East River Tattoo
In the summer of 2007, off the coast of Red Hook, a makeshift submarine staged a nonviolent attack on the Queen Mary 2. The sub—constructed by artist Duke Riley—was basically a sphere made entirely of wood and metal, modeled on a Revolutionary War–era submersible. He’s a madman, but one with a vision. Before he was staging daringly anachronistic sea raids, Riley was working at spots like East River Tattoo, which opened in 2000. Today, Riley, Liam Sparkes, Sue Jeiven, and MXM are the people to see for traditional maritime styles.
Price per hour: $200–$400
Fun City Tattoo
Jonathan Shaw started inking locals from his apartment nearly 40 years ago (back when tattooing was illegal) and then opened the storefront Fun City in the early ’90s. The legendary figure has retired to South America, but his New York City institution—which has served the likes of Johnny Depp, Jim Jarmusch, Dee Dee Ramone and Sepultura’s Max Cavalera—continues its operations in the East Village. Fun City’s five current artists—Big Steve, Mina Aoki, Claire Vuillemot, Benjamin Haft and John Raftery—can do most anything, from lettering and Japanese to American traditional.
Price per hour: $100–$250
Greenpoint Tattoo Co.
John Reardon, the owner, is also the author of seminal beginner text The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting a Tattoo. (It definitely can’t hurt to give it a look before making any permanent life decisions.) His two-year-old studio specializes in classic American designs, and the artists—Reardon himself, Chuck Donoghue, Hillary Fisher-White and Mark Cross—are all friendly and accommodating.
Price per hour: Roughly $200
Majestic Tattoo NYC
Sometimes a traditional Sailor Jerry body stamp just isn’t enough. Adal Hernandez, the proprietor and sole regular artist at this Tribeca gem, specializes in more abstract, psychedelic pieces, things you might come up with after getting stoned and reading At the Mountains of Madness cover to cover.
He got his start in Chicago and Texas, but has been tattooing in New York for 15 years (the last one and a half of which have been in the Majestic studio). He’s considered by many to be one of the finest inkers in the city; the current wait time for his services is about six weeks. If you have an out-there tattoo idea and aren’t sure how to execute it, he’s probably your man.
Price per hour: $150–$200
Red Rocket Tattoo
Red Rocket has been in the game for 17 years, the first ten under the moniker Triple X Tattoo. In addition to its nine full-timers, Red Rocket attracts tons of international talent for guest appointments. (Sarah Bolen from Berlin’s Black Mirror Parlor will drop by in August.) But don’t be put off by the international talent it attracts: Red Rocket is very accessible as far as tat shops go.
Price per hour: $150
Three Kings Tattoo
Don’t let the name fool you: There are more than three tattoo monarchs gracing the two floors of Three Kings—in fact, there are 15 permanent artists. Having that kind of infrastructure allows owner Matt Marcus (one of the regal founding trio) to accept walk-ins seven days a week, though some tattooists are booked through the year. Three Kings also brings in guest artists from all over the world. If you can’t find someone who can do the design you want here, chances are that person doesn’t exist. The shop currently has a pair of iPads that break down different styles, as well asportfolios for customers to peruse. Three Kings takes the consulting aspect of tattooing pretty seriously, and they can explain to you, in layman’s terms, just why getting a tattoo of your ex-girlfriend’s name on your neck might not be the best idea.
Price per hour: $80–$175