There are a lot of restaurants in New York City: the grubby dive spot; the ethnic joint; the fancy place; the grab-’n-go. But if there’s a type of restaurant that loves to get wild, it’s the party restaurant. A magnet for celebrations, these dream bachelor-party restaurants like to throw down while serving up great bites, and their party vibes are perfect to get you in the mood for your big night out.
If Las Vegas and Harlem hooked up, their kid would be something like Vandal. This downtown restaurant on Bowery is where groups of party people go (yes, party groups, it’s not couple- or family-friendly really) when there is a big celebration or when party-hungry guests are in town or when you need a table for a gazillion. It has the unmistakable feel of a nightclub (i.e., bouncer at the door) only there’s tons of globally inspired sharing plates (fish tacos paella, meatballs). Of course, food here is an afterthought as it’s all about seeing and being seen. Reservations are definitely a must.
Beauty & EssexBeauty & Essex
When the Lower East Side started to significantly gentrify, Beauty & Essex was one of the new businesses leading the pack. It hasn’t changed much, and it’s still a popular party place for hip, stylish, loud, and rowdy crowds to congregate and grab some grub with their cocktails.
Once you get past the storefront (it’s an actual pawn shop, which is pretty baller in-and-of itself), you’re in a hidden place with four dining rooms, two bars and a lounge. Expect elevated global cuisine (with heavy Spanish and Asian influence), like tuna poke wonton tacos, chile relleno empanadas and pan-seared scallops. The restaurant is such a hit, one actually opened in Las Vegas last year, with another to come to Los Angeles.
The Stanton SocialThe Stanton Social
The Stanton Social on the Lower East Side is not a place you want to go for an intimate conversation: it’s loud. But that’s the point here. All three floor of this establishment are marked by a pretty significant party vibe and, unlike other wild restaurants, the multi-ethnic sharing menu has become its strong suit. The higher you go, the quieter it gets, but it’s still a place to meet everyone sitting around you (tables are packed in close). There is always a good-looking crowd and striking interiors to match, and some people spend their entire nights here. Stanton Social is owned by the same restaurant group as Beauty & Essex and Vandal, but all three have very different atmospheres.
The Meatball Shop84 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
Meatball lovers rejoice at the Meatball Shop. It’s now a chain (there are seven locations throughout NYC), and the owners who opened the first, modest little shop on the Lower East Side are now millionaires. It shows you can go a long way with a meatball, and it didn’t hurt that they garnered a huge cult following of young, hip diners who like simple, delicious food. The Meatball Shop restaurants are always lively with music pumping, tattooed waiters making their rounds, and the perfect ambience all around. They also serve up some pretty decent cocktails for $11, and are known for their punch bowls (suitable for groups only: think sangria and “fool-aid” punch that will knock yo’ ass out). While it’s not a fist-pumping affair, the vibes are always good, especially later in the night.
Tijuana Picnic161 Essex St, New York, NY 10002, USA
You don’t need a mariachi band to have a fiesta, and Tijuana Picnic knows how to get down. This Mexican-inspired restaurant on the Lower East Side (yes, another Lower East Side restaurant… see the pattern here?) serves up plenty of sharable, south-of-the-border dishes, like five different tacos, Mexican bean salads and empanadas. You’ll have to wash dinner down with Mexican beer or, the restaurant’s specialty, a Mezcal cocktail. While the upstairs area, complete with long picnic tables and booths, is lively, the dark, Art Deco-ish subterranean den with long wooden bar is probably more your jam. After hours, it turns into a dance party with DJ and disco ball if you’re feeling particularly loco.