For the second year in a row, a bar in New York City’s Lower East Side has won the top honor in the annual North America’s 50 Best Bars ranking, an offshoot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
This year’s winning bar, Double Chicken Please, originally began as a pop-up in 2017, before moving into a permanent brick-and-mortar space in 2020, located on Allen Street just off of Delancey. Helmed by co-founders GN Chan and Faye Chen, it appeared on last year’s inaugural North America list at No. 17 (and No. 6 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, which made its inaugural debut in fall 2009).
Double Chicken Please is actually two bar concepts in one: The Front Room and The Back Room. Each space offers a different ambiance—the Front Room is fast-paced, first-come, first-served with an industrial interior design and a hip-hop playlist. In contrast, the Back Room is by reservation only and features lounge music and cozy, mid-century decor. The drink program for each venue is designed to match their unique vibe. In the Front Room, all drinks are served on-tap, and the selection is designed based on classic cocktails with a seasonal twist (like an Aperol spritz with passion fruit).
For the Back Room, Chan tells AFAR, “We believe nothing tastes better than nostalgia. For The Back Room drink menu, we apply ‘hacking design’ to deconstruct a dish and extract the flavors to rebuild all the flavor components into a liquid format.”
Some of the current Back Room cocktails include one inspired by Japanese cold noodle (made with Bacardi Superior, pineapple, cucumber, coconut, lime, and sesame oil), Waldorf salad (consisting of Dewar’s 15-year, Laphroaig 10-year, apple, celery, ginger ale, and walnut bitters), and cold pizza (with ingredients that include Don Fulano Blanco, Parmigiano Reggiano, burnt toast, tomato, basil, honey, and egg whites).
New York City bars had a big showing on this year’s list, including: Katana Kitten (No.3), a Japanese bar and restaurant in Greenwich Village; Dante (No. 6), which dates back more than 100 years; Overstory (No. 7), a classy cocktail bar in FiDi; Attaboy (which topped last year’s list, now No. 13); Employees Only (No. 14); Mace (No. 18); Martiny’s (No. 29), Maison Premiere (No. 39), The Dead Rabbit (No. 44), Clover Club (No. 46), and Milady’s (No. 50).
In addition to New York City’s 12 bars, the United States nabbed 28 total slots. Mexico saw 14 winners, eight of which were in Mexico City, including Handshake Speakeasy (No. 2 for the second year in a row) and Licorería Limantour (at No. 4). Canada grabbed seven spots the list, with the highest ranking being Civil Liberties (No. 13) in Toronto. La Factoría (No. 24) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the only bar in the Caribbean to make the list.
Mark Sansom, director of content at World’s 50 Best (an organization that regularly ranks the top restaurants and bars in the world), tells AFAR there’s no single defining feature that makes for a best bar.
“What each of our 260 judges looks for in a ‘best bar’ experience is entirely up to them. For some, it may be the music, the glassware, the drinks themselves, or the ambiance— we simply ask them for their seven best bar experiences of the 18-month judging window,” Sansom says. “We invest a lot of time and effort in making sure we have the best panel possible, and our trust is out in them and their experience to select the best.”
Sansom adds that the anonymous voters (a group that comprises 50 percent bartenders and bar owners, 25 percent drink writers and educators, and 25 percent consumer cocktail experts) rated Double Chicken Please highly for a variety of reasons, including the design, the food-inspired drinks, and the service style.
“Personally, I loved its ingenuity. I’ve not experienced a bar as original and new as Double Chicken Please with such authentic soul in a very long time,” Sansom says.
The best bars in North America in 2023 (the complete list)
- Double Chicken Please, New York City
- Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City
- Katana Kitten, New York City
- Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
- Jewel of the South, New Orleans
- Dante, New York City
- Overstory, New York City
- Kumiko, Chicago
- Café La Trova, Miami
- Thunderbolt, Los Angeles
- Zapote Bar, Playa del Carmen
- Civil Liberties, Toronto
- Attaboy, New York City
- Employees Only, New York City
- Bar Pompette, Toronto
- Baltra Bar, Mexico City
- Rayo, Mexico City
- Mace, New York City
- Botanist Bar, Vancouver
- Hanky Panky, Mexico City
- El Gallo Altanero, Guadalajara
- Sabina Sabe, Oaxaca
- Arca, Tulum
- La Factorìa, San Juan
- Café de Nadie, Mexico City
- Kaito del Valle, Mexico City
- Herbs & Rye, Las Vegas
- Pacific Cocktail Haven, San Francisco
- Martiny’s, New York City
- Death & Co, Los Angeles
- Selva, Oaxaca
- Atwater Cocktail Club, Montreal
- Service Bar, Washington, D.C.
- Sweet Liberty, Miami
- Cloakroom, Montreal
- Cure, New Orleans
- Mother, Toronto
- Milk Room, Chicago
- Maison Premiere, New York City
- Aruba Day Drink, Tijuana
- Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu
- Yacht Club, Denver
- Bar Mordecai, Toronto
- The Dead Rabbit, New York City
- Allegory, Washington, D.C.
- Clover Club, New York City
- Brujas, Mexico City
- Platform 18, Phoenix
- Youngblood, San Diego
- Milady’s, New York City