The Best Dive Bars in Manhattan

Manhattan was once awash in neighborhood pubs, crappy booze dens and dives of unmentionable grit and grime. But with the last decade’s real estate boom, the grounds upon which these watering holes were built have become ever-more prized by developers and chain restaurants with extravagant capital. While it’s true that fewer dives exist than ever before, there are a still plenty of glorious holdouts where cheap beer, weathered regulars and salty bartenders prevail.

  • 1

    Billymark's West

    Billymark's is owned by Billy and Mark, of course—a pair of Queens-born brothers—and sits on the oddly ungentrified corner of 9th Avenue and W. 28th Street. A sprawling room equipped with a bare bones bar, a stellar jukebox, a dart board and a pool table, Billymark's is as loyal to its regulars as its regulars are to them. Unofficial membership guarantees entrance on crazy New York party nights like New Year's Eve and Halloween.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • day drinking
    • cheap date
    • jukebox
    • games
  • 2

    Blue & Gold Tavern

    Cheap as hell and universally likable, Blue & Gold is named for the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Its owners hail from the country, and it's one of the East Village's last ethnic holdouts. The pool table and jukebox—requisite dive decor—are well-loved by the weird mix of gutter punks, elderly regulars, NYU students and longtime neighborhood residents.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • dive bar
    • games
    • jukebox
  • 3

    Jimmy's Corner

    Jimmy's Corner, located just a couple blocks off Times Square, maintains the air of an undiscovered time capsule from pre-Giuliani New York. Run by Jimmy and his wife, Swannie, the bar is a museum of Jimmy's career as a boxing trainer, with photos, gloves and a slew of regulars who flock here for a seat within a different era.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • historic
    • jukebox
  • 4

    Kettle of Fish

    Going strong since the 1950s, Kettle of Fish is a West Village dive as famous for its Beat Generation regulars—Kerouac and Ginsburg, most notably—as well as the 1960s musicians who routinely graced its stools. While the bar relocated from its original MacDougal Street space to Christopher Street, it still draws a mixed  crowd of gay men and Greenbay Packers fans.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • jukebox
    • games
    • sports
  • 5

    Lucy's

    Lucy has been bartending at Lucy's before it was called Lucy's. Most nights, the Polish owner is still there popping beer bottles and pouring whiskies. The bar, overlooking Thompson Square Park, often plays host to a democratic mix of local East Villagers and young things wandering in to find respite from the neighborhood's hipster "dives" via a game of pool, a go at the jukebox and Lucy's sweet-salty service.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • jukebox
  • 6

    Milano's

    The walls are littered with photos. The tile floors have seen a century-and-a-half of unsteady feet. The bar top is beveled with the wear of thousands of glasses sliding across its surface. Milano's is a penny worn smooth after a hundred years of exchange (it opened in 1880), and it sits proudly on Houston whiling away the years as if it had all the time in the world. Don't even think about ordering a cocktail. Despite the fancy neighborhood, this is not a place to be asking for anything that must be stirred or shaken.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • jukebox
    • historic
  • 7

    Nancy Whiskey Pub

    Just outside the Canal Street A-C-E stop, Nancy Whiskey can be found beneath a couple of nondescript green awnings on Lispenard Street. Pressed tin ceilings, shuffleboard and a healthy collection of memorabilia, Nancy is a holdout from bygone days when neighborhood pubs abounded, strewn with intoxicated regulars feeding quarters into the jukebox and swaying to the beat.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • games
    • jukebox
  • 8

    Rudy's

    Rudy's Bar & Grill has been around since the 1930s, and it's got the patina, Tiffany lampshades and jukebox to prove it. Marked by an old-timey neon sign and a relatively new cartoon pig stationed outside, Rudy's is a vestige of forgotten New York teeming with a mix of neighbors, crusty old-timers and cool, young adventurers wandering in from this gritty slice of Hell's Kitchen.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • day drinking
  • 9

    Rusty Knot

    Overlooking the Hudson River, the Rusty Knot is a nouveau dive-cum-tiki hut with stylishly outdated linoleum floors, bamboo bars, pleather lounge chairs and a solid menu of tropical drinks guaranteed to knock you on your ass. Thanks to the fish tank and the guy at the bar with stringy hair, the Rusty Knot feels a little like a stoner's basement, just with really good Mai Tais and cleaner bathrooms.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • tiki
    • bar food
  • 10

    The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge

    A droopy outpost of semi-tiki décor, The Distinguished Wakamba Cocktail Lounge isn't really known for much except its sooty red awning and the fact that some guy in the middle of a drug deal was shot and killed in front of it about 15 years ago. Not enough to pull you in for a drink? That's okay, they don't really care if you come in or not. This craphole is complete with unaffected service and all the cruddy trappings to either keep you away or glued to your seat for the next eight hours.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
  • 11

    Vazac's Horseshoe Bar

    Truly a relic of another era, Vazac's (aka 7b, aka Horseshoe Bar) is a hodgepodge of old man dive, hipster haunt (the two often blend together these days) and neighborhood local. Weekends can get packed with young East Villagers, but the weekdays are low-key, playing host to regulars and the runoff from music venues drifting in to sit around the massive U-shaped bar. Neon signs (one proclaiming "prostitution" in curly pink letters), a pinball machine and cabinets from another century adorn the room, which looks out over Tompkins Square Park.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • games
    • craft beer
  • 12

    WXOU Radio

    This West Village bar is more of a neighborhood bar than a dive, but it's got the time under its belt and the following to qualify as a bona fide New York City joint. The namesake neon wall clock keeps time over a steady group of regulars who gather at the bar under the watchful eye of an Elvis bust covered in Mardi Gras beads.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • jukebox

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