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The 16 best dive bars in NYC

Featuring excellent beer and shot combos and some of the most tattered tables in town

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako
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New York City has fewer dive bars than you may think. The primary reason is that a real deal dive must already exist. One simply cannot open a “new” dive bar. The ribbon cutting ceremony would draw too many jeers. Imagine the pointing; the laughter. 

But already existing, or even being old, does not earn a place a dive bar designation either. A real dive must have some combination of neighborhood characters behind or surrounding the bar, below market rate drinks, a tool box full of duct tape, an absence of natural light and a paucity of food save for free hot dogs or popcorn. Something should also be at least half-broken, and it helps to have to introduce a caveat when suggesting it as a meeting place: It has a great juke box but songs cost a buck and it only takes pennies. The drinks are cheap but the floor is lava. The bathroom sink is a piranha tank and it’s just about lunchtime.

Between their relatively endangered status and the requisite charm it takes to truly qualify as a dive, we kind of love them all, each and every one. Those below, we just happen to be especially fond of. So ready your appetite for beers and shots, expect the unexpected, and one day you might just be the neighborhood character giving a dive its bonafides, too. 

Best dive bars in NYC

  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Midtown West
  • price 1 of 4

In the know New York drinkers and your savvier travelers rejoiced when the late boxer Jimmy Glenn’s Jimmy’s corner reopened last October after more than a year. Dating back to 1971, what it lacks in cocktails and fine wine it more than makes up for with charisma and neat pours. 

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Red Hook
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As a writer whose own time too many bars are now vaguely fashioned after once wrote: “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Sunny’s is a peak-form dive bar and one of the best overall bars in NYC. Its creaky but comfortable interior, little back patio, and friendly but never overly effusive proprietors have been abetting its dual states for generations.

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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Brooklyn Heights
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Montero's Bar and Grill is like Ikea, the famous Sweedish furniture store down the road, in the following ways: 1. While it is technically more affordable than many other options, it’s still always a little pricier than you expected. 2. Its design has been unchanged for many years. 3. It would not be the best place to throw a wedding . . .  unless . . . ? It also has a devoted following of folks who flock in for G&Ts in plastic cups, kinda kooky vibes and karaoke by the inimitable Amethyst

169 Bar
  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Two Bridges
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If you haven’t visited Charles Hanson’s 169 Soul Jazz Oyster Bar since early 2020, its present appearance will be startling. Its frontage is festooned with a cheery yellow outdoor seating area, leafy potted plants and beachy umbrellas. The inside, however, remains as dimly lit as ever–an ideal destination for when you need a little hair of the dog that bit you to keep the weekend going for days and days. 169 is also the rare dive with some equally hangover-repelling (or preventing, if you believe) snacks . . . and oysters. 

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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Nolita
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“No last names here,” we were firmly, but fondly instructed when settling our tab on one of many visits to Milano’s, a narrow slip in Nolita where similar venues are fewer and farther between with each new development. Toast to its endurance with the couple of wines on offer (“red” or “white”!) or, more likely, beers and shots. 

Rudy’s Bar & Grill
  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Hell's Kitchen

The recently reopened Rudy’s Bar and Grill is a porcine sight for sore eyes. Although its interior had a bit of a facelift, its facade is as classically as divey as ever, as though it emerged in style, and apparent sturdiness, from a community theater. Even after its 16-month closure, Rudy’s pints still start at $3, the hot dogs are still free, and it’s still one of the most tolerable watering holes in the greater Times Square area. 

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  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Red Hook
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The mullet of bars, if you will, it’s dive business in the front and outdoor party in the back at this nearly quarter century year-old Red Hook mainstay. Enter into the gleefully gritty barroom, order from the chalkboard menus to your left, and slide into the well-worn and oft-repaired banquettes to your right before you order a cheeseburger and meander to the sunny backyard to while away the day and night over rounds and rounds of pints.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • East Village

As we’ve established, having a beloved neighborhood fixture at the helm alone does not a dive bar make, but it certainly goes a long way toward achieving that categorization. Lucy’s own Ludwika Mickevicius is an East Village institution, presiding over her Avenue A bar’s pool tables, juke box and taps for decades and counting. 

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Gowanus
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Purportedly the neighborhood's oldest bar, this Third Avenue gallery of throwback neon advertising pours as fine a beer as any, and it's nice little back patio is a surprising respite from the cloistered space inside. If you get here late enough you wont even need a shady umbrella.

  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Chelsea

With a squat blue box that pops from blocks away and a name that implies the existence of a theoretical photo negative BillyMarks East, the corner of 29th and Ninth calls to mind the vestiges of a less chichi Chelsea. The inside isn’t any prettier, but the drinks are cheaper than you’ll find for several blocks in any direction, and it feels pleasantly devoid the corporate oversight you’ll also find elsewhere. 

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  • Clubs
  • Gowanus

Gowanus’ best metal bar for nearly a decade, Lucky 13’s sonorous scene has spilled out from its perpetually packed space out onto sidewalk seating in recent months, to even more festive effect. The place still fills up quick, so prepare to get in early and stay late for live music, dancing, and Sackett Street’s liveliest environs. 

Holland Bar
David Rosenzweig

12. Holland Bar

Named in a nod to the bounty of tulips flown twice weekly from–oh wait, this one just happens to be near the fast track to New Jersey. In lieu of blooms, it's adorned with dollar bills behind the bar, filled with $4 beer, illuminated by loops of string lights, and packed with crowds from early until late. 

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The Punch Bowl

13. The Punch Bowl

Harking back to 1901, this neighborhood staple in the Bronx endured the Prohibition era, generations of iterations of the New York Yankees and events of more recent origin to maintain its storied address. Don a bomber cap and let the TV screens serenade your journey through a bucket of beer.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Williamsburg
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A darling devil theme miles above the depths of hell but still a few steps below the surface of the earth is awash in red light here, conveniently eliminating the need for Instagram filters as you post your best effort to freak out your parents or whomever. Duff’s music is rather rocking, too, and its prices are so decent you’ll feel like you’ve made a deal with you-know-who. 

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  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Rockaways
  • price 1 of 4

One of Rockaway’s best bars best going way back, Connolly’s is close to the beach with frozen cocktails and grandmom’s house vibes, provided your family matriarch was cool to hang. Grab an icy piña colada in a styrofoam cup and saunter back to the surf like you’re sneaking out after curfew. 

Reif’s Tavern

16. Reif’s Tavern

A dive? On the Upper East Side? In this economy? Reif’s has been operating on 92nd Street since 1942, and today it has games for the spectator on its TV screens, and for the player at its billiards table. A cozy back patio replete with barbecue grills betrays its scruffy exterior. 

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