Gray's Papaya in the West Village. Milady's in Soho. And pretty soon 7A in the East Village, too. For whatever reason, there've been a ton of high-profile, well-loved NYC spots that've recently closed-up shop. And it's the worst.
All of this led us to ask the question: would you rather go deaf in one ear, or only be able to use the Internet for one hour per week? And that led us to ask the other question: if these restaurants can't make it, what's to stop all the rest of our non-glitzy standby favorites from going down as well? So we came up with a list of bars we hope never, ever close, and included some stories that only such places can create. Go to them. Drink in them. Keep them around forever.
Jeremy's Ale House
"The best post-college bar with bras hanging from the ceiling and beers served in giant, styrofoam cups (that somehow feel classy, rather than trashy), Jeremy's also has way-better-than-it-needs-to-be fried seafood."
- Andrew Zimmer
"I have no idea how they pay the rent on this billion-square-foot basement on proceeds from Scrabble rentals and hour-long blocks of shuffleboard alone, while STILL paying a live jazz band that’s honestly pretty great, but I hope they keep doing it forever."
- Ben Robinson
"For various reasons, our Tech team is unwelcome at Botanica. And yet, they're still welcome at Milano's. Also, Milano's has the best sandwich board creative in town."
"If this is what Chelsea was like in 1936, when Peter McManus opened, then Chelsea was pretty damn great in 1936. Bartenders straight from central bartender casting, and regulars who have literally never even heard the word 'brunch'. One night, I lost my credit card, but it was still saved on my Seamless account, so I had five orders of mozzarella sticks delivered, in a monsoon, and traded the bartender for drinks until the rain stopped."
Old Town Bar
"I’ve never felt more ensconced by a urinal in my life. At least not in the good way. The fried clams are also comforting. And for those who didn’t know that there’s an upstairs: there’s an upstairs."
WXOU Radio Bar
"A couple years ago, I found myself in the West Village during SantaCon, which was a mistake, but Radio Bar had none of them in there. Best. SantaCon. Ever. Also, they've got excellent poster/jukebox game."
Upper West Side
"Never have I ever had the opportunity to order cocktails, prime rib, and sushi all at the same bar, and feel totally unafraid of any of them. Well, maybe a little afraid. But I’m still alive, I swear."
"This place is great because of tallboys, metal on the jukebox, Buck Hunter, old-timey windows, and the only bathroom on the planet that I actually have fond memories of. The smell of it (not quite dry paint?) somehow makes me nostalgic for the time I couldn't get in it because there was a 90% chance someone was either doing something illegal, or having sex in it."
Waterfront Ale House
"A few years ago, I left an expensive umbrella under a table there, walked two blocks, then remembered the umbrella, and walked back to get it. It was gone! Now every time I go back, I’m reminded why I can’t have nice things. Also: even though the Waterfront is basically my Mom, there's really nowhere else to go in this semi-neighborhood except that crazy Guinness bar I've never set foot in (Editor's Note: Paddy Reilly's is kinda great and has great open mic nights). I hope Waterfront sticks around so I'll always have someplace to responsibly drink 50 beers and eat a very satisfying burger after an unsatisfying movie at Kips Bay. Do you guys have plans tonight? Want to go see The Legend of Hercules?"
"One time I was murdered in that weird underground hallway that leads to the bathroom. I never found out why the guy did it, but I think that just makes the story more interesting."
All of Red Hook
"Just, all of it."
"During the Blackout of '03, my friend T was at a rooftop party in Tribeca. For reasons he has never explained, there were a bunch of male models at this party. T corralled everyone down to Nancy Whiskey, which stayed open, because Nancy Whiskey is powered by a force greater than electricity. Amazingly, one of the male models ordered a green apple martini. The bartender started banging on the bar and screaming at him to get his green apple martini-loving ass out of the bar. That really sums everything up: so friendly they'll stay open during a man-made disaster, but wonderfully ornery about who they'll stay open for (note: T lies a lot, so it's possible none of this actually happened.)."
"Buy a drink, get a hot dog. One time I was all 'Theoretically speaking, what if I bought a drink and wanted something OTHER than a hot dog?', and they gave me a little plastic basket of the most delicious cheese balls that ever left orange residue on someone’s shirt. The next time I went, I bought a drink and asked for them again. The bartender said they’d never had cheese balls. I took my hot dog and decided I should stop drinking quite so much."
"Foolproof formula for making you feel like you’re not in the West Village when you’re actually in the middle of the West Village: juke box, cheap beer, cheaper whiskey, and a female bartender who likes all those things more than you."
"There may not be another place on the planet where you can eat dumplings, play pool on a zebra-print table, and watch caged go-go dancers, and not feel weird about any of it."
"In 2006, I was drinking at Tempest Bar with the guy who would eventually go on to expose Brett Favre's penis. It was January, and I'm 99% sure I had bronchitis, but even though I was hocking up a lung and wheezing enough to be hooked up to a machine, I kept drinking anyway and wound up with a hangover that lasted a month (or possibly an illness that lasted a month). Tempest is the kind of place that makes you feel like a weakling if you let failing organs stand in the way of irresponsible consumption. We can't lose places like that."
"If you've never taken part in the roller coaster of emotions that double-fisting beers in a borderline-tourist trap can give you, that might be a good thing. Or not?!? We're not sure. (Also see: White Horse Tavern.)"
"A last bastion of old Williamsburg booze-hounding amongst the ever-rising skyline, please never take away our 32oz cups of beer and strong-as-f**k margaritas."
"The first time I stepped foot in here, I couldn't believe it existed for so long without me knowing about it. The stories of how great the bartender is? All true, much like (probably) the ones about the ladies of the night."
"The weirdest NYC scene I’ve ever witnessed, happened here. Me and a high school friend who bartended at Boxcar in the ‘90s were talking to a regular who made so much money cashing out before the Internet Bubble burst, he could afford to spend his time taking fencing classes just because. He was explaining how he hurt his back practicing with a wire hanger, when this very clean-cut, bald guy in a starched business button-down piped up and said, 'Did I hear you say fencing?' We were like, 'Well, really we were talking about how spectacularly bored our new friend is…', but the guy jumped off his stool, grabbed a fencing bag, and proceeded to gear up. Meanwhile, his date – who by the way was a professional – was distraught (despite being a professional). As Fencing Man thrusted and parried to the delight of everyone and no one, she ran into the bathroom, then emerged with a folded up piece of paper she handed to the bartender, and asked her to read. Very reluctantly, the bartender read what turned out to be a poem. It was not an awesome poem, but if you wrote a poem about her writing the poem in the bathroom and the fencing and the Internet, that would be an awesome poem. Also, they have a kick-ass happy hour."
1. Mama's Bar34 Avenue B, New York
2. Jeremy's Ale House228 Front St, New York
3. Fat Cat75 Christopher St, New York
4. Milano's Bar51 E Houston St, New York
5. Peter McManus152 7th Ave, New York
6. Old Town Bar45 E 18th St., New York
7. WXOU Radio Bar558 Hudson St, New York
8. Hi-Life477 Amsterdam Ave, New York
9. Vazacs Horseshoe Bar / 7B108 Avenue B, New York
10. Waterfront Ale House540 2nd Ave, New York
11. Sly Fox140 2nd Ave, New York
12. Nancy Whiskey Pub1 Lispenard St, New York
13. Rudy's Bar & Grill627 9th Ave, New York
14. Johnny's Bar90 Greenwich Ave, New York
15. 169 Bar169 E Broadway, New York
16. Tempest Bar407 8th Ave, New York
17. McSorley's Old Ale House15 E 7th St, New York
18. The Turkey's Nest94 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn
19. Billymark's West332 9th Ave, New York
20. Boxcar Lounge168 Avenue B, New York
Mama's in the East Village is a dive bar in every sense of the word, except for the fact that they are serving up some of their own "house infusions" like bacon-infused bourbon. Just think of the possibilities...
This South Street Seaport-adjacent ale house offers serious brews (in 32oz Styrofoam cups) and old school charm. Open for over 40 years, Jeremy's remains a longstanding local favorite due to its lack of pretension; generous pours; and fresh, affordable seafood menu (where else in New York can you eat a lobster roll for under $10?). Well-worn bras hanging from the ceiling and nautical, vintage bric-a-brac accentuate the dive bar decor.
Fat Cat's impressive rows of ping pong, pool, and shuffleboard tables, plus Scrabble galore, will boggle the mind even before the shockingly good live jazz gets going. Don't expect to get a table right away -- especially on the weekends -- but if you're interested in entering one of its gaming tournaments, check out their website for an updated list of dates, times, and prices.
At this Nolita gem, rock tunes blare from the jukebox and stools are littered with barflies who have been coming for years. Milano's has been in operation since the 1880s (with a short break due to a little something known as Prohibition), and it’s the kind of establishment where the scents are as much a design fixture as the Christmas lights, faded pictures, and memorabilia on the walls. You don’t come here for fancy cocktails: you come here to drink.
Peter McManus Cafe is the perfect dive bar in Chelsea serving up cheap drinks without all of the attitude you'd likely find at other places in the area.
While many other bars are trying to create it, old-school New York charm comes naturally to this institution, which has been slinging drinks since 1882 (then known as Viemeister’s). The charm, however, is not the only anachronism that makes it so popular: Old Town also boasts a mahogany bar, distressed mirrors, a dumbwaiter, and high, tin ceilings.
The WXOU Radio Bar is a cash-only watering hole in the West Village. They have a kick-ass jukebox and a sign above the bar that reads "No Red Bull"...
You will be drawn to the Hi-Life in the UWS be their prominent neon street signs and cheap beer. This Art-Deco bar has a cozy feeling, an inviting atmosphere and flame-grilled burgers. That's the Hi-Life.
Vazacs Horseshoe Bar, also known as 7B, is an East Village staple with a star-studded history. The arched castle-like doors and rough brick exterior served as the façade of the Life Café in the movie Rent, and the interiors were used for The Godfather, Part II and Marvel's Jessica Jones. To East Village/Alphabet City locals, it's known as the perfect dive to meet your friends and throw back some cheap beers.
BBQ and craft brews are the name of the game at this Midtown establishment. They have a selection of over 20 rotating craft beers and another 80+ bottles both domestic and international.
Four dollar for a PBR and a shot, yes please. The Sly Fox has been serving up this special for ages and all right under our noses in the East Village.
This Tribeca dive has been serving up burgers, whiskey, and shuffleboard games since 1967. It's consistently named one of the best dive bars in the city, likely for its sub-$5 drinks and decidedly charismatic bartenders who'll serve your hot fries with a wink and smile.
Rudy's Bar is one of the oldest dive bars in New York City history, and one of the first bars to get a liquor license when prohibition ended in 1933. It's got a pretty extensive list of draft and bottled beers for a dive (all at fantastically low prices), and free hot dogs with the purchase of any drink. The staff at Rudy's is always friendly and inviting, making it a favorite among tourists and locals alike.
A colorful, lively tavern and taproom, Johnny's in the West Village is a neighborhood dive, through and through. No matter the day of the week, neighborhood barflies zip into this cozy counter space (the bar is roughly the size of a subway car) and knock a few back after hours. The collage-like aesthetic of the narrow, brick-walled interior space only adds to its friendly and intimate feel.
Drenched in colored light and decked out in palm trees,169 Bar may read a tad tacky, but that’s because it is. It’s earned that right after being around since 1916 (when its original name was the “Bloody Bucket”). Striptease dancers perform on a tiny platform alongside worn red booths as a funloving crowd guzzles cheap beer, frozen cocktails, and oyster Bloody Mary shooters (yes, they have a raw bar, but expect to be served on paper plates). A leopard print billiards table lives in the small back room, just don’t be shy about asking patrons to move for that winning shot.
The Tempest is another dive bar in Chelsea but without all the sparkles and shiny countertops that adorn many of the watering holes in the area. Come by for a round or two of darts or to give it a go on their new pool tables.
Opened in 1854, McSorley’s is the oldest still-running saloon in NYC, and was one of the last “Men Only” pubs in NY (until 1970). When you visit, you’ll truly feel like you’ve stepped into a bit of city history -- after all, you'll be sitting at the very same counter Abe Lincoln and John Lennon did. McSorley’s also keeps it real with just two beers -- the house ale, light or dark, and nothing else.
Right across from McCarren Park, Turkey's Nest is a dive bar in Williamsburg known for serving drinks in huge styrofoam cups. It has all the fixins of an actual dive: cheap drinks, pool tables, a few TVs, and a jukebox.
Billymark's West has all the staples of a conventional dive bar, a jukebox, pool table and stiff drinks. Billymark's West is a certified hidden gem in the sea of Midtown.
Boxcar has happy hour deals every night of the week for you and your friends to enjoy. They also have an awesome backyard patio that can be enjoyed in the summer or winter via their retractable awning.