Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (2023)

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Sebastian Modac


Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (1)

Sebastian ModakaAugust 27, 2023

From Sophie's and Jimmy's Corner to Sunny's and Sharlene's, soon you'll be speaking your name in these beloved New York institutions.


New York is one of the most exciting places in the world to have a drink. It's a city full of bars with secret entrances hidden behind telephone booth doors and dimly lit cocktail bars where drinks are guided by your taste buds and your mixologist's intuition. Sometimes that kind of experience is just what you want. But for everything in between there is a humble dive bar.

What we would now affectionately call a "dive bar" - cheap beer, bad wine, low- and mid-range spirits, a changing cast of regulars, a casual approach to hygiene - was once the driving force behind New York's nightlife. However, as the city has cleaned up and appraised many of these beloved institutions in recent decades, real dive bars have become less and less popular. Fortunately, a few of them still survive as living embodiments of the spirit of New York.

But first, some tips. Just because a place advertises itself as a dive bar doesn't mean it is. For every true local bar, there are at least three yuppie bait imitations where you can be fooled by graffiti in the bathroom and then be surprised when a pint of beer costs $13. ForTruedive in, bring cash, don't try to order anything special or you'll get laughed at (I've seen that), and of course, always tip the bartender.

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (2)

Sophie's is everything you want in a bar and nothing more Sebastian Modak

1. Sophia

I came regularlyTo Sophie, an unmarked bar on the outskirts of Alphabet City, for about ten years - which makes me a novice. Pull up a stool and you'll probably be talking to people who have ordered "regular" food four times as long. They tell you of the old days when this corner of the Lower East Side was a haven for punks and artists, and you wouldn't go any further east unless you were looking for a rescue or a fight.

Today, Sophie's is everything you're looking for in a bar and nothing more. The faucet list is simple and cheap. The back of the room, the size of a shoebox, is occupied by a sticker-decorated billiard table. The number of tables becomes less and less desirable as you get closer to the bathrooms at the back that say "SICK ROOM". If no one has put money in the jukebox (prices thankfully remain insensitive to inflation), the bar is quiet.

Sophie almost ceased to exist in 2007 with the increasing pressure of gentrification. Fortunately, it was taken over by a new owner and not much has changed. For now, it's a keeper and the perfect neighborhood bar. Just avoid the late Friday or Saturday nights, when the place is taken over by NYU students who, one of the bartenders told me, occasionally had the audacity to order espresso martinis.
Address: ul. 507 E 5e
Phone: +1-212-228-5680

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (3)

Jimmy's Corner took its name from its former owner, boxer and gym owner Sebastian Modak

2. Jimmy's Corner

Unless it's a Broadway show or a Port Authority bus, most New Yorkers will do their best to avoid Times Square: too many tourists, too many chain restaurants, too many people dressed as Spiderman asking if you want a picture. But not far from five-star hotels and Ivy League clubs lies a site so legendary that some argue it deserves registration as a landmark.

Jimmy's Corneropened in 1971 by Jimmy Glenn, a boxer and gym owner. Glenn, who had been a regular at the bar for decades, died of the virus in May 2020 at the age of 89. After a hiatus, the bar reopened earlier this year under the leadership of son Jimmy.

From the street, Jimmy's Corner looks small, dwarfed by the huge parking lots and surrounding apartment buildings. Walk in through the front door and the room feels even smaller. The narrow bar opens into a slightly wider seating area. Everywhere you look, the walls are covered in old boxing photos and memorabilia. Several signs remind patrons of one of the bar's few rules: "Let's not talk politics here."

During happy hour you can get a draft beer for three dollars - something unheard of in this city, let alone in this area. But it's the clientele that is the most beautiful aspect of Glenn's legacy. All the seats in the bar are usually occupied by a cross section of New Yorkers on 17.01, including blue collar workers, bureaucrats, eccentrics and the occasional famous tourist.
Adres: 140 W 44th St
Phone: +1-212-221-9510

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (4)

You can get a pint of Bud and a shot of Sebastian Modak for $10 at Sharlene's

3. Sharlenes

by Sharleneit is a place that causes a physical reaction in those who know it. "Do you want a drink before bed, Sharlene?" you suggest, a flash of excitement in your eyes. Newcomers are drawn to the classic 1950s-style sign on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood, and the dimly lit interior creates a cozy atmosphere that fills the nights. There is no TV - a few pinball machines, a small collection of board games and a jukebox provide entertainment, and food is limited to Zappa potato chips and other small snacks. Compared to other dive bars in the area, the place is clean, well stocked and has a decent selection of craft beers on tap, but you can still get a pint of Budweiser and a shot of whiskey for $10.

For years, Sharlene's had an unfortunate reputation as home to a team of off-duty bartenders. This seems to have changed recently, with a curt "What do you want?" now often replaced by the milder "What can I give you?" In addition to hosting a sizeable group of regulars, Sharlene's also has a reputation as the meeting place for the New York media, so be prepared to overhear conversations about looming deadlines, overbearing editors, and the latest round of layoffs.

Adres: 353 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn
Phone: +1-718-618-0282

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (5)

Sunny's has been a Red Hook institution since the 1890s Randy Duchaine/Alamy

4. Sunny

It's raining, the kind of winter rain that soaks your bones. Walking down an eerily quiet cobblestone street in Brooklyn's Red Hook waterfront, you know you've taken a wrong turn. And then you see it, lit up like a beacon: "BAR." You walk in, sit down, order a beer and listen to live bluegrass jam (every Saturday) streaming in from the next room. A special kind of heat is produced. Congratulations, you've found Sunny's. No real reason to go to another bar again.

Sunny's pays cash only, has no kitchen, has a slightly nautical theme, and is loved by generations of Red Hook residents. It has benefited from its isolation: it is easier to get here by ferry than by subway. Thanks to its remote location, the same spirit that made it a local hangout for longshoremen in the 1890s remains at least partially intact. It is a place where you can celebrate great occasions, but also a place suitable for a quiet evening with a book and a glass of inexpensive whiskey. You can chat with friendly - but not very enthusiastic - bartenders or not. This bar has an ethos that permeates every interaction you have: no one cares who you are as long as you are yourself. In the summer, the backyard becomes its own little paradise within paradise.

Address: 253 Conover Street, Brooklyn
Phone: +1-718-625-8211
Instagram: @Sunnysbarofficieel

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (6)

The Ready Penny Inn seems a little out of place in Jackson Heights, but somehow it fits Sebastian Modak perfectly

5. De Ready Penny Inn

Situated between two South Asian halal supermarkets,De Ready Penny Innseems unlikely, but once you get the hang of it a bitHistoria i kultura Jackson Heights, it makes sense. Locals claim that due to waves of immigration from around the world, at least 160 different languages ​​are spoken in this district of Queens. Here you will find Tibetan food trucks, Colombian bakeries and Pakistani tailors. Of course, there was also a tried and tested Irish pub.

Passing through a heavy wooden door, you enter a well-lit room, sparsely furnished but immaculately clean. Long bar and four cabins. Two taps: Stella or Guinness (perfectly poured). billiard table. Dart board. The bartender, invariably Irish, is friendly to newcomers and even friendlier to regulars. The stained glass windows mean you're never sure if it's light or dark outside, and several of these 160+ languages ​​are always spoken at the bar. There is no food menu, but why should there be in an area that is the gastronomic equivalent of the United Nations? When a few rounds whet your appetite, there are around 100 fantastic restaurants within walking distance that offer delivery.

Adres: 3707 73rd St, Jackson Heights
Phone: +1-718-899-7208

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (7)

Tip-Top has been run by the same family since its opening almost 50 years ago by Sebastian Modak

6. Great bar and grill

Community is what counts at the best dive bars. They have no frills because they don't need them: it's more about who you meet at the bar than it is about the bar itself. This is the caseGreat bar and grillthat gives the impression of someone's living room - because it really is. Built in the courtyard of a mansion on the border of Brooklyn's Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods, Tip-Top has been run by the same family since it opened nearly half a century ago as an unincorporated social club. It took several decades for it to become a legal place of business, but it still has the feel of a home made to entertain the neighbors.

Don't be surprised if you come across what appears to be a private event. Hang in there though and you'll be welcomed like family. There are no beer taps (only a selection of cans and bottles), but if you come on a weekend (only open Thursday-Sunday), there can be homemade punch flowing from the bar and fish frying in the small kitchen. Obama memorabilia line the walls, mixed with family photos of the owner and, whatever the season, Christmas decorations. Like most ground-floor apartments in the area, the bar overlooks a backyard where mismatched, barely functional furniture awaits those wanting a lazy summer afternoon.
Adres: 432 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn
Phone: +1-718-857-9744

Discover seven of New York's best dive bars (8)

Fish Market is a South Street spot serving some of the best Southeast Asian food in Sebastian Modak

7. Fish market

The first step to experience the magicfish marketwondering how to get to Vismarkt. The opening of the cracked, handleless doors is a rite of passage so essential to the mysticism of the place that I would refrain from describing it here. You'll understand, and if not, a passing local might be nice enough to help you out.

Hidden away in a fast growing part of ManhattanSouth Seaport StreetFish Market District is a dive bar, sports bar and excellent Malaysian restaurant all rolled into one. The bar staff (often including the friendly owner Jeff) are known to generously serve customers free Jameson shots, poured from a giant bottle permanently on the bar. This means the noise factor is exponential and most evenings turn into a big party after closing time.

If this sounds like a fun, if not unusual, drinking experience so far, I'd like to introduce you to the kitchen. On one side of the print, which functions as a menu, there is a standard pub menu, and on the other side is "Mama's Menu" - a selection of homemade Malaysian-Chinese dishes prepared by Jeff's mother. Bok choy, beef rendang and chicken curry rival some of the dishes served in the city's most acclaimed Southeast Asian restaurants, but it would be careless not to also try the scallion pancakes, which are served after a few slices of toast. tastier. whiskey with everyone in the room.
Adres: 111 South St
Phone: +1-917-363-8101

((Sebastian Modak is a travel writer who has called New York - along with its filthiest and ugliest bars - home for the last ten years.)


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