Among the long list of things to do and sights to see in New York City in Summer for any visitor should be its many rooftop bars for their slice of city life informality and scenic skyline scenery. All in the name of travel research I squeezed a visit to a pair of Midtown watering holes into a fairly busy schedule on a recent Gotham visit and came away very different experiences.

Refinery Rooftop is perched atop the 13th and top floor of the Refinery Hotel, a chic boutique hotel that debuted in 2013 and pays homage to the building’s former role as a hat factory with a retro 1920’s feel. The hotel boasts an impressive location blocks from the Empire State Building, Macy’s, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center and Times Square.

The Empire State Building is in fact the star of the space, looming large day or night in every selfie or serious photo. Mine was somewhere in between.

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This year-round indoor-outdoor 3,500 square foot space with its  retractable glass roof has a rustic charm with its exposed brick, filament patio lights, and comfortable seating that creates an intimate feel of a friends backyard garden patio than a giant lounge in the sky.

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The covered main bar is a good spot to stand drink in hand and scan the venue which was two-thirds full on my mid-afternoon Summer Sunday visit. After a really warm welcome from the bartender and some input on different, local beers selected a $9 pint of season ale from Vermont’s Long Trail Brewery from the drink menu.

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The lunch menu offers a good selection of light bite appetizers, salads and flatbreads including a tempting “Butcher’s Meatballs” I considered but passed as a big supper and wine dinner with friends was a few hours away.

It’s no wonder the Refinery Rooftop was named as USA TODAY’s reader choice award for number one hotel bar in the country for the second year in a row in its 2017 awards as it offers a cozy floor plan and memorable view from a super central Midtown address with varied menu and great service. What’s not to like?

Refinery Rooftop is open Monday – Thursday 11:30am – 1:00am, Friday from 11:30am – 3am and Saturday & Sunday from 12:00pm – 1:00am.

A few short blocks away but miles apart in terms of customer service in my experience is Rock & Reilly’s NYC, a sprawling 10,000-square-foot ‘Irish pub meets Hard Rock Café’ lounge at the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel with 80% of the space being outdoor and covered by a retractable roof.

Rock & Reilly’s is a small chain of rock ‘n roll theme pubs that includes clever cocktails on its drinks menu with musically inspired monikers such as “Welcome To The Jungle”, “Sage Against The Machine” and “Free Fallin”.  Instead of a cocktail with a cute name I opted for a $9 pint of Pacifico, a light, crisp Mexican pilsner-style beer and sat down to drink it and the fifth floor city views in.

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To down that beer however took more effort than expected as not finding any table wait service after several minutes I wandered in to the nearest bar to the outdoor deck but was advised by the bartending stocking its supplies it was closed so kept going to the main indoor sports bar with its bank of big screens offering an array of sports.

Heading back to my outdoor table it was impossible not to notice the small crowd on a Summer Sunday afternoon around 3:30 PM.

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There is a variety of high bar tables, low sofas and sectionals and high-backed booths spread around the indoor & outdoor areas separated in spots with greenery that tries and fails to recreate a garden-like feel because of the sheer size of the outdoor deck.

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The gastro-pub lunch & dinner menu of Rock & Reilly’s offers up some fusion foods like Irish Nachos along with more traditional bar offerings including burgers, wings and Mac & Cheese.

I was a little underwhelmed by my visit to Rock & Reilly’s which seemed an enormous empty space with impersonal service but understand my visit may have been on an off day for the venue and in looking at the bright side there was no trouble finding a table with a view.

Rock & Reilly’s  is open daily 7am to midnight.

I’d drafted a shortlist of Manhattan rooftop lounges but sadly due to time constraints made it to only these two leaving me several dozen to experience on a future visit. It’s always good to have a plan.