New York City’s Seven Best Dive Bars

Thu, 5 September 2019

Our favourite dive bars in NYC, for when you’re feeling more fuss-free than fancy…

While the thought of a night out in New York City might instantly summon the image of high glam and higher bar tabs, there are still a few safe havens in the city for those who want to enjoy a cheap and cheerful pint. Whether you’re looking for a grungy Lower East Side spot or a laid-back whiskey bar, our list picks out the best low-stress boozers in town.

Tom & Jerry’s

A neighbourhood favourite for the residents of NoHo, Tom & Jerry’s is one of the popping area’s more spacious bars, and certainly the least pretentious. With an open-door policy for dogs of all kinds, it’s the kind of place where you’re likely to be greeted by an enormous golden retriever when you take a seat at the bar. The taxidermy pinned onto the soaring walls lends this haunt a cabin-style touch reminiscent of Vermont. Craft brew lovers should absolutely stop in for a more affordable sampling than most downtown beer dens can offer.

169 Bar

A zoo of multicoloured lights and cool downtown locals, 169 Bar is a must-visit in the Lower East Side. Come early and lock down the leopard-print pool table at the back of the bar for a birthday party or group hang – securing this much space in NYC sans reservation is practically mythical. Once you’ve had enough of your private party (or need to restock on beers), head to the front for another round and a few bags of microwave popcorn for your friends.

  • +1 212 641 0357 (text only)
  • Go to Website
  • 169 East Broadway

Pete’s Candy Store

The name says it all: this Williamsburg spot is all old-school kitsch. It also provides a wonderful communal feel that’s extremely hard to come by in New York – think spelling bees and trivia contests among patrons, as well as comedy open-mic nights. When you’re not signing up for activities, chat to your bartender about your cocktail preferences for an actually affordable yet perfectly crafted dark and stormy or martini. Don’t even think about leaving without ordering Pete’s famed grilled cheese sandwich to satiate your late-night munchies.

Welcome to the Johnsons

With a claim to fame for being Lady Gaga’s favourite bar in the city, Welcome to the Johnsons takes low-key to a whole new level. With 70s basement vibes, it feels kitsch in just the right way, with a Pac-Man table and a fridge topped with an old-school television. This spot feels like a pared-back version of The Flower Shop, a higher-end bar in New York that shares the Johnsons’ retro atmosphere – we prefer the divey version for serving some of the most affordable beers and margaritas in the city.

  • +1 212 420 9911
  • 123 Rivington Street

Caledonia East

While still offering the pricing and laid-back crowd of your typical dive, Caledonia East feels slightly more refined than the grungier offerings downtown. A favourite watering hole among Upper East Siders sick of choosing between a half-hour journey to the East Village or slim pickings for a relaxed night out uptown, this bar is cocooned by wood-panelled walls and rows upon rows of whiskey behind the bar. Sidle up here with a scotch on a stormy night and you’ll feel as cosy as can be.


Run by Lucy, the Polish owner, this bar is the definition of a dive. Flanking the East Village’s Tompkins Square Park, it’s smack in the middle of a nightlife hub, but is a welcome respite from the thumping music and crowds at Niagara, just down the block. Rather than Top 40 Hits, Lucy’s old-school jukebox cranks out low-key, funky beats, making it a chilled spot to catch up with friends on weeknights without spending a fortune, and an ideal place to get the night going when you’re not ready to jump onto the dancefloor at Berlin quite yet.

  • +1 212 673 3824
  • 135 Avenue A

Botanica Bar

While Botanica Bar’s red neon door sign glowing on East Houston Street might lead onlookers to believe it’s a chic resto-bar, this basement hideaway is a haven for hipsters and artsy locals looking for a down-to-earth evening. Order the suitably botanical $9 “ginger yum yum” made with rosemary-infused vodka, ginger beer and lime for an herbal take on a Moscow mule that’s about half the price of most cocktails you’ll find within a few blocks of here. Don’t miss Sunday night karaoke with the Nolita cool kids.

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