Cheap bars: Where to drink on budget in New York

Discover cheap bars—and not just dives, either—where a few bucks go a long way toward ending that whole sobriety thing.

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The Alibi Club

The Alibi Club Photograph: Hannah Mattix

Affordable tippling doesn’t have to take place in a dive or during an afternoon happy hour. Need proof? Consult our guide to hundreds of cheap bars for lovers of beer, whiskey and other drinks.


RECOMMENDED: Full list of cheap things to do in NYC


The Commodore

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

First came the gastropub, an import from Britain featuring upmarket pub grub in an ale-drinking setting. Now, welcome the gastrodive, which further blurs the lines between restaurant and bar. The Commodore in Williamsburg, with its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, offers the city’s best

  1. 366 Metropolitan Ave, at Havemeyer St
  2. Average main course: $9
More info

KGB Bar

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice
  • Free

Bespectacled lit chicks outnumber apparatchiks in this former Ukrainian social club. The dim parlor-style bar nestled in the second floor of a walk-up has Cold War decor, cheap Baltika beer, whiskey on the rocks and free readings—all of which lure New York’s literary underground, including stars like A.M. Homes and Kathryn Harrison.

  1. 85 E 4th St , between Bowery and Second Ave, 10003
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Peoples Improv Theater

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

After many years in Chelsea, this improv and sketch theater moved crosstown to a dramatic east-side location with a warm mainstage proscenium stage, a black box in the basement and an inviting bar. Cheap shows and free jams keep the crowds young and lively.

  1. 123 E 24th St, between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave
  2. $5–$10
More info

Tender Trap

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The New York dive bar is an institution in flux. While the old, scum-encrusted stalwarts like Mars Bar fade away, newcomers to the genre often come off as self-conscious replicas of their predecessors, trying their damnedest to appear gritty in parts of town that, for better or for worse, just aren’t that gritty anymore. What’s great about

  1. 245 South 1st St, between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts
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Union Hall

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Upstairs in this bi-level bar, boozers chomp miniburgers and nip at microbrews like Sixpoint in the gentlemen’s-club–style anteroom (decorated with Soviet-era globes, paintings of fez-capped men, fireplaces)—before battling it out on the clay bocce courts. Downstairs, spectators are treated to a rotating roster of live talent, such as

  1. 702 Union St, between Fifth and Sixth Aves
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Beer Authority

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

The craft-beer movement has been in expansion mode recently, colonizing far-flung neighborhoods like Washington Heights (Buddha Beer Bar), Long Island City (Alewife Queens) and Bed-Stuy (Brooklyn Tap House). What’s been glaringly missing from the takeover, however, has been a foothold in the thick of midtown—prime terrain for converting the

  1. 300 W 40th St, at Eighth Ave, 10018
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Burnside

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Who needs a road trip when you've got Grand Street in Williamsburg? The pub-crawl-friendly strip is fast becoming a microcosm of regional dive-bar culture, where you can chase Labatt longnecks at Ontario Bar with slugs of bourbon and honky-tonk ballads at the Dixieland-leaning Lady Jay's. And now, Midwest transplants and their hipster doppelgngers

  1. 506 Grand St, between Lorimer St and Union Ave
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Dirck the Norseman

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Forget farm-to-table—we’ll take tank-to-tap. You can’t throw a bottle cap without hitting a beer bar in Brooklyn, but this Greenpoint suds depot from brew guru Ed Raven—behind bottle emporium Brouwerij Lane and beer importer Ravenbrands—one-ups the competition by crafting its beers on-site. A gleaming row of multibarrel fermenters lines

  1. 7 North 15th St, at Franklin St, 11222
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Evelyn Drinkery

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Like a boozy remake of Weird Science, a trio of cocktail geeks have forged their own fantasy babe from scratch. The beauty in question is Evelyn, a seductive Alphabet City spirits den primped with dripping candles and beckoning soft leather booths. From the black walnut bar comes one of the year’s craftiest new cocktail programs, divided into

  1. 171 Ave C, between 10th and 11th Sts, 10009
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The Iron Horse

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Taking cues from Coyote Ugly, this FiDi saloon makes its bartenders the main event. The all-female cast of boozeslingers is known to perform feats of fire-blowing and hula-hooping while serving cheap swill like $2 Rolling Rocks—one of them may even pull you up on to the bar for a dance. A full menu includes typical bar fare, and if you go there

  1. 32 Cliff St, between Fulton and John Sts, 10038
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The Penrose

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Upper East Side has its share of low-key gems (Torishin) and crown-jewel restaurants (Daniel), but verifiable hot spots? There are few. The idea of a hobnobbing scene in Manhattan’s stuffiest zip code seemed laughable a few years ago—as likely as an electrodisco party in Greenwich, Connecticut. But the Penrose—named for a neighborhood in

  1. 1590 Second Ave, between 82nd and 83rd Sts
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Pork Slope

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Good dive bars, attracting regulars from all walks of life, are as integral to the fabric of the city as rent control, bodega flowers and angry cabbies. Many serve food, but that’s rarely the draw. Occasionally, though, the boozing takes a backseat to the kitchen. The Corner Bistro’s burgers long ago put that West Village hole-in-the-wall on

  1. 247 Fifth Ave, between Carroll St and Garfield Pl, 11215
  2. Average beer: $5. Cash only
More info

Ramona

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Some younger-thans are destined to live in their older sibling’s shadow (see: any Baldwin other than Alec). But a rare few are able to make their own mark: the Solanges, the Elizabeth Olsens. And now, the Ramonas. Ballsier than its forerunner, Elsa, this Greenpoint kid sister amps up the drama: The h0mE design firm (which also furbished nearby

  1. 113 Franklin St, between Greenpoint Ave and Kent St, 11222
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Splitty

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4

Step into this Clinton Hill canteen, and you may find yourself uttering, “Groovy, man.” Andy McDowell— owner of live-music haunt Pete’s Candy Store—styled the amber-lit watering hole after the iconic 1960s Volkswagen camper, affectionately known as a splitty. With its varnished wood paneling, geometric-print pegboard ceiling and the

  1. 415 Myrtle Ave, between Clinton and Vanderbilt Aves, 11205
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Tooker Alley

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Del Pedro, the owner of this tidy Prospect Heights cocktail den on bustling Washington Avenue, cuts a singular silhouette on New York’s mixology scene. Pegu Club regulars will recognize the bald gentle giant from his days holding court in that Manhattan high church of mixology. At this scruffier drinkery, Pedro’s passions—Americana, jazz,

  1. 793 Washington Ave, between Lincoln Pl and St. Johns Pl
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