This New NYC Subterranean Lounge Is the West Village’s Next It-Girl Hangout

Credit: Ricardo Escalante

Who can resist the charm of a vibey new cocktail lounge in Manhattan’s it-girl neighborhood? We certainly can’t. Hidden below Jajaja Mexicana in the heart of the West Village is Bar Nena, a sexy subterranean speakeasy with Mexico City-inspired flair.

Credit: Ricardo Escalante

Once downstairs and past the front entrance, the essence of CDMX is captured through contemporary and classic Mexican design elements (think: terracotta-tiled floors, lush greenery, and bold colors). A cave-like atmosphere is revealed through raw stone walls accented by warm orange and golden-hued ambient lights that illuminate the cozy space. Banquet seating swathed in velvet red fabric lines an entire wall, setting the scene for intimate conversations. Its six-seat bar top steals the show with its aesthetic recessed shelves sporting a curation of fermented and agave spirits. Original light fixtures droop from the low, wood-planked ceiling, while a glittering disco ball adds another dimension to the already suave ambiance.

Credit: Ricardo Escalante

Pivoting our focus to the innovative cocktail menu, head bartender and Mexico City native Gio Maya sprinkled the libations with distinctive memories from flavors of his upbringing—drawing inspiration from his favorite after-school snack to the sugar fields his grandparents harvested. Notably featuring a trio of fermented beverages, each drink is grounded in an ancient Mexican tradition—including the Tejuino, which is based on an elixir derived from the indigenous peoples of Mexico combining masa with water and piloncillo—which effectively drives home the authenticity of the lounge.

Credit: Fabien Desgroux

Hints of sweetness can be found in the gin-forward Besame, sporting a subdued magenta color from its beet-infused mixture. For a touch of spice, we’d order the Cemita with taco-seasoned mezcal and chipotle that’s balanced with fresh lime juice and agave. There’s a selection of playful twists made to classic concoctions, such as the CDMX Manhattan, which spins an original Manhattan by utilizing mole-infused rye among other flavors, or the Mi Horchata, which is their take on the popular Carajito Mexican cocktail that mixes espresso, Ancho Reyes, and Liquor 43.

Credit: Ricardo Escalante

As for the comida, we loved the fried wheel chips seasoned with tajin, Valentina powder, and lime, as well as the four-bite Tinga Empanadas made with a homemade chicken tinga recipe (a Mexican dish made with shredded chicken in a sauce made from tomatoes, chipotle chilis in adobo, and sliced onions) and dolloped with sour cream, a jalapeño slice, and cilantro. Also, the Ceviche Tostones is a savory dish dressed to impress, highlighting housemade marinated watermelon and thinly sliced red onions as garnish. Our final take on the late-night bites: each dish is perfect for sharing and pairs well with any of their cocktails.

If you’re looking for a vibrant new spot to bring zest to your nightlife, then Bar Nena is the place for your next weekend outing.

Top Takeaways

Location: West Village, New York City

Address: 63 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

Cuisine: Mexican Cocktail Bar

Price Point: $$

Takes Reservations: Yes – Resy

The vibe: A swanky underground cocktail lounge that evokes the feel of a Mexico City-inspired speakeasy; it’s an ideal spot for first-date drinks following a meal upstairs at Jajaja.

Our favorite thing on the menu: The drinks here were off the charts at Bar Nena. We especially enjoyed the Besame—a sweeter concoction featuring gin, beets, cinnamon piloncillo, lime, tepache, and prickly pear. Additionally, the Pelicula, accompanied by a side of popcorn neatly clipped onto the glass, paid homage to the popcorn-infused tequila blanco within the drink—different, we know, but it’s delicious.

The attire: Smart casual

Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner: Open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6 PM to 2 AM, or simply put, ‘until late’ in the city that never sleeps—New York City.

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