7 of Manhattan’s Most Authentic Dive Bars
It’s a debate that dates back generations: Which is the best hole-in-the-wall in the city to drown your misery, celebrate a new engagement, or just catch up with friends? To be fair, the list is endless, ever-changing, and totally personal—whether you like kitsch, are in need of a jukebox, or you prefer to cozy up with the bartender who awaits with a refill.
Here, InStyle presents you with a completely subjective, totally judgmental, highly polarizing list of our favorite dive bars on the Isle of Manhattan. Culled from experience and many, many late nights, these 10 bars capture exactly the Beat Poets were looking for on their legendary nights on the town in the 1950s, and what night owls today seek during evenings of debauchery that drag out until dawn.
If you like $20 cocktails handcrafted by men with porkpie hats and groomed mustaches, these are not for you. Got 10 bucks, a yen for adventure, and many hours to kill? Be prepared to have fantastic stories to tell in the morning. Take a look at the most authentic dive bars left in Manhattan here.
Neighborhood: East Village
Address: 441 East 6th Street
The wood-paneled bar on East 6th Street has been a late-night hangout for new transplants and old Village hands since it began offering its house special, a tequila shot with a Tecate chaser, way back when. For five bucks you get all that, plus a saucy bartender with the gift of the gab, a pool table circled by sharks, and a jukebox that rivals the catalog of the city’s top DJs. Come early to get a booth, or arrive late when the real characters descend. Be forewarned: kerfuffles are frequent outside around closing time, at 4 a.m. Plan accordingly. cherrytavern.com
Interior of Cherry Tavern.
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Address: 169 E Broadway
A cheetah pool table. An obscure celebrity clientele. Yet still a true dive bar, complete with tacky décor and super-cheap drinks (we’re talking $3, people). The place was spruced up a bit when a member of a New Orleans punk band (and former DJ at the bar) took over in 2006, and now is billed as a “nightclub,” but don’t let the name fool you. The basement atmosphere and bouncers attempting to keep out the riffraff only serve to give the place a seedier feel. And even if they do sell oysters, they’re really only a bit more than $1 a pop. Meant to be slid back with a shot as a chaser. 169barnyc.com
Interior of 169 Bar.
Address: 332 9th Avenue
Before the High Line opened and brought hoards of stylish denizens to the area, this lowly watering hole near pretty much nothing was where the demimonde with nowhere to be on a Tuesday afternoon would idle away their day. Those folks are still here, knocking back beers and knocking around the 8 ball, which is most of this 65-year-old bar’s charm. This is not the phony divey-ness of those other hipster “dive” bars in the area owned by famous authors, no. This is greasy, dirty, and littered with last night’s leftovers. What’s not to love? Order a generic shot straight up (there is nothing on tap) or a beer, and feel like you’ve stepped into a scene from Death of a Salesman—in the best possible way. (212-629-0118)
Interior of Billymark's West.
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
Address: 101 West 75th Street
Who can argue with a cocktail lounge that looks like the inside of Jules Verne’s brain? In a neighborhood of baby buggies and suburban-style shopping, Dive 75 is a refreshing reminder that this used to be an area for new graduates trying to make it in New York. Perhaps the bar has been a victim of its own success—there are now two other outposts—but this one is still as dingy and no-frills as a dive bar should be, minus the fisticuffs. Fill up your growler with 24 beers on tap. divebarnyc.com
Interior of Dive 75.
Double Down Saloon
Neighborhood: East Village
Address: 14 Avenue A
We can’t even name the house drink in polite company, but let’s just say you had better cocktails in college for free. And anyway, this is not polite company. Double Down actually launched in Vegas before it came to New York, and the murals and vintage porn playing on the TVs are as cheesy as anything you’d find in Sin City (or in New York, for that matter). The crowd, though, takes their partying seriously, and so should you. Have a couple of drinks before arrival to catch up. doubledownsaloon.com
Double Down Saloon
Interior of Double Down Saloon.
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
Address: 1140 2nd Avenue
You can’t keep a New York institution closed for long. This 77-year-old down-at-the-heels pub near Bloomingdale’s was long a hangout for serious drinkers and uptown preppies, but it lost its lease and nearly closed for good. Luckily for devotees, the Salina family owners opened an exact replica on 2nd Avenue in March, complete with that iconic neon sign (cleaned for its debut). You can still get a seat at a booth and order atomic wings and a beer on tap, and hang with the crowd of rowdy UES residents, who seem to have been transposed from their old spot intact. (212-758-0900)
Interior of Subway Inn.
Neighborhood: Hell's Kitchen
Address: 627 9th Avenue
You can’t miss the huge pig out front that has drawn in big drinkers for two decades—though this bar is way older, dating back nearly 100 years. It was supposedly the first place to get a liquor license after Prohibition, and what is confirmed is that it’s as dive-y as it always was. The original mahogany bar still stands sentry in the middle of the room, and rock stars, frat boys, neighborhood guys, fireman, and everyone in between have spent long nights sidled up to it or tucked into a duct-taped booth. When those drinks get too stiff and you need a break from the loud jukebox, ask the bartender for a hot dog. They’re free. rudysbarnyc.com.
Interior of Rudy's Bar.