New York

17 Best Dive Bars in NYC

They're the beating heart of Big Apple nightlife.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

The term dive bar invites many interpretations, after all what are the required qualities of a dive bar? Cheap drinks? Dingy floors and surfaces? A dank bathroom? Being super old? It’s hard to say exactly, and maybe it comes down to more of the feeling you get when you’re inside: comfort, mixed with nostalgia, spiked with the charming aroma of stale beer. These are bars where drinking is the priority, and nobody’s going to pretend otherwise. Which is probably why New Yorkers love them so much. At a dive bar, you know what to expect: no frills, no pretension, and probably no food. But cheap drinks. Always cheap drinks.

And there’s never been a better time to pull up a barstool at your favorite local haunt, now that New York officially ended its Covid-era allowance of to-go drinks. Many dive bars have also set up outdoor seating in order to embrace the times. And in April Governor Cuomo discontinued the Covid-era law mandating that food must be served with any alcoholic beverage-a definite plus for the return of the dive bar in full, old-school force.

Ready to get to drinking? Us too. Read on for some of the top dive bars in the city.

Due to COVID-19, some restaurants and bars are currently requiring proof of vaccination. Make sure to call ahead to verify entry requirements as they may change frequently by venue.

Alibi

Fort Greene
Grimy and grungy, this downstairs bar is popular with lifers and Pratt college students alike, thanks to its Big Buck Hunter game in the back room, pool table, and jukebox. The low tin ceiling, a lone strand of Christmas lights, and graffitied peeling paint provide the only décor-but there is a serviceable patio with tables. Most importantly though, the drinks are stiff and cheap (there’s a $3 happy hour), ensuring this is a drinker’s bar more than anything else.

Botanica Bar
Botanica Bar
Botanica Bar

Botanica Bar

Nolita
This slightly-below-ground-level spot is dimly lit, filled with worn vintage furniture, and has a spacious backroom often hosting a DJ, band, or karaoke. It attracts a post-work hipster clientele who enjoy the laid-back vibe, pizza, and above-average drinks (try the Ginger Yum-Yum) at moderate prices.

Blue Ruin

Hell’s Kitchen
A little less dingy than some of the other spots on this list, Blue Ruin features a tin ceiling, exposed brick, and repurposed wood floor and bar. It’s going for an old timey look, but it actually opened in 2009. Still, the drinks are well made by the accommodating bartenders, the music is loud, and the pool table in the back is often in use. Oh, and the men’s room is plastered with vintage Playboy magazines.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Do or Dive

Bedford-Stuyvesant
A hipster haven from the owner of Lucky Dog and Skinny Dennis, the decor here is irreverent and the drinks slightly more complex than a typical dive (see the boozy frozen coffee slushie and list of nutcrackers). Bartenders are friendly and the back patio is more pleasant than it needs to be (dogs welcome!). The kitschy sign is in homage to the previous tenant here, much loved and acclaimed restaurant Do or Dine.

Flickr/GmanViz
Flickr/GmanViz
Flickr/GmanViz

The Dublin House

Upper West Side
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Dublin House was opened in 1921 by the Caraway family from Ireland, first as a speakeasy during Prohibition and then began operating officially as a pub in 1933. Today it’s owned by Mike Cormican, an Irish bartender who bought it in 2006. The iconic neon harp outside is lit whenever it’s open, the long wooden bar is the original from 1921, and the linoleum checkered floor has stood the test of time. The thing to order is a pint of Guinness or glass of Jameson and then join the conversation with the friendly clientele.

Farrell’s Bar & Grill

Windsor Terrace
A South Brooklyn legend, Farrell’s has been a time capsule of old school Brooklyn since it opened in 1933. Mostly remaining unchanged (minus the iconic Styrofoam cups that had to go when the city instituted the Styrofoam ban), the tin-roofed, no frills bar has functioned as a community meeting place for the borough’s young and old for decades. It’s also the end point for Park Slope’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and has attracted the likes of Harvey Keitel and Shirley MacLaine in the past. Expect ice-cold beers, lots of regulars, and a feeling of history.

Glacken’s Bar & Grill

Mott Haven
The oldest bar in the Bronx, Glacken’s has been welcoming working-class patrons since 1940. Second-generation owner Tom “Pops” Glacken is a fixture at the bar and known for welcoming all, and his son Tommy (also an owner) is also a constant presence. News clippings, photos, and memorabilia dating back to World War II adorn the walls, and the only beers available are Bud and Bud Lite.

Kelly’s Bar & Grill

Astoria
This Irish watering hole has been around for decades, and it’s a dive bar through and through. No draft or craft beers, a crew of regular barflies, no food to speak of (unclear what the “Grill” in the name refers to) and a pool table in the back. It generally attracts an older crowd but bartenders are friendly and capable and prices are low.

The Library
The Library
The Library

The Library

East Village
A punk rock bar with a jukebox to match that screens movies on the back wall and has shelves full of books, The Library is a dive with an attitude that any culture lover will appreciate. Plus, the bartenders are friendly, prices are low (especially if you snag the two-for-one happy hour deal), and there’s a solid booze selection. We’ve started and ended many a night here, and it’s always full of happy bar-goers glad to be out.

Lucy's
Lucy’s
Lucy’s

Lucy’s

East Village
People are obsessed with Lucy, the eponymous owner of Lucy’s. The Polish babushka has been tending bar here since the 1970s (under its previous name and location a few blocks away) and she can usually be found behind said bar chatting with regulars-it’s a favorite of off-duty bartenders, neighborhood locals, and Polish immigrants. The dated décor is classic dive bar (some consider it the last true dive bar of the East Village), with plain tables, a jukebox, and two pool tables in the back. Drinks are simple and cheap-and cash only.

Milano’s Bar

Nolita
If a place has been around since the 1880s, it probably has something going for it. In Milano’s case, it’s a bunch of regulars at the narrow bar, a jukebox, and a welcoming enough atmosphere for a few good drinks minus the pretension. Faded photos on the wall, Christmas lights, and reasonable prices complete the picture.

Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Montero Bar & Grill

Downtown Brooklyn
A former longshoremen bar that’s been slinging drinks since 1939, Montero is still family owned, today being run by Joseph “Pepe” Montero and his wife Linda (Montero’s father, a former seaman, opened the bar). After a 15-month closure due to Covid (the longest the bar has ever been closed), it relit its iconic neon sign this May and opened its doors to relieved customers eager to return to the nautical themed watering hole. And thankfully, the raucous karaoke is back, too.

Sharlene’s

Prospect Heights
We’ve spent more than a few New Year’s Eve nights (and others) here, wanting to avoid a loud drunken crowd, actually get a table, and be treated to the straight-to-the-point bartender’s potent pours. Sharlene’s is a neighborhood dive through and through, with well-loved booths, a long wooden bar easy to sidle up to, and pinball machines and a jukebox in the back. Although it’s only been Sharlene’s since 2009, the Flatbush Avenue spot has been a bar for decades.

Sunny's Bar
Sunny’s Bar
Sunny’s Bar

Sunny’s Bar

Red Hook
Dating back to the 1890s, this venerable waterfront saloon came into its current incarnation in the 1990s, managing to draw crowds that were a mix of artists and blue collar workers, even when Red Hook was deemed too hard to get to. Vintage collectibles and knicknacks line the shelves, there’s a comfortable outdoor patio, and there’s often live music. On colder days, try the hot cider with whiskey.

Tip Top Bar & Grill

Bed-Stuy
This family-owned bar is reminiscent of your grandparents’ basement rec room-in a good way. Friendly and welcoming, you’ll often find owners Irene Alston and her daughter Linda Greer, who has lived in Bed-Stuy since she was 4-years-old-behind the bar. Greer’s father, Walter Alston, started the bar as a social club more than 50 years ago; when he passed away his family kept it running. The décor is dated in the best way possible, with permanent tinsel, a Happy Birthday sign, and a photo collage of the Obamas, plus there’s a spacious backyard patio. The jukebox is stocked with late 20th-century R&B.

Welcome to the Johnsons
Welcome to the Johnsons
Welcome to the Johnsons

Welcome to the Johnsons

Lower East Side
When this 1970s basement rec room themed bar opened in 2005, it seemed like a passing gimmick. But somehow the wood paneled room populated with sports trophies , overstuffed floral chairs, and vintage couches has become a beloved hipster dive over time, even spawning a second location in Bushwick. Aside from being comfy and showing old school VHS videos on a tube TV, the drinks are cheap ($2 PBRs from a retro fridge) and the potent margaritas (only available in summer) are excellent.

WXOU Radio

West Village
This neighborhood hole-in-the-wall is filled with baseball memorabilia and has a solid selection of beer on tap and basic well drinks (but no Red Bull, as a helpful sign points out). Prices are fair, only cash is accepted (but there is an ATM), and there’s zero pretension. Regulars sometimes get served faster than newcomers, but isn’t that the way it should be?

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Devorah Lev-Tov is a contributor for Thrillist.

New York

Scavenge for Peeps Cookies and More Fun Treats in NYC This Easter

The best Easter desserts in NYC this spring include Easter Bunny Churros and Carrot Cake Macarons.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.

With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery

Throughout April
Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

Funny Face Bakery

Through Easter Sunday
NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.

The Doughnut Project

Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday
West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.

Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour

The Fragile Flour

Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday
East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.

Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Through mid April
Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.

La Churreria

Throughout April
Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.

Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci

Lafayette

Throughout April
NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Supr√™mes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.

Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain

Levain

Seasonal
Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.

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Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.

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