Cheap bars in New York
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.
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?
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 will only cost $10, and increase to $15 or $20 if you want a craft flavor or a rare spirit.
They don’t make ‘em like this any more (probably because Health and Safety would shut ‘em down). West Village hangout the Fat Cat is a basement bar and pool hall where the sofas are scruffy, the drinks are cheap and the ambience is jovial. There’s live jazz every night, and Fridays have formidable Brooklyn soul singer Naomi Shelton playing a residency with her Gospel Queens. Closing time is 4AM.
Channel your inner tiki hipster (it’s in there, somewhere) at Super Power, a Crown Heights bar fitted with mod furnishings, neon lights and plenty of rum. The affordable drinks are as IG-ready as they are tasty, some served in gilded pineapple cups, and others adorned with flowers and leaves.
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.
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 pina coladas.
This crimson-hued East Village spot is one of the only bars in the city where you can slam a shot of unicum, a 200-year-old bittersweet spirit from Hungary (owner Attila Draviczki’s homeland). Need something a little sweeter? Keybar also offers a selection of signature shooters, like passionfruit and lychee shots made with real fruit and a Rolo shot based on Draviczki’s secret recipe.
The bouncers at the door aren’t window dressing—they’re serious about keeping out the rough element that characterized this hangout for much of its 80-year history. True, the venerable dive has evolved, hosting events with such partners as Triple 5 Soul and adding DJs who spin jungle and new wave. It hasn’t evolved too much, though: 169 remains a satisfyingly obscure place to get a cheap beer and, until it’s time to hit the pool table, pump the music and start dancing.
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.