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

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

You May Also Like

Downtown Vintage Treasure Troves

Downtown Vintage Treasure Troves

fashion
stories
Victorian blouses, sequined disco tops, perfectly worn 501s—these emporiums will sort out any gaps you might have. 
Get Lost in Chinatown

Get Lost in Chinatown

coffee & cafés
fashion
food & drink
reading
stories
From a family-run tofu shop to a private hair studio—our favorite under-the-radar spots.
Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

art & design
bars & nightlife
coffee & cafés
food & drink
stories
Our favorite Ukrainian spots in a city that boasts the largest Ukrainian population in the country. 
On Show: New York Art World Icons Warhol & Basquiat

On Show: New York Art World Icons Warhol & Basquiat

art & design
stories
If you only catch a few exhibitions this spring, make sure it’s these ones...
Weekends in SoHo

Weekends in SoHo

art & design
bars & nightlife
fashion
food & drink
stories
Combining heritage with a new age of restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques, explore the neighborhood with this curated guide.
The Originals: NYC Institutions Still Worth a Visit

The Originals: NYC Institutions Still Worth a Visit

bars & nightlife
food & drink
stories
From an essential NYC Jewish deli to a chemist to a comedy club with anecdotes and fun facts from those who were—or still are—there.
Best in Class: NYC Concept Stores

Best in Class: NYC Concept Stores

fashion
shopping
stories
In typical New York fashion, a class of concept stores has raised the bar for what you can expect from a clothing boutique.
New York Spring Gardens Downtown Elizabeth Street Garden Gramercy Park Washington Square Park

Diggin' It: Downtown Garden Escapes

food & drink
stories
Lunch date, garden party, solo respite—these 5 outdoor spots have your alfresco needs covered this spring.
Best Rate Promise
Soho Grand Hotel

310 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-3000
The Roxy Hotel New York

2 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013

212.519.6600