8 NYC Clubs That Aren’t Too Clubby

At first glance, there are two distinct nightlife options available to you. There’s your ultra familiar, slightly sticky, local dive, where the bartender never smiles at you but knows how you take your whiskey. If you’re willing to sacrifice both frills and thrills, this could do the trick. On the other hand, if you crave adventure beyond your own street corner, you can't deny the appeal of the certain ballrooms or former strip clubs or high-rise rooftops where you can dance all night (in heels). But, the second option comes at a high price: It's likely you'll spend an evening in close quarters with men in dramatically unbuttoned dress shirts cuddled up to $300 bottles of Grey Goose. Not necessarily our idea of fun.
But, all hope is not lost. We would be doing you a disservice if we didn't share our knowledge of the mythological beast Gotham has borne in recent years: the club/dive-bar hybrid that has incredible music, cheap drinks, and good people all under one beautiful, sweaty roof.
The clubs on our list are golden spaces, where you don’t have to contend with Buck Hunter, a jukebox full of Nickelback, or dudes who think their pool game justifies a radius that keeps you pinned in a corner. They also spare you dress codes, oppressive techno, and you won't risk coming home smelling like Axe body spray and evaporated Stoli Raspberry. Click through for the eight bottle-less, model-less clubs to check out this weekend. Grab your dancing shoes. Let's go!
modelless-club-02Photographed by Nina Westervelt.

Bizarre Bar
Bizarre Bar’s enormous brick-walled space plays host to occasional burlesque nights and is appropriately full of bordello design flourishes, like an ornate metal ceiling and red upholstered couches. But, we’re really here to talk about the minimal downstairs basement that's perfect for dancing. (For the record, every bar should have a dance basement.) Conceived of a year ago by its French film director-owner duo, Bizarre’s downstairs is a gallery by day and dance floor by night. While the space doesn’t fill up on some weekend nights, everyone is there to dance and the extra space lets you get really, really serious about it. DJs play a carefully curated mix of '90s rap and chopped-and-screwed R&B, although some of the more straightforward electro can fall flat in a space this airy.

Bizarre Bar, 12 Jefferson Street (at Myrtle Ave), Brooklyn; 347-915-2717.


Bossa Nova Civic Club
Bossa Nova Civic Club is like if your all-time favorite bar met your all-time favorite indoor pool and they had the most incredible, drunk, humid wedding. Illuminated by ghostly blue and green lights, Bossa Nova’s black vinyl booths and tropical decor surround one of the most consistently fun dance floors in New York. The main room, pulsing with playlists from an unquestionable roster of DJs, gets increasingly crowded throughout the night. But with drinks this cheap and music this good, it’s easy to surrender to the push and press. Occasional $10 cover, free for “members” (the events that mint memberships are few and far between). Bossa Nova Civic Club has the best vibes.

Bossa Nova Civic Club, 1271 Myrtle Avenue (at Hart Street), Brooklyn; 718-443-1271.

modelless-club-03Photographed by Zac Sebastian.

Passion Sports Bar Lounge
We hesitated putting Passion Lounge on this list; it is, for all intents and purposes, an actual club. It has grinding, bottle service, and something called “Seductive Saturdays.” It also self-identifies as a hookah lounge, so take that with the grain of enormous salt it deserves. Despite having the trappings of a slimy lounge palace, Passions also plays host to amazing parties thrown by labels like Night Slugs (L-Vis 1990, Kingdom) and Fade to Mind (Kelela). On those nights, Passions is a club that does not make us want to die the moment we enter. Instead, we want to stay and dance, maybe forever.
Passion Sports Bar Lounge, 990 Broadway (at Ditmars Street), Brooklyn; 347-955-5888.


Tropical 128
A roster of highly diverse DJs determines the ambience of any given night at Tropical 128. As such, it can be hit or miss, and certain nights definitely could boast Frat Nightmare on a flyer. That aside, there’s a lot to be said for the cheap, palm-frond-adorned cavern with no cover and a sizable dance floor in the heart of Chinatown. Everyone has to go and get obliterated drunk on blue-flame scorpion bowls and pickle backs at Tropical at least once, if only to drum up the courage to incorporate the pool tables in the back into an elaborate dance routine at three in the morning.

Tropical 128, 128 Elizabeth Street (at Broome Street); 212-925-8219.
modelless-club-04 Photographed by Hailley Howard.

Sugarland is officially a gay club and one of the loosest and least pretentious dance-bars in Brooklyn. (If "dance-bar" is not a thing, it should be.) Drinks are already cheap, but on certain nights stripping to your underwear will earn you a free shot. This is amazing, and it also increases the possibility that later in the night, you’ll be leaning over the balcony, lovingly screaming at the talented drag performers down below. The vibe at this Williamsburg club is shiny and friendly and everyone seems to always be in a good mood. The cover is usually flexible before midnight. We’re fans, and you will be, too. Plus, there’s a skeeball nook, so, enough said.

Sugarland, 221 N 9th St (between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street), Brooklyn; 718-599-4044.

There’s really nothing like Output. No other club comes close to its insane, widely praised Funktion One sound system and no-frills, no-nonsense philosophy. Output is the purest, strictest embodiment of the model-less, bottle-less club doctrine, going so far as to officially ban suits, glow sticks, bottle service — even taking photos. A sprawling megalopolis built for people who like to dance to the music they care about, Output features a consistently exciting and evolving roster of DJs and live bands, though with that can come with hefty cover charges. The venue might only be a year old, but it’s quickly carved a definitive niche for itself (in our hearts). Don’t overlook the smaller Panther Room next door, where Q-Tip DJs every Wednesday, and definitely don’t forget about Output’s very un-Standard rooftop setup once it gets warmer.
Output, 74 Wythe Avenue (at N. 12th Street), Brooklyn; no phone.

modelless-club-03Photographed by Zac Sebastian.

Tandem Bar
Tandem is business in the front, party in the back. While the front room might be a straightforward Art Deco bar, the back room is a darkened paradise swirling with sprawling light projections, heavy electro, and top 40. Some nights are better for dancing than others (Thursdays are our favorite), but the music and lights are on all weekend long. Props to Tandem for enabling that rare transition from drinking vodka tonics on a sweaty dance floor to cozying up to a glossy wooden bar with a glass of scotch without having to step foot outside. Also, try the strange-but-brilliant orange-cream-soda-flavored energy drink that's on tap and provides fuel for the night.
Tandem, 236 Troutman Street (between Knickerbocker and Wilson Avenues), Brooklyn; 718-386-2369.

Home Sweet Home
All of the time, Home Sweet Home is a moody, cavernous dive bar with baroque vibes and an emphasis on taxidermy and mid-range drink prices. On weekends, however, this Chrystie Street bar turns into the writhing, sweaty, sh*t show of your dreams/nightmares. Consistently solid music elevates the disco ball-lit, rough-hewn stone floor to a dance club of legendary proportions. Check out their calendar for highlights like the odd Thursday that features New York Night Train’s funk, soul, and R&B set.

Home Sweet Home, 131 Chrystie Street (between Kenmare and Broome Streets); 212-226-5709.