Cheap bars in New York
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 blaring bands, comedians and a monthly science night.
The eternally puckish actor Alan Cumming and promoter-provocateur Daniel Nardicio took over the former Eastern Bloc bar in 2017 and reimagined it as a cabaret, comedy and party hub that evokes of the golden era of NYC downtown nightlife. Celebrities occasionally pop in—such as Paul McCartney, Emma Stone and Vanessa Williams—but the club is its own star: a cheeky-decadent quasiqueer hangout with with a frisky, welcoming vibe and risqué murals by Cumming's husband, Grant Shaffer. Mondays are a sexy-geeky Broadway open-mic night with pianist Lance Horne; Fridays and Saturdays, hosted by the charming and charismatic trans singer Daphne Always, feature dance music and go-go boys. The tradition of downtown nightclub performance is rich but endangered, and Club Cumming is the East Village's best new addition in years: an oasis of creativity and community that draws from traditions of the past but is resolutely planted in the present.
The rooftop is what keeps crowds coming back to this LES rock club—it’s got potted palms, a fishpond and a margarita machine. When the open-air party ends at midnight, head to the ground level to kick back on tufted couches or dance to guest and resident deejayed sets. If you're feeling more fired up, venture to the basement lounge for more raucous and rowdy live music performances.
It’s the Sunshine State by way of Gowanus at this pastel-streaked Floridian playground, where shuffleboard revivalists Jonathan Schnapp and Ashley Albert have retooled lido-deck kitsch for beer-fisted millennials. At the 17,000-square-foot game hall, neck-tattooed skaters and fly girls dressed like Miley Cyrus gather over $40-an-hour rounds of biscuit and tang (shufflespeak for pucks and poles), forming a scene that’s as flamboyantly Boca as it is staunchly Brooklyn. ORDER THIS: Outfitted like Margaritaville-bound Jimmy Buffetts, bartenders serve sunny umbrella drinks inspired by alligator-belt shuffleboard greats, like the rum-and-grapefruit Christine Page Punch ($11). Better, though, is the bar’s beer list, offering a who’s who of craft suds (Smuttynose, Captain Lawrence, Left Hand). Balancing the booze, a rotating roster of food trucks (Morris Grilled Cheese, Phil’s Steaks) hawk utensil-free bites from a corner docking bay. GOOD FOR: Both veteran shufflers and court virgins. The ten swimming-pool-blue lanes are regulation-size, and there’s league play for those who actually know their cherries (scoring in the ten-point box on the last shot) from their pepperonis (all four biscuits in scoring position). If you’re less skilled with a tang, the white-clad waitstaff is quick with tips (stay out of the “kitchen,” the negative-ten-point section), demonstrations (tang claws to the ceiling, stoppers down toward the floor) and ref calls when discs veer too close to the lines. TH
This unassuming wharfside tavern has been passed down in the Balzano family since 1890. On weekends, the bar buzzes with middle-aged and new-generation bohemians (the latter distinguished by their PBR cans), and the odd salty dog (canines, not sailors). Despite the nautical feel, you’re more likely to hear bossa nova or bluegrass than sea chanties warbling from the speakers.
A self-described “rock and sleaze fag bar,” the Cock is just the sort of dark, sketchy dive where you can unleash your inner sexy beast. The dearth of uptown attitude (or any apparent concern for cleanliness) pulls artists, musicians, writers, fashionistos, tourists and closeted rebels, all of whom can appreciate a little dirty fun. Homeskool Mondays feature DJ extraordinaire Jon Jon Battles. Weekends get so crowded (midnight to 3am) that there’s often a cover charge. Stuff your pockets before coming here—it’s cash only.
Warning: You’ll be annoyed with Nitecap at first. The entrance is hard to find (hint: if you pass Schapiro’s, you’ve gone too far), the grizzly-haired doorman will likely tell you there’s a sizable wait, and you’ll have to wrestle an unwieldy velvet curtain the second you step inside. But the effort is well worth it, if only for the cavalcade of cocktail killers at its helm: Death & Co. honchos David Kaplan and Alexander Day own the joint, with drinks maven Natasha David (Maison Premiere, Mayahuel) behind the stick. Together, the trio has stirred up the kind of devil-may-care after-hours haunt you’ll want to linger at long after closing time. Order this: The inventive, freewheeling menu runs the gamut from crisp session cocktails to hefty late-night slugs. Of the former, find the vibrant, fennel-licked Green Thumb ($13), with frothy egg whites softening the rummy bite of floral cachaça and fruity Caña Brava. The Tartan Swizzle ($13) cloaks a double hit of Scotch smokiness (Laphroaig 10-year single-malt, Famous Grouse) in spring-break garb: pineapple slices, cocktail umbrellas and a balancing splash of passionfruit and peach juices. Good for: Off-duty barkeeps and the people who want to hang with them. Industry folks like NoMad all-star Dominic Venegas and Naren Young (Empellón Cocina) unwind post-shift at the sultry, cavernous lair, slipping in between the suited financiers and black-clad gallerists huddled at the low-slung oxblood booths. The clincher: Kaplan and Day may
This Australian-leaning watering hole sits on the border between Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Known for its massive outdoor rooftop bar overlooking the Manhattan skyline, the bar offers an extensive cocktail menu, including frozen drinks during the summer, local brews on tap, and Aussie-inspired fare such as 'meat pies', 'lamb lollies' and 'chips.'
Keeping a dive bar—and even a beloved one—alive in New York isn’t easy: Just look at the recent demises of Milady’s, Winnie’s and Mars Bar (RIP). Which makes the phoenixlike rebirth of Holiday Cocktail Lounge—a six-decade-old East Village mainstay whose barstools have seen the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Joey Ramone and Sinatra—such a head-scratching anomaly. Three years after the bar shuttered its dinted metal doors following the sale of the building, the saloon has been given a new lease on life, thanks to Pirate’s Booty founder Robert Ehrlich and La Palapa owner Barbara Sibley. And though the place has been spruced up—duct-taped booths traded for green banquettes, neon beer signs for gold sconces—the joint hasn’t been scrubbed clean of its charm. ORDER THIS: While $5 Genesees survived the refurbishing, the cocktail list has been reworked courtesy of barman brothers Michael and Danny Neff (Ward III and Extra Fancy, respectively). The I Know You Are… ($13) is a standout, a smooth mescal swill with a slow burn of peppercorn-infused Cointreau. For something lighter, opt for the Mortally Afraid of Madam ($13), a creamy whiskey concoction tinged with Avuá Amburana cachaça and frothed with egg white. GOOD FOR: Holiday virgins and veterans alike. Frequenters of the original will breathe easy seeing that the battered red awning, wooden phone booth and signature horseshoe bar remain. Beneath a restored harem-girl mural, dating back to the 1920s when the bar was known as Ali Baba Burl
This salon-turned-saloon salutes bygone glamour days from the '50s to the '80s—the decor ranges from Aqua Net to helmet-style hair dryers. Nightly DJs provide a loud punk-to-funk soundtrack that makes the pretty young things shake their shags and toss back the free martini that comes with a $10 manicure. A Brooklyn branch marks the second in New York City, and the seventh in the U.S.