Ask the Critics: Where Can I Have a Low-Key Birthday with Good Beer?


Christopher P. asks: After a brief stint in Delaware, I am finally making my return to NYC. I am looking for a bar or restaurant for a “birthday party hangout” that can accommodate 20 to 30 people who can meet and not have to shout over Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” and where there’s decently priced hand-crafted beer or some soul-warming wine. I’m looking for a casual atmosphere where people can have fun, drink, and be merry. If dancing accidentally happens later in the evening, I won’t fight it.

Dear Christopher: First off, a hearty welcome back to the Big Apple! That in itself is cause for celebration, don’t you think! While it’s true that the city that never sleeps boasts a lot of loud bars playing Katy Perry, here are some more relaxed spots that I think would make for a fun celebration.

I think Berry Park might be fun, because the space is huge, and it’s a rooftop setting, and who doesn’t love that? The beer garden offers a huge selection of both German and non-German brews, plus there’s a good selection of sausages and other snacks should you work up an appetite post-drinking!

If you want something a bit buzzier, maybe check out the Woods, a bar/beer garden in Williamsburg that has a large outdoor area plus a taco truck out back. A raised platform becomes a dance floor, and there’s a DJ on weekends. Go early for chatting/drinking/eating, then stay on later for dancing if you so desire.

If you’re looking for something in Manhattan, though, Clandestino might be a good bet. There’s ample table seating, and the music isn’t too loud, so your guests can meet and greet — it’s just a nice laid-back setting. Bua in the East Village can also be quite pleasant, though it’s best to go here on a non-weekend so as to avoid the college crowds.

Should you prefer grape to grain, you might want to check out City Winery, which is quite large (21,000 square feet!) and good for hosting parties (though the ambiance can sometimes be a little generic). And for something more intimate, head to Anfora, a wine bar with a really interesting selection. It’s a nice spot with large circular banquettes that make mingling easy. But go early or on an off-night — it gets really crowded during prime hours and 25 people might be too many to handle.

Hope this helps. Welcome home!