The Best Dive Bars in Brooklyn

Bring up Brooklyn to any of its residents, regardless of the neighborhood they call home, and your conversation will eventually find its way to the one truth everyone can agree on: Brooklyn is changing. The rise of Brooklyn the brand—which has attracted its fair share of hipsters, moneyed patrons and rising real estate prices—has given way to its fair share of cultural shapeshifting. But if you know where to look, a few good dives—remnants from an era before Brooklyn was an adjective—remain secreted away for those looking to escape the future.

  • 1

    Brooklyn Inn

    Admittedly, Brooklyn Inn is not a dive bar. It's just a really good neighborhood bar that doesn't fit into any definite category. The corner space anchoring a stately corner of Boerum Hill is grand, with its massive mirrored back bar, iron grated windows and soaring ceilings. And because it's embedded deep into a residential neighborhood, the crowd is almost always a patchwork of locals shooting pool or drinking in the middle room amidst candlelight. And though it's a beer-and-a-shot kind of place, bartender Tom Vaught—Brooklyn Inn's best kept secret—is a modern-day Jerry Thomas with lots of classic cocktails up his ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • games
  • 2

    Canal Bar

    Named for the dumpy (but beloved) Gowanus Canal just a stone's throw away, Canal Bar is the catchall watering hole for this oddball neighborhood of warehouses and rowhomes. The vintage jukebox selection is excellent and the price is right (re: cheap), especially during the generous 3 p.m. - 8 p.m. happy hour, available Monday through Friday.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • jukebox
    • outdoor / patio
    • day drinking
  • 3

    Commodore

    Commodore hasn't been around for decades, but it sure as hell feels like it. Complete with a 1980s television playing weird pulpy films in the corner, floors caked with hipster grime, cheap beer and horrible bathrooms, it fits all of the major dive bar criteria. The low-slung booths get packed in the early evening with twentysomethings, but the bar's high leather chairs are the place to spend a few hours drinking amaretto-topped Piña Coladas and eating plates of fried chicken, the latter of which is a very important indulgence here. Do not leave without ordering some. Repeat: Do not leave without ordering the fried ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • cheap date
  • 4

    El Cortez

    From the same people behind Williamsburg's Commodore, Bushwick now has its own version of the quirky, part-tiki neo-dive. Paper umbrellas and destination-worthy nachos abound, with a solid canon of generous frozen drinks (the frozen mojito is imperative), and an upstairs space where dancing is encouraged.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • outdoors / patio
    • tiki
    • bar food
    • full menu
    • cheap date
    • dancing
  • 5

    Farrell's Bar & Grill

    Farrell's opened in 1933 right after Prohibition took its final breath. Back then, it was a haven for the working class Irish in this neighborhood, and though it's had a revamp, the ethos has not changed. The interior is spare, but classic—a long wooden bar and pressed tin ceilings are the only flourishes—and beer comes served in styrofoam cups.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • historic
  • 6

    Hank's Saloon

    Hank's has a couple charms. One of them is a jukebox stocked with Hank Williams (obviously). Another is cheap drinks. It stops there. The dive-iest of the dives, Hank's has collected an impressive layer of sludgy patina, and its regulars will sometimes not so much as lift a head to sip their drinks or acknowledge other humans. But no matter, as long as the bartender hands over a tumbler of whiskey and some change for a few songs, you're in good shape.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • jukebox
  • 7

    Irish Haven Bar

    Before Sunset Park became "Little Latin America" it was home to a large population of Polish, Norwegian, Finnish and Irish immigrants. Deep into the neighborhood remains Irish Haven, a bar of pure Irish descent that has seen half-a-century of Guinness drinkers, pool shooters, likely many booze-fueled altercations and one Martin Scorsese encounter when The Departed was filmed here.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • jukebox
    • games
  • 8

    Maracuja Bar & Grill

    In a neighborhood where it can be difficult to find a bar not dripping with grubby hipsters, Maracuja is a respite of down-to-earth service, choice music, a pool table and space to spread out. The ivy-covered bar is run by a husband-and-wife team, Connie and Charlie, the former of which painted the fantastical ceiling murals herself. Charlie has a secret fried chicken recipe he'll occasionally make for parties, and a cheesesteak that can extend the evening another hour with its serious heft. Come early, or stay late. There's always a seat at the bar and friendly face behind it.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • bar food
    • games
  • 9

    Montero Bar & Grill

    An old holdout from the days when Brooklyn's working waterfront could be found at the end of Atlantic Avenue, Montero Bar & Grill is covered in nautical paraphernalia collected throughout the years (though, unfortunately, the "Montero" life ring recently disappeared). The booze selection is terrible, but no matter, you won't need anything more than a Powers on the rocks and a Bud heavy to fit in with the characters that collect in Montero.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • karaoke
    • cheap date
  • 10

    South Pub

    South is a comfortable neighborhood dive. A cut above your average dive, the bar boasts a small selection of craft beer, a nice range of whiskey, some solid bar food and a friendly stable of regular customers that start bar stool perching as soon as the doors open. Native New Yorker Rosie Schaap, the author of Drinking With Men and a drinks writer for the New York Times, works here on Tuesdays. She knows about all the cocktails and whiskey you want to drink. Just ask.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • lots of whiskey
    • games
  • 11

    Sunny's

    Over on Red Hook's waterfront, there's a little bar with a neon anchor in the window and an old-fashioned truck outside. That's Sunny's, a Brooklyn institution owned by—you guessed it—a guy named Sunny. Recently outfitted with an ATM post-hurricane Sandy renovations, the bar  features ragtime bands, jazz trios and slide guitar players take the non-stage on Wednesdays. Beneath abstract paintings, weird bust figurines and piles of old records, Sunny's is a beloved hideout in a neighborhood that prides itself on being a non-destination destination.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • dive bar
    • live music
    • cheap date
  • 12

    The Alibi

    Owing to its grand tree-lined streets and serene townhouses, Fort Greene can often feel like it's much further from Manhattan than it is. But stay long enough at Alibi, an odd little lounge full of off-beat ephemera, and you'll forget you even live in the state of New York. A bar full of regulars who can often be found waving at the television and swaying on their cracked bar stools, this is where you go to get a taste of old-school Fort Greene.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • sports
    • games

Tagged: Brooklyn, dive bars

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