LED sign that reads Birdy's in cursive writing

Grandlife guide

A Rundown of the Run-Down

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True New York dives worth knowing about, according to Bass Drum of Death frontman and dive enthusiast John Barrett.  

We love a good craft cocktail or champagne bar, but there is nothing like the comfort of a true New York dive. With the exit of affordable watering holes like Motor City, Winnie’s, St. Jerome’s, Three of Cups, Subway Inn, the original Minetta Tavern (the list goes on and on), the question remains where does one get a cheap drink in a great albeit grungy dive bar anymore? You know the type of place, one that is one part historic and one part cool, where any given afternoon you can find a mix of cool kids, old-timers, weirdos, and locals hunched over a realistically priced beer or well drink. We talked to John Barrett (pictured above at Birdy’s bar), man about town, frontman of Bass Drum of Death and dive enthusiast, about his favorite places to get a drink.

Josie’s and Sophie’s

You can get a pint for under $5 during happy hour, dogs are often allowed, and they even let you bring in a pizza if you get hungry. Both can get a little packed on the weekends, yet somehow the bathrooms remain relatively clean in comparison.

Barrett says: “These are my two go-to sister bars. Each has a great jukebox, pool tables, and cheap beer.”

520 East 6th Street; 507 East 5th Street

Capri Social Club

Capri is a remnant of Greenpoint’s Polish past. It’s a chill joint that feels like its in a small town, with a historic wooden bar, plenty of seating and no-frills décor. It’s unpretentious, serves Jell-O shots and has a $3 can of Pabst on the menu.

Barrett says: “Chill Greenpoint joint that serves Jell-O shots. There’s also usually a $1 shot special on sketchy off-brand fruity liquor.”

156 Calyer Street, Brooklyn

Spain Restaurant

Spain is seriously a window into the past. The bar at the front of the restaurant looks just as it did when it opened over 40 years ago, with its curved wooden bar, 1970s gold-crackled mirror wall and vintage paintings of Spain. The waiters also appear to have worked there since the restaurant opened, and still wear old school classic red suit coats. The happy hour is cheap, they have great traditional sangria and free tapas all night long.

Barrett says: “Spanish spot with old-school waiters, free tapas, and sangria.”

113 West 13th Street, New York

Lucy’s

Lucy’s hasn’t changed much over the decades. Located in Alphabet City, along Tompkins Square Park, it is dingy and bohemian in the best possible way. Cash only, but there is an ATM.

Barrett says:Excellent pool bar with two tables. Run by one of the sweetest ladies ever, Lucy, who is always behind the bar, and the hours are whenever she says they are.”

135 Avenue A, New York

Birdy’s

This ’70s-inspired punk bar has a great selection of frozen drinks. Happy hour goes until 9pm, but drinks are cheap enough to spend the whole evening at this Bushwick dive.

Barrett says: “Very dark bar in my neighborhood, Bushwick, that has a dangerously cheap beer-shot special.”

1215 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn

WORDS Lori Zimmer

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