The 10 Best Independent bars in York (in our humble opinion)

It’s been 20 years since we served our first drink on Little Stonegate and we’ve seen it all in that time. There’s taxidermy-adorned walls. The unstoppable rise craft beer and street food. Shipping container pop-ups. Showstopping live music venues. Debauchery-inducing nightlife. Experimental cocktail haunts. The odd theme bar. And a pub for every day of the year. But who is still standing, and who does it best?

Join us for a tour of York’s top independent pubs and bars, outside of our own four walls at Kennedy’s and Sotano.

The (original) House of Trembling Madness

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After labouring tirelessly to bring the first floor of this former shop back into use, proprietor Ian Loftus has struck gold with his medieval ale house. Pass through the bottle shop stocking 5,000 tipples and you’ll be transported back in time. The animal skins and skulls on the walls, a fine beer selection and makeshift seating arrangements squeeze every ounce of pleasure out of this impossibly small pub. The equally-tiny kitchen somehow also manages to produce moorish beer bites from opening to close. Due to its size getting in can sometimes be a challenge but, fear not, a second Trembling Madness can now be found down the road on Lendal.

Cave du Cochon

Sister wine bar and bistro to fine dining restaurant Le Cochon Aveugle a few doors down, Cave du Cochon is a leisurely affair packing an illustrious 200-strong wine list. A personal favourite of the top dogs at Kennedy’s, the team behind the bar are always generous with their time and expertise. Before you know it you’ll be sipping wines from every corner of the globe, without any of the usual pretence of similar establishments. Once you’ve built up an appetite simply swap menus for impeccable food pairings. We recommend the Shetland mussels & XO sauce and pulled pork bun & chimichurri!

The Habit

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Time for a change of pace. A beacon for roaming artists and troubadours visiting York, The Habit’s live music is the envy of just about every other pub in the city. Punters huddle round the small downstairs bar to get best possible spot to soak up the acoustic talent on show, with singer-songwriters David Ward Maclean‎ and Dave Keegan regularly luring in passers-by. Upstairs is no less lively, as in-the-know clientele assemble to the sun trap terrace to recount their weeks over a few drinks and the hum of the crowds below. Co-owner Simon Evans has worked wonders as his micro pub consistently punches above its weight.

The Maltings

This first notable pub you’ll encounter if arriving into York by train. Wears its heart on its sleeve, which beats emphatically for no-nonsense ales, solid pub grub and well-mannered locals. Nothing here is pushing boundaries, nor is it trying to. The Maltings is an unapologetic proper old-fashioned English boozer and one you’ll want to return to time and time again.

The Angel On The Green

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A relative newcomer on the list, The Angel On The Green has been just the tonic for Bishopthorpe Road mourning the loss of Cycle Heaven’s main shop. Greeting you with a warm welcome reminiscent of a long-lost friend it’s the kind of place you could accidently lose all day in. We know because we’ve fallen victim to its spell ourselves. Perched on the corner of York’s trendiest street The Angel’s patio is the perfect place to watch the world go by. Or pass through the pint-size front bar into one of the spacious back rooms for service with a smile and to-die-for pizzas. There’s no stopping in for a quick drink here. You’ve been warned.

Pavement Vaults

The self-proclaimed beer and barbeque canteen could be accused of being a bit confused. However, we think it’s a marriage made in heaven. Pavement Vaults has quickly become another gem in the Pivovar Group crown, carving out its own niche in York. Very few places could successfully juggle busy city centre bar and smoked meat feasts, but it somehow works. We recommend ditching the crowds and heading downstairs to claim a booth. If the beers are going to keep on flowing you might as well make yourself at home.

Fossgate Social

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York hadn’t yet had the pleasure of hipsters before Fossgate Social opened its doors. Now Fossgate is crawling with them, leading to a rapid gentrification of the area. The Social is their unofficial meeting point, serving flat whites and avocado laden brunches like there’s no tomorrow. Orders getting slightly more alcoholic with each hour, with a delicious staple of cocktails and co-owner Mike’s latest homebrews. You could be excused for thinking there’s a vicious cycle going on here. A savvy bar serving both poison and cure. Either way, it’s an arrangement that suits both parties and nobody seems to be complaining.

Guy Fawkes Inn

The original birthplace of York’s most famous son, from whom it gets its name. This place is steeped in history and retains much of its original features and clientele. You could return in another 400 years and it will remain virtually unchanged. A higglety-pigglety collection of intimate spaces lead you to a secret courtyard out back where we often go when we want to feel like tourists in our home city. You’ll find all sorts in here. Each with their own story to tell to anyone sitting by the roaring log fire. So get yourself a drink and listen in.

Pairings

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Cheese and wine – need we say more?! Pairings’ in-house sommeliers are all too happy to stretch your palette beyond its original dimensions. Put your trust in their recommendations of and you’ll find a new favourite tipple or two. We’ve dropped in for a platter or two on more occasions than we care to admit and line-up, and service, have always been faultless. Best suited to date nights and intimate gatherings.

Plonkers

This place could have easily been the inspiration for Cheers. Full of colourful characters, great beer and a Boston-like vibe, this unusually-underground bar is where you go to escape it all. If you’re thirsty and peckish it’ll satisfy both, without making too much of a dent in your wallet. Plonkers has remained true to itself from the day it opened and is a real treasure in York’s pub scene.

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