10 Amazing Dive Bars in NYC

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My God, do I love a good dive bar. I’ve said many times that if my soul was a physical location, it would be a dive bar bathroom, because I’m colorful but disgusting. I love everything about dives—they’re unpretentious, affordable, full of personality, and authentic (no “dive-themed” hipster bars on this list). I’ve found that dives are great for meeting the kind of quirky, down-to-earth people I tend to get along with, and it’s just really nice spending a night out in the City for less than $20. Here are my most frequented dives in New York City…

Sophie’s: My friends and I love this East Village classic so much, my sister gave me a framed drawing of the place, which now sits on my desk. Three dollar beers, ten dollar pitchers, and nice bartenders who look like they’ve been through it. I’ve made so many one-night friends here, and once made out with a guy then made him cry (accidentally). Lots of great memories. They have pool tables and good music, but no food as far as I know, so eat before you go. They also iconically had a sign out front during Santa-Con that said “no costumes allowed”, and were therefore the only place not full of insufferable kids the one night my friends and I unwittingly went out of the sloppiest night of the New York year. Although for the record, I participated in Santa Con once upon a time (and wore a giant velvet menorah on my head). But that gives you a good sense of the place—no-nonsense, old New York incarnate. They’re so cool they don’t even have a website, just a Facebook page.

best dive bars Sophie’s NYC

Rudy’s: Free hot dogs!!! You have to buy drinks, can’t just go there for a free lunch, but considering how cheap beer is here, it’s one of the best deals you’ll find in the City. They’re finally open again, and easy to find given the large, scary pig statue that stands outside the bar. Rudy’s is in Hell’s Kitchen, but the close proximity to Times Square makes it a good place to bring out-of-town guests coming into Grand Central or Port Authority. They’re a neighborhood classic, established in 1933. I can’t say for sure, but it seems like Rudy’s hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past (almost) ninety years.

best dive bars NYC Rudy’s

The Cobra Club: I’ve mentioned this place before, in my Best of Bushwick post, because I love it and recommend it to people constantly. The Cobra is a super friendly dive, which doubles as a cafe / workspace during the day…and triples as a non-earthy-crunchy yoga studio on weekend mornings. They usually have live music and events, although I believe all events (and yoga) are currently suspended. They have a very limited bar food menu (fritos and a “mystery meal”), cocktails named after Misfits songs, and boozy popsicles.

best dive bars NYC Cobra Club

The Clockwork: Classic punk rock dive on the LES with generous pours, nice bartenders, and very photogenic graffitied walls. Evidenced by the aesthetically appealing website, the Clockwork has a little more style than most dive bars, but they’re subtle about it, and totally authentic. No food, no shit involved. The Clockwork is enough all on its own, and honestly the bartenders are just really nice. Since I’ve stopped drinking, going there for the night is sometimes almost free, because they’ll just give me free soda all night. My friends will have several beers and still spend like $15. It’s a dirt cheap night out, lively, young, and trashy in a good way.

best dive bars NYC Clockwork

Coyote Ugly: Okay, admittedly this one is kind of a hit or miss, but it’s iconic East Village (as featured in the movie Coyote Ugly). The bartenders dance on the bartop, which is cool. They also frequently try to get patrons to join them, which IMO is less cool. But Coyote Ugly is cheap, friendly, and not so loud you have to scream to be heard. The only downside is that if you go at the wrong time, it’s full of middle-aged tourists trying to be cool. But there are body shots to be done, and plenty of fun to be had, especially late on a Friday night.

best dive bars NYC Coyote Ugly

Dive 75: One of the only bars I frequent uptown. It’s on the sports bar end of divey, but still founded on no-frills dive bar values. It’s reasonably priced if not dirt cheap, and very welcoming. They have board games you can play, and a backyard. They also let you bring your own food, which scores major points with me. Nothing like scarfing down a couple Big Macs in a dive bar at three in the morning. There’s also a pretty impressive fish tank. Plus there’s candy at the bar to go with your drunchies of choice.

best dive bars NYC Dive 75

Bushwick Country Club: Don’t let the name fool you—BCC is a dive through and through. An especially chill, welcoming dive at that. It kinda makes you feel like you’re at a friend’s garage party. It’s apparently the home of the Pickleback shot (which is whiskey chased by pickle juice), and they also have great grownup slushies in addition to a good selection of dirt-cheap beers. They have specials and happy hour, plus free cheese puffs. It’ll be a cheap night, and a fun one. They even have a kitschy little mini-golf course, and a dog-friendly backyard.

best dive bars NYC Bushwick Country Club

Johnny’s Bar: Comfy-cozy dive near Chelsea Market and the High Line. Multiple planned barhops have ended up being a full night at Johnny’s because my friends and I were too comfortable to get up. It’s especially nice in the winter. They’ve got a jukebox, and the walls are covered in stickers and memorabilia. Not much to say other than that I love this place. It’s a dive among dives, and I’ve never been disappointed.

best dive bars NYC Johnny’s

Full Circle Bar: This place is hard not to like. The bartenders are so friendly, the beers are cheap, and they have a great happy hour. But what really sets Full Circle Bar apart is that they offer skee-ball and cornhole. I suck at both, but it’s so fun, and adds to the already upbeat atmosphere of the place. Jeopardy is also frequently playing on the TVs, which I appreciate. No complaints. Full Circle is most certainly a dive, but it’s not a cynical or even particularly cool one…but that’s why it’s cool. They’re not trying to be anything but themselves.

best dive bars NYC Full Circle

The Double Down Saloon: Saved the best for last. Another one I may have written about in another post because I love it so much. My friends have said that if I was a bar I’d be the Double Down—they’re kinda cool, but also trying a little too hard to be punk rock. It doesn’t come off as annoying though. They’re funny, wild, and certainly memorable. They have a drink known as “ass juice”, and one wall is painted with the message “you puke, you clean”. There’s another sign behind the bar which declares “no hippies allowed”. Also, they constantly have kinky seventies porn playing on the TVs. I asked my parents to go with me last time they visited, and shockingly their answer was hard pass. It’s gross, but it’s got heart. And a photo booth.

They literally put this fucking thing on tee shirts.

(Cheap) shots shots shots shots shots shots shots shots shots shots shots, EVERYBODY!