Cheap bars in New York
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 airy party ends at midnight, head to the ground level for deejayed music or into the basement to catch a live show. Tuesdays from 7 to 10pm, hot dogs and burgers are served for five bucks per plate—so no need to worry about boozing on an empty stomach.
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 in stiff polos, 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.
The former pool-supply outlet now supplies booze to scruffy Williamsburgers, who pack the tin-walled main room’s half-moon booths and snap saucy photo-kiosk pics. Bands strum away on the adjacent stage, while a spacious courtyard is packed with wooden benches to lure chain-smokers. Arrive early to kick back $3 PBRs or $7 Jack-and-Cokes (a buck off from 5 to 8pm).
A stone's throw from its 19th-century namesake, Castle Clinton—America's first beer garden—the folks behind Watermark Bar honor the storied nabe with a 4,000-square-foot Battery Park beer hall of their own. At the marble bar, 20 taps rotate selections of hard-to-find brews: Huyghe Delirium Tremens, Van Honsebrouck Kasteel Rouge and De Halve Maan Straffe Hendrik Bruges Triple, available in pints, half pints or third pints. A flux capacitorbehind the bar controls the carbonation and temperature of each tap, ensuring that pints are served at an optimal 34 degrees. Pub grub includes Bavarian fare like spaetzle, soft pretzels and house-made brats, such as an all-beef link with pickled tomato relish, and lamb sausage infused with cumin and ginger.
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
A friendly, spacious bar with an intimacy-heightening low ceiling, Nowhere attracts attitude-free crowds—and the place is filled with everyone from dykes to bears, thanks to a fun lineup of theme nights. There's no official dance floor, but don't be surprised to find yourself moving to disco, rock, new wave and whatever else the DJ feels like spinning.
No bar has a better collection of ’70s lunch boxes, and the rollicking jukebox ain’t half bad, either. Recreational opportunities abound at roomy Ace (two pool tables, Big Buck Hunter), and the 2-to-7pm happy hour, six days a week, is perfect for the serious afternoon drinker (14 beers on tap let you keep the pints rotating). Beautiful locals are attracted by the clublike exterior; inside, the pool-hall atmosphere makes it an excellent place for a birthday party or just a beer among friends.
Cubbyhole is one of the Village’s more festive and hetero-friendly gay-and-lesbian bars. Chinese paper lanterns, tissue-paper fish and holiday decorations hang from the ceiling. Barstools are upholstered with glossy vinyl bearing pictures of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. Eclectic? You bet.
Ladies should probably leave the Blahniks at home. In traditional Irish-pub fashion, McSorley’s floor has been thoroughly scattered with sawdust to take care of the spills and other messes that often accompany large quantities of cheap beer. Established in 1854, McSorley’s became an institution by remaining steadfastly authentic and providing only two choices to its customers: McSorley’s Dark Ale and McSorley’s Light Ale. Both beverages have a lot more character than PBR, though at these prices, it won’t be long before you stop noticing.
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