A Rundown of the Run-Down

Grandlife guide

A Rundown of the Run-Down

back to list

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 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


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

You May Also Like

New York Stores bookstore coming soon abc home adam green brianna lance tali lennox academy records maryam nassir zadeh no.6 store shopping the realreal sincerely tommy strand bookstore mast di palo's

Local Go-Tos With Adam Green, Brianna Lance, Nikki Kynard & Others

art & design
now open
We asked friends of GrandLife to share their favorite NYC stores and what they love about them. Here’s what they told us…
ABC kitchen loring place diner marlow & Sons olmsted blue hill at stone barns farm-to-table season locally grown new york restaurant outdoor dining

6 Farm-to-Table Restaurants to Visit Now

now open
New York is teeming with seasonal and locally grown fare and many of the city’s top spots are now open for outdoor dining.
Pace Gallery Julian Schnabel Deitch Projects Peter Nagy Arlene Shechet Shrine The Hole Katsu Dot David Zwirner

Get your Art Fix at these New York Galleries

art & design
From Julian Schnabel's large-scale works at Pace Gallery to Peter Nagy's reflections on ’80s New York at Deitch Projects—we share a hit list of exhibitions to visit now.
Alfresco Dining Sidewalk seating outdoor dining new york open street program dimes ten bells dudleys kikis greek the odeon dante gilligans little ways via carota buvette bar pisellino carbone roxy hotel

Weekend Block Party: Alfresco Dining, Live Jazz & More

food & drink
From Orchard to Grove, we roundup the liveliest streets downtown with recommendations on venues to visit, when to go (happy hour, anyone?), and more. 
Little Ways Soho restaurant bar the flower shop ronnie flynn dylan hales new york dining al fresco

Welcome to Little Ways

food & drink
A ’70s-style bistro from the Flower Shop team, now open for al fresco dining. Co-founders Ronnie Flynn and Dylan Hales give us the grand tour. 
Peter Ruppert Lucien Pastis Don Papa Rum Sweet Water Summer Cocktail New York cocktail bar summer

Peter Ruppert's Guide to Summer Drinking

food & drink
Where to drink, what to drink, and how to drink it.
Chloë Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Mick Rock, richard boch, akiva epstein, anouk colantoni, veselka, raoul's, the odeon, souen, grand central oyster bar, ana kras

Local Go-Tos with Chloë Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Mick Rock and others

food & drink
We asked some of our favorite locals to share their neighborhood spots and what they order when they go. Here’s what they told us…
Drive-in theater New york Upstate Greenpoint Bel Aire Diner Skyline Theater Tribeca Drive-In

A Night at the Drive-In

From classic spots to summer pop-ups, we round up our favorite al fresco theaters, for your viewing pleasure.
Best Rate Promise
Soho Grand Hotel

310 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-3000
The Roxy Hotel Tribeca

2 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013