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 canon of cocktail bars hidden inside fast-food joints (PDT, the Garret) got another major player with AvroKO hospitality group’s latest bar, set beneath Little Italy patty flipper Genuine Superette. Through a plastic-strip door, the 34-seat room is bathed in the warming glow of a neon-red LIQUORETTE sign hanging above the counter, with price-marked bottles in backlit glass cabinets calling up an old liquor store. Bargoers drawn in by Eben Freeman’s bulldog-style cocktails (mini liquor bottles perched atop soda cans) snap ’grams of their photogenic pours at chrome-rimmed high tops. Kitsch abounds (even the bathroom is plastered with Farrah Fawcett memorabilia), but these antics come scot-free of pretentiousness, promoting a brand of behind-the-bar novelty that favors comfort and simplicity. ORDER THIS: Cha-Chunkers, the canned cocktails Freeman punctures using a custom hole-punching contraption while chatting amicably with guests at the bar. A garden-variety mojito ($10.56) is reimagined as a miniglug of Cruzan white rum upturned into fizzy Sprite with lime and mint, and an Insomniac ($14.70) dunks a bottle of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur into a Starbucks Doubleshot can, boosted by coffee-smacked Kahlúa and a splash of half and half. GOOD FOR: Boozers looking to play bartender. The bar offers two DIY drinking options: Help yourself to a self-service fridge stocked with beer and wine, or opt for a pay-by-the-gram Rough Justice program that grants access to on-display spiri
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.
Many ghosts haunt the sodden crossroads known as Sheridan Square: poets, painters, firebrands. But only at 55 Bar can you imbibe alongside a living legend, weekly gigging jazz-rock guitarist Mike Stern. Other top boppers and bluesmen swing in the narrow basement boîte nightly. All shows have a two-drink minimum, but never fear: The bartenders know how to mix. If you want to talk, sit in back so the head-bobbing jazzbos don’t shush you.
Hell’s Kitchen has long been a dead zone for civilized bars, but this sunny paean to American microbrews is an oasis. There are 20 beers on tap and two cask ales, artfully listed on signboards according to provenance and potency. The thoughtful selections include Dogfish Head’s peachy Festina Pêche Berliner Weisse and Victory’s Bags Packed Porter, a toasty treat rich with coffee and chocolate. The low prices (each14-ounce serving costs $5) and expert curation suggest that the ’hood’s notorious bar drought may finally be easing.
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.
Wading through the weekend flea-market masses can be treacherous—you might be plowed down by strollers, swarmed by hipsters or starved when vendors sell out—but this Crown Heights cousin to Smorgasburg is a peril-free alternative. The hybrid food court–biergarten (a “cafebeeria,” if you will) is decked out with rows of wooden tables, stalls of booze-sopping grub and enough beer to extend sustain your day of feasting. ORDER THIS: The 12-tap lineup ranges from hyperlocal brews to international picks. A pour of lemony Finback Double Session ($7) sits between a Belgian wit and a dubbel, with a warm vanilla and cinnamon spice to cut its hearty wheat body. From the 36-bottle list, ask for harder-to-find labels like hops-heavy American ale Peeper from Maine Beer Company ($16 for 16.9oz) or Professor Fritz’s citrus-tanged wheat ale, Briem 1809 ($17 for 16.9oz). GOOD FOR: Grazing with a group. Collect a buffet of bites from Smorg favorites Mighty Quinn’s (pulled pork, brisket), Pizza Moto Slice Shop (Margherita, carbonara) and, yes, Ramen Burger, and post up at a hefty King’s table with your bounty. The help-yourself, order-at-the-counter service means you won’t have to wait for often aloof servers to deliver that hype-storm noodle-bun burger ($8) or Asia Dog’s sweet-and-sour beef dog with mango relish ($5). Don’t rely on the waitstaff for your booze either—order drinks directly from the bar to avoid delaying your buzz. THE CLINCHER: Open at 10am Tuesday through Sunday for boozing Br
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).
Venue says: “The Basement at Max Fish can be booked for private parties. It has it's own private entrance, bar, and DJ.”
When the legendary dive bar closed its original Lower East Side location in 2013, regulars were devastated. Thankfully, they didn’t have to go without their Max Fish fix for too long. The bar reopened just a few blocks away in 2014, and bartenders have been slinging cheap drinks ever since. Fans will recognize a few relics—like a cigarette-shaped light and sculpture of a woman sweeping—in the decor, and Max Fish still functions as a bar-cum-art-gallery. Join the crowds at the bar, or for more privacy, rent out the basement for your party. It has its own DJ, bar and a separate entrance. On any given night, you’ll see 20-somethings grooving to electronica, a few old hats nursing beers on barstools and maybe even a few famous patrons. After all, Max Fish is known for hosting celebrities like Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop and Bob Dylan.
Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor
Beer lovers, rejoice! Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is here to cover all your imbibing needs. Part art gallery, part craft beer bar—get the name now?—this spot serves up a rotating list of 24 beers on tap, plus about a dozen more in bottles or cans. Suds lovers who are up for a challenge will want to order the “run the board” flight of all the beers on tap and settle in for the long hall ($75). Less ambitious drinkers can choose from smaller flights of six, 12 or 18 beers ($24, $45 and $60, respectively). The bar offers a small menu of eats to soak up the booze—think hot pretzels with beer cheese ($7), all-beef hot dogs ($6) and Thai chicken meat pies ($7). And who knows? Maybe once you’ve had enough to drink, you’ll find a new appreciation for the art on display.
Venue says: “Voted NYC's best beer tasting flights!”