it’s two-for-one drinks (Tuesday through Friday 5-7 p.m.).
A dark sports bar downstairs, Midtown 1015 brightens on the roof, with brick floors and red umbrellas. Drinks here are fairly affordable all the time and downright cheap at happy hour. Monday through Friday from 4-8 p.m. you can score $4 Budweiser, $5 wine and $24 pitchers of sangria.
4 Berry Street
It’s beer only on the roof of this mammoth beer hall (cocktails and wine are available downstairs), and the scene is just what you’d expect a Williamsburg roof garden to be: concrete floors, a smattering of simple-yet-hip picnic tables, smokestacks (and gleaming new condos) rising—and Manhattan stretching out in the distance. Most beers are under $10.
The Hotel Chantelle’s unmarked doors open to a moody, 1940s-esque hideaway, but up on the black-and-white roof things are far more casual. Drinks are pricey by night, so the time to come is brunch, when mint juleps, mimosas, bellinis, and bloodies cost a mere 92 cents (yes, you read that right). There is often live music during brunch as well.
Hudson River views and 75-plus brews on tap make this Meatpacking District beer hall the place to be on a perfect summer night. Doubly so if you like your Guinness—these Irish bartenders are known for their perfect pours. Come Monday through Friday between noon and 7 p.m. to receive $2 off domestic beers and wines.
Night of Joy
667 Lorimer Street
In Manhattan, bespoke cocktails culled from fresh fruit and botanicals would cost upwards of $13 (sometimes even $20), especially if served among twinkle lights and planter boxes on the roof. In Williamsburg, the concoctions on the handwritten menu run $10 and less at all times—and $6 during happy hour (daily from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.). Paper lanterns combine with graffitied brick walls for the ultimate urban-chic effect.
It’s hard to believe that tucked inside an unassuming Koreatown La Quinta Inn, house one of the quirkiest rooftop bars in the city. It’s nothing fancy, but with a position in the shadow of the Empire State Building and drinks that run $7-12 regularly or $5 during daily happy hour (5-7 p.m.), it doesn’t have to be.
Anything to add? We’re always on the lookout for more affordable rooftop bars where we can spend our summer evenings. If you have your own favorites, let us know in the comment section below.