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The Commodore
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

The best cheap bars in NYC

Cheap bars are increasingly hard to find in New York but affordable imbibing isn't just at dives

By Emma Orlow and Time Out contributors

In New York its becoming increasingly difficult to find cocktails under $15 (let alone, cheap things to do)— the idea of spending the same amount on a mixed drink as you might on a main course is absolutely ludicrous. But affordable imbibing doesn’t have to just take place in a dive or during an afternoon happy hour. Need proof? Consult our guide to the best cheap bars for lovers of beer, cocktails and pretty much anything with an ABV.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to best bars in NYC

Cheap bars in New York

1. Clandestino

Bars Cocktail bars Lower East Side

A good review might ruin the antiscene at certain intimate bars. So if anybody asks, Clandestino does not serve meticulously mixed drinks at reasonable prices, the staff is inhospitable, and the tin ceiling and slender chute of a patio lack all charm. It’s our little secret.

FRESH KILLS california sherry cobbler
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

2. Fresh Kills

4 out of 5 stars
Bars Cocktail bars Williamsburg

Team Dutch Kills, which lured serious drinkers all the way out to Long Island City, Queens, when its cocktail saloon opened in 2009, opted for a far more bustling backdrop—right off Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue—for its follow-up: But despite such a crushingly hip setting, Richard Boccato and his crew don’t fall prey to the preciousness or pretensions of its Brooklyn-bar brethren. All cocktails are $10 during happy hour.

Welcome to the Johnsons
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Carolina S.

3. Welcome to the Johnsons

Bars Dive bars Lower East Side

A well-worn pool table, dingy brown refrigerator, Ms. Pac-Man and plastic-covered couches pay tribute to 70s rec rooms at this LES bar. Happily, the wallet-friendly drink prices are just as retro.

4. Sly Fox

Bars Dive bars East Village

Attached to Ukranian East Village, an old-school New York spot for pierogis and blintzes, here you'll get a window into a fading version of the East Village. As long as you're respectful to the patrons who've been coming to the bar for decades, Sly Fox might just be perfect. You can order from the adjacent restaurant's menu while chugging $2 PBR. Bring cash though because there's a $20 credit card minimum. 

Super Power
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Yael D.

5. Super Power

Bars Cocktail bars Crown Heights

Super Power, a Crown Heights bar fitted with mod furnishings, neon lights and plenty of rum is one of our favorite tiki bars. The affordable drinks are as IG-ready as they are tasty, some served in gilded pineapple cups, and others adorned with flowers and leaves. There's also a cute turquiose outdoor area.

6. 169 Bar

Bars Dive bars Two Bridges

These days 169 Bar is stuffed to the brim with young people looking for a good time. True, the venerable dive has evolved: you see more plaid collar shirts than you might've six years ago. But thankfully, the soul of the space has remained. The drinks are cheap and we love that they have a system where you can text the bar your order, in case you don't feel like braving the line. 

Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Botanica

Bars Lounges Nolita

The thrift-store decor (mismatched chairs with sagging seats, statues of the Virgin Mary and a faux fireplace) makes for a charmingly shabby backdrop at this downtown dive, a favorite among laid-back creative types and the occasional gaggle of NYU students. Libations range from basic brews to house cocktails. DJs spin every night (except Monday), providing a sultry soundtrack for the singles lounging in the conversation-friendly back room.

8. The Commodore

Bars Gastropubs Williamsburg

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 cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. The short menu—with descriptions as curt as the service you’ll encounter while ordering your food from the bartender—reads like a classic collection of fryolator junk.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/ Carolina L.

9. Do or Dive

Bars Dive bars

There are many bars that allow patrons to bring a dog, but Do or Dive has got to be one of our favorites. Even if you don't have your own, come by for some heaving petting, made all the more fun when cheap drinks are involved. 

10. The Drift

Bars Dive bars Greenpoint

The Drift is a next-generation “dive” in Greenpoint from the team behind the Commodore and El Cortez. The people who filter through the cabin-themed barroom indeed match the surroundings—your veritable petri dish of beanie wearers, beard growers and drifters. But the taxidermic animal heads a bit too carefully placed, the bathroom floors a touch too clean for it to be a true New York dive. Still, with drinks this easy on the wallet, who gives a fuck about authenticity? 

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp / Emanuela O.

11. Alphaville

Music Bushwick

If you can prove you're on a Tinder date (and you most likely will be unless you're seeing your friend's boyfriend's wannabe Strokes concert) here you'll get a free shot. 

The Woodstock
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lo P.

12. The Woodstock

Restaurants Meatpacking District

Hop in your time machine and head back to the ’60s. This cocktail bar right off the High Line sports a groovy aesthetic, along with mixing drinks that aren't exactly '60s prices, but as close as you're going to get in the Meatpacking District. Most of the cocktails only cost $10, and increase to $15 or $20 if you want a craft flavor or a rare spirit.

Sally Roots
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sally Roots

13. Sally Roots

Restaurants Caribbean Bushwick

Transport yourself to the Caribbean, Brooklyn-style. The laid-back bar and restaurant serves budget-friendly tropical cocktails that are a step above your usual daiquiris and piña coladas. 

Photograph: Courtesy Doris

14. Doris

Bars Cocktail bars Bedford-Stuyvesant

At times Doris reeks of Tinder first-dates, but that's because it really is one of the best places in Brooklyn to meet someone new. With vintage LPs spinning, food pop-ups (and permenant grilled cheese menu that includes a pimento version), an outdoor area that has ping pong, we soak up every moment we can here.

Rocka Rolla
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Phil H.

15. Rocka Rolla

Bars Dive bars Williamsburg

Built for those that are a little bit rock'n'roll, this Williamsburg dive has all the fundamental elements: cheap drinks, loud music and grungy aesthetics. 

See all cheap bars in New York

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