80 Grove St., at Sheridan Sq.; 212-924-3558; manhattan-monster.com
Slightly bordello-ish piano bar upstairs, dance bar downstairs. Tourist-y and B&T-ish but still fun, with "strong drinks," notes HX's Hemmel. "Go-Go Idol" competition very popular.
50 West 17th St., nr. Sixth Ave; 212-691-0073; splashbar.com
The glossy megabar that signaled the hood's early-nineties gay-mecca boom is still going strong, complete with go-go gods under the showers and throngs of tourists, B&T types, and locals, who cram in to sing along to vintage showtune clips on Musical Mondays. "It's the biggest gay-every-night dance floor in the city," notes Next's Moylan.
554 West 28th St. nr. 11th Ave; 646-473-1866; eaglenyc.com
This two-story leather bar, relocated here in the early aughts from its longtime home on 21st St., is the lone holdout in an area once thick with dark-vibe gay dives. Now it's surrounded by bridge-and-tunnel megaclubs (it's right near a Scores bar!) but still draws old and young guys in beards, jeans, and old T-shirts. "Probably the only place I would want to go to in Chelsea," says Butt's Michael Bullock. In summer, the rooftop Sunday night Beer Blast (with cook-out!) is a boozy, cruisey ritual.
275 West 22nd St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-645-8613
Opened in 1995, it's the only bar in Chelsea that even approaches East Village black-box minimalism and live-act subversion. "Still the best and longest-running drag shows in New York," saysHX's Hemmel. "And a great place for a late-night pick-up." Drag shows are Sunday through Thursday.
The Lounge Circuit
Most of the gay venues in Hell's Kitchen are of the glossy, fancy-martini lounge variety, some with food, some without, all with standard gay thump-thump music. They include Bamboo 52 (344 W. 52nd St. nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-315-2777), Barrage (401 W. 47th, nr. Ninth Ave.; 212-586-9390), H.K. Lounge (523 Ninth Ave., nr. 39th St.; 800-781-0466), the Ritz (369 W. 46th St., at Ninth Ave.; 212-222-4177), Therapy (348 W. 52nd St., nr. Ninth Ave; 212-397-1700), and Vlada Lounge (331 W. 51st., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212.974.8030).
Ninth Avenue Saloon
656 Ninth Ave., nr. 46th St.; 212-703-1503
A reprieve from the hood's glossy lounge circuit, so down-to-earth and, well, saloon-y, you might not know it's gay but for the rainbow flag and the blue-and-black-striped leather-pride flag hanging behind the bar. (The manager brought them along from his old gig at the long-defunct meatpacking-area leather bar the Lure.)
221 W. 46th St.; Midnight Saturdays at Club Cache
The party for young hot lesbians of color. Hip-hop and R&B. "It's one of the few parties I go to," says GO's Lesser. "And I'm white."
Uptown (East and West Sides)
236 E. 58th St. nr. 2nd Ave.; 212-754-4949
Ritzy piano bar, 20 years old this June. "For the older gentleman," says Next's Moylan. "We're Upper East Side elegant," says Michael, a Townhouse assistant manager. "Kind of like a country home." No drag shows here--ever. There's also a dress code. "Casual dressy," says Michael. "No cut-off shorts or tank tops." What, no Daisy Dukes? "Khaki walking shorts are fine."
221 E. 58th St., at Third Ave.; 212-355-3395
Formerly a gay bar called Oscar Wilde, now with "a sophisticated lounge vibe," says Moylan. That doesn't stop the wet-boxers contest from happening every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, though.
40 E. 58th St. at Madison Ave.; 212-308-1546
For Asian men and their admirers.
Brandy's Piano Bar
235 E. 84th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-744-4949
Victorian-saloon-type piano bar, dating back to the seventies, with about fifty-fifty gay-straight clientele and a mostly gay staff. Nightly belters include some Broadway vets.
The Tool Box
1742 Second Ave., nr. 91st St.; 212-348-1288
Small but stalwart hangout attracts lots of Bronx guys.
309 Amsterdam Ave., at 74th St.
Legend has it that this no-frills pub—pool table, jukebox, Pac-Man and pinball machines, $4 beers and $6 cocktails—dates back to the thirties as a lesbian bar, but "nobody really knows the history for sure," says manager Amonte DeMarco. When the bar's gay owner died some 30 years ago, he willed it to his sister and her husband on orders that they keep it a gay bar, and they have, catering to neighborhood guys in their forties and up.
992 Amsterdam Ave., at 109th St.; 212-222-4600
Hard by Columbia, Suite, opened in 2004 out of the old gay haunt called Saint, is the only gay bar in the area and has a come-one-come-all multiethnic, multigender vibe, chockablock with home-style drag shows and karaoke nights.
Orbit East Harlem
2257 First Ave., at 116th St.; 212-348-7818
Owner Dee Hengstler bought out her three lesbian co-owners, but all their friends still come, giving this Italian corner boîte and late-night cocktail joint a "Cheers for everyone" feel, says Hengstler. "You'll have nuns next to the gay women next to the hairdressers. And everybody ends up talking to each other." Live rock on Wednesdays and live Latin music on Fridays, plus two big TV screens for game-watching.