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

Fort Tilden New York Best Swim Spots

Get the Skinny on New York's Best Dips

Get yourself to any of these locations and come back once the sun has backed off enough to enjoy the cool air of the city's beautiful summer nights. 
Downtown Karaoke Bars New York Baby Grand Planet Rose Sing Sing Up Stairs Bar

No-frills, all-thrills: Downtown Karaoke Bars

bars & nightlife
Our favorite downtown karaoke bars have something for everybody and we’re sharing them with you. 
Best Tacos NYC

A Taco Tour of NYC

These Mexican restaurants meet firmly in the middle between great taste and exciting atmosphere.
Dog Park NYC

Unwind & Unleash: Soho Grand Dog Park

Tribeca's Hidden Treasure: Sunset Oysters And  Live Jazz

Tribeca's Hidden Treasure: Sunset Oysters And Live Jazz

food & drink
Summer Reads McNally Jackson Sam MacLaughlin

McNally Jackson Summer Reading List

art & design
For your reading pleasure. McNally Jackson’s Sam MacLaughlin shares his must-read list. 
Davide Sorrenti Photographer Downtown New York

Basquiat, Davide Sorrenti & More: Summer Art Picks

art & design
From Sorrenti's photographs of 90s downtown New York to the Guggenheim's first artist-curated exhibition—these shows are not to be missed.
Pastis Restaurant West Village New York

Pastis 2.0: The Rebirth of a New York Culinary Icon

Last month saw the bold return of famed French brasserie that closed its doors in 2014. Natasha Silva-Jelly investigates.
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