Our favorite festive venues for holiday drinks, dinners and parties
The greatest gift of December, in my opinion, is the chance to go out as often as humanly possible before New York’s long, depressing, cold winter sets in. All those group drinks and fancy nights out are worth the next day’s headaches because I know that soon the holiday lights will come down, the polar vortex will be back, and I will be eating so healthy, I won’t be able to leave my carefully stocked fridge.
Seeing as we’re about to enter a new decade, there is even more reason to celebrate/wash down your anxiety in the company of friends. If you haven’t already made a plan for a big night (or day) out, these six venues are the perfect backdrop for your festivities.
Holiday Drinks and Snacks: Sleyenda
Every year the Latin cocktail bar Leyenda, co-owned by Julie Reiner of Clover Club fame, turns into a wintry wonderland of holiday drinks served in kitschy Christmas glassware. The fun of their “Sleyenda” pop-up is trying to make your way through the playful drink list, from the homemade egg nog to the Gingerbread House Party, served in a glass ornament. Their light bites will keep you from going off the deep end, and this year they’re also introducing an outdoor “snow globe” for private parties up to 10. This is the perfect spot for a nightcap after holiday shopping in the neighborhood, by the way, or dinner at the new HiHi Room. Just enjoy it while you can: the lights come down December 31 to make way for a New Year’s Eve fiesta. 221 Smith St., Carroll Gardens, (347) 987-3260
Drinks, Snacks and Singing: Insa
If you consider karaoke to be as cathartic as therapy, then there is no better group session in New York than Insa’s private karaoke rooms. Order bar snacks like fried chicken and scallion pancakes and share a Scorpion Bowl, a tropical punch that you may or may not pay for the next day, and sing to your heart’s content for $60/hour for small groups of up to 10 (or $30/hour Mondays through Wednesdays). There’s a large room available, too, but whichever you choose, book in advance because the nights do fill up. And if you don’t score a room, they also offer free karaoke on the third Thursday of every month from 10pm-2am in the bar; that translates to December 19 this month, an optimal night out before the holidays. 328 Douglass St., Gowanus, Brooklyn, (718) 855-2620
Dinner and a Show: Turk’s Inn
This recreation of a Midwest, Middle Eastern supper club featuring signage and accouterments from the original Turk’s Inn in Wisconsin is as festive a setting as you can get for a celebratory dinner. At a birthday party there this summer, a friend remarked that the red-hued room was like “having a pleasant evening inside a fire pit.” If you can, get a seat at the round booth in front, where a Lazy Susan can help each member of your group access the delicious dip platter and kebabs. Or make it a date night—the reservations will be easier to come by—and plan it so that you can take in a show before or after. The sleek, in-house venue, The Sultan Room, the sexy Nutcracker Rouge, and Buskwick Starr are all great options. 234 Starr St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, (718) 215-0025
Fancy Date Night: Buvette
Spend a night imagining you live in an adorable townhouse in Greenwich Village and eat out every night of the week at cute bistros like Buvette. Their no-reservation policy means you will be able to score a seat in this petite restaurant, which serves tapas-style portions of decadent dishes like rabbit à la moutarde, so long as you’re willing to stroll around the neighborhood a bit or have a drink nearby while you wait (twist my arm). 42 Grove St., Greenwich Village, NY, (212) 255-3590
Dinner for all your friends at the drop of a hat: Brooklyn Cider House
Brooklyn Cider House’s two dining rooms can seat up to 200, so they will have plenty of seats for your party without you needing to book far in advance. There’s a full bar for the non-cider drinkers, though even if you’re abstaining you may want to do some “cider catching,”$8 a la carte or free with a prix fixe meal ($45) that includes two catches. Groups line up conga style and get a “cider buddy” to help pour the raw, uncarbonated cider in a glass at a slight distance from their 80-year-old chestnut barrels to aerate it and make it bubbly—the perfect, weird group activity to get everyone in the spirit. 1100 Flushing Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn, (347) 295-0308
Booze-Free Brunch: Golden Unicorn
Skip the drinks and big night out, and have a festive brunch instead at this classic dim sum palace in Chinatown. The wait is often no longer than 20 minutes, and if you don’t come with a group, you’ll join others at a table in one of their ornate rooms so it will still feel like a party. The gold and red decor and custard-filled buns shaped like pigs are instant mood lifters, and the bill won’t bring you down afterward. 18 E Broadway, Chinatown, NY, (212) 941-0911