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Low-key pub with great burgers and beer

Looking for a pub/tavern in Manhattan or the inner neighborhoods of Brooklyn/Queens with the following, in order of importance:

-Great burger
Something that warrants a special trip by non-locals. Could be pub style, steakhouse style, fast food style, gourmet, whatever.

-Low-key atmosphere
I know this is a tough request, but are there any pubs that aren't going to be a raucous madhouse during the early evening hours (before 8pm) on a weekend night? Our group would like to actually converse a little and don't want to contend with obnoxiously loud frat/sorority types.

-Good craft beer selection
A small but quality list is fine; a more extensive list with unusual selections is obviously ideal.

-Classic pub decor
Dark and semi-divey with wooden booths would be great, but that's just one example...at the very least, the place definitely shouldn't have garish decor and harsh lighting like some fast food joint. Also, I'm not really looking into restaurants that happen to serve a good burger like the Brindle Room since it doesn't have the pub-style decor that I'm seeking.

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  1. You sound like you are looking for the real deal.

    In that case a short subway ride outside the confines of Manhattan is required. The 7 train to 40th street in Sunnyside, to visit the inimitable PJ Horgan's. You can't fake the history, you taste it in every bite of the burger. Radeberger is the suggested beverage.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AubWah

      Thanks, I'll look into this spot.

      1. re: Riverman500

        JG has already been crossed off OP's list. OP is seeking the real deal

      2. For what it's worth, some pubs I've been to in the past include Molly's, J.G. Melon, P.J. Clarke's, Corner Bistro, Tavern on Jane, Walker's, Royale, Black Iron Burger Shop, Whitman's, Waterfront Ale House (Manhattan location only), Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien, etc.

        All of these spots are either too loud and crowded on weekends or the burgers are overrated.

        9 Replies
        1. re: italianices

          I don't think there is a bar that is not loud or crowded on the weekend. If you are looking for some good Reubens instead of burgers you can try getting a table at The Jeffrey. The sandwiches are good and their tap list is excellent.

          The summer is a good time for weekends in NYC. A lot of the riff raff flees the city and leaves places a lot less crowded.

          1. re: MVNYC

            Agreed. Just hoping to find a place that's a little bit less raucous and typically patronized by a crowd that's slightly more mature and less frat-oriented than many of the pubs around the city.

            1. re: italianices

              Seriously check out the Jeffrey, their tap list is first rate. I am definitely a beer snob and this is one of the few places that manages to have beers I have never heard of. If you are into beer then you will definitely be happy here. Their reuben is also really good.

              The crowd is also not douchey

          2. re: italianices

            Did you also post on the outer boroughs board? Sounds like you have hit the most popular manhattan pubs...

            1. re: Ttrockwood

              Yeah, I did post there because I wanted to expand my options beyond Manhattan. It seems that I'm always looking for the elusive "perfect spot" for a burger and beer in a mellow pub setting, but a lot of times I'm turned off by the crowd at these places. I realize that crowds and noise go hand-in-hand with pubs in Manhattan, but just wanted to see if there are any gems out there that I may have missed.

            2. re: italianices

              Just out of curiosity, did Walker's fall under the loud, or overrated category. I find it's pretty subdued even on weekends, and while I've had some very off, just-okay meals there, I'm usually glad I gave them a second chance.

              I second Molly's.

              1. re: sugartoof

                I know I'm going to get flogged for this, but I didn't really love the burgers at Walker's. Who knows, maybe I'd built it up too much in my mind based on all the rave reviews or simply tried it on an off-day. Don't get me wrong - the food wasn't bad, but I didn't think it was special, either.

                Also, the beer list was kind of underwhelming, although in all fairness I do realize that they're an older, well-established pub that has a more mature clientele, and places like that typically don't try to cater to beer snobs. And of course, there's nothing wrong with that approach.

                I did like the decor and vibe at Walker's, though. I'd definitely return, but would probably try something else on the menu next time.

                Also, I like the decor and vibe at Molly's, but alas, I didn't enjoy their burger as much as others have. It's perfectly fine, but I didn't love it, to be honest. I'd definitely return if I were in the Gramercy Park area, though.

                1. re: italianices

                  Fair enough. I find the food often surprises in a good way at Walker's, and normally the burger is hard to find fault with - but yes, I've also had the not so special burgers there too.

            3. George Keeley might be an option. It's on the UWS, so the crowd is more 30-somethings as opposed to 21-year-old douchelings. People rave about the burgers (although I've never tried 'em), the ambiance is classic, and the beer selection is really truly outstanding - lots of bottles + rotating taps and free samples from the super-friendly bartenders.


              4 Replies
              1. re: JeffOverley

                George Keeley's serves a classic pub burger with some great onion rings. Perfect to pair with their extensive beer list, as you point out.

                1. re: JungMann

                  They also have that Frikadelle Burger - DH loves that (along with the everything fries or the sweet potato tater tots). A very good selection of beers. Recently had a mint chocolate stout that was quite tasty.

                2. re: JeffOverley

                  Great suggestion - I'll definitely look into this.

                  How loud and crowded does this place get during the early evening hours on weekends? We'd potentially arrive around 6 or 7pm and would stay until 8 or 9pm.

                  And how difficult is it to score a table for a group of 5-6 people?


                  1. re: italianices

                    I would think you'd be safe arriving at 6ish but maybe call to be sure. The place fills up but not that early, and I don't know that it ever gets crazy - it's a fun bar but not a nutso place with everyone standing shoulder to shoulder. Also, most of the tables seat five people and you can probably squeeze in a sixth if needed.

                3. I don't know about any more but at one time Fanelli's fit the bill. It's been a long time for me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: psnative

                    Love the decor at Fanelli's, but I'm not a fan of their food. Maybe things have changed recently, though, as I haven't been there in a long time.

                  2. Mollys might fit the bill-3rd ave and 23rd i think

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: daver

                      Thanks for the suggestion. :)

                      I've actually been to Molly's and find it to be a solid choice overall, but was looking to try something new this time. Also, I don't love their burger as much as some other people do. Different strokes, I guess... :/

                    2. You might look at Harding's (Flatiron)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Thanks for the suggestion. :)

                        Unfortunately, I don't think Harding's has the type of decor and feel that our group is seeking. I definitely want to check it out on my own, though.

                      2. Old Town Bar and Grill on E 18th (Park-Bway) fits your description to a tee with regard to atmosphere and burgers. I'm not familiar with their beer selection. They have two floors, so if downstairs bar is noisy, head for upstairs.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: GaryUES

                          I like Old Town Bar (forgot to mention in my earlier post from yesterday that I've already been there), as I'm a fan of its classic pub decor, wooden booths, and storied history. I used to go there a lot back in the day.

                          Unfortunately, the crowds, long waits for a table or booth, and very mediocre beer list mean that it's been relegated to a backup option at best. For me, it's only worth going when I'm in the Union Square/Flatiron area with a smaller group during off-peak hours.

                          1. re: peter j

                            I like Keens, but i don't think they can accommodate a group of nearly 10 people in their bar area.

                          2. how about Burger and Barrel....the lure burger is really good - it won the Burger Bash a few years ago and looks like a good selection of beers on their menu...

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: italianices

                                Burgers are very good, but it's a more restaurant-y atmosphere than pubby.

                                1. re: howdini

                                  That's kind of what I suspected. Thanks for the info.

                            1. I ate at BH Burger on W. 43rd, just off Times Square yesterday. The burger was terrific and the beer selection was excellent.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mahler5

                                You mean HB Burger by Heartland Brewery? I thought the burgers there were kinda meh, under seasoned, no crust. Plus the atmosphere isn't what the OP is looking for. The interior of HB Burger is well lit, chain-esque, etc. Lots of tourists as well, bit of a wait even early on a weekend night.

                              2. As suggested -- Waterfront Ale House definitely fits the bill.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chompchomp

                                  I'm a big fan of the Waterfront (it's almost a local for me, and I go about once a month), but in the context of the OP's conditions I wonder if it isn't missing that certain intangible warmth he's looking for; the back dining area seems hard to me and almost like an afterthought, such that the diners there might be close to falling out the door just by force of gravity.

                                2. Doesn't Corner Bistro meet all the requirements?

                                  ETA: Never mind: saw your comment re: CB.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: howdini

                                    Except for the fact that the burgers are nothing special and the crowds

                                    1. re: dyrewolf

                                      l could be wrong, but l don't think the crowd would be that bad at the time the OP wants to go.

                                      l like the burgers.

                                      1. re: howdini

                                        I don't know.. I used to go to Corner Bistro 25 years ago... it seemed like a great burger when I was a newly (re)minted city boy in the late 80's... but the burger world seems to me to have moved forward and CB is in one place or maybe even backwards (par cooked burgers in a drawer these days, maybe they always did that??)
                                        I never got JG Melons... and I hate their damn cottage fries. I guess if you grew up on the UES or were a regular when you first moved to NY it could be a fave..
                                        I used to work near Molly's and hit it for lunch often enough or a 6PM burger during the week so I don'tr know what it is at 8PM... anyway, to me that is the classic pub burger.
                                        I like great meat and none of the classic pubs are using a La Frieda blend. At home and in the summer for grilling at the beach I sometimes grind fresh and nothing tastes like that... grinder to grill in under 10 minutes.

                                        1. re: dyrewolf

                                          l've gotta try Molly's: l live relatively close by.

                                  2. Has anyone here tried the burgers at The Malt House on Thompson St in the Village? The photos and reviews on other sites look promising, but I'm always a bit wary of bars near NYU.

                                    What about Upright Brew House on Hudson St in the West Village?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: italianices

                                      Fwiw, I ate with my son, the burgerholic, at Burger and Barrell again early last night, and that bash-style burger is pretty damned good. The happy hour price is $10 with fries & two very good onion rings speared to the top. A pair of deep-fried fish tacos for $7 and a $3 Pork Slap ale in a can completed a cheap and tasty meal.

                                      If you can deal with the non-pubbiness, it's a great happy hour meal/deal.

                                      1. re: howdini

                                        Sounds great, I'll definitely have to try it.