Over the last five years, New Yorkers have bid a somber farewell to legendary dives including Odessa, Mars Bar, and Blarney Cove. With rents skyrocketing and the “fringe class” being pushed out of the city, it’s easy to give up on the divey bar scene and get lost in a maze of $15 Old Fashioneds. But there are still great, no-nonsense watering holes tucked away throughout the city—you just have to know where to look.

When we crave equal parts solace and cheap entertainment, it’s the dark, seedy dive bar that we want. Off-the-clock bartenders feel the same way—when they’re done shaking daiquiris and inventing cocktails for the guest who wants something “refreshing but not too sweet,” they crave shots and cheap beers, not fancy cocktails.

“For me, a dive bar is really a place that feels like home, or feels like the favorite sweatpants you only wear at home,” says Post Office Bar owner Alla Lapushchik, who met her ex-husband at a dive. “It is a place that is beyond comfortable; somewhere you can really let it all hang out.”

We asked 11 of New York’s top barkeeps which dives they go to when they need a proper, no-nonsense session. After-hours (or on their day off), you might find them at these watering holes, sipping whiskey straight and feeding crumpled bills into the jukebox.

Downtown Manhattan

Rosie Schaap

Bartender at South; Drink columnist for New York Times Magazine


Favorite dive bar: Milano’s Bar (51 E Houston St; 212-226-8844, Facebook/MilanosBar)

Schaap says: “In Manhattan, I will always love Milano’s best among dives. I love it the most on weekday afternoons, when the warm, welcoming Jackie—one of my bartending idols—is working. Both Milano’s and my other favorite, Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, are great dives because they are unapologetically what they are: no pretense, no aspirations to be anything else, and they attract a diverse cross-section of New York drinking humanity. And they’ve got the best daytime bartenders around.” (Photo: Rosie Schaap, Yelp)

Jim Meehan

Partner at PDT

Favorite dive bar: Lucy’s (135 Avenue A; 212-673-3824, Yelp/Lucys)

Meehan says: “Lucy’s is right around the corner from PDT on Avenue A between St. Marks and 9th Street. Now in her 70s, Ludwika “Lucy” Mickevicius still opens the place up herself and tends bar. Like many dives, it has a pool table, a jukebox, and a selection of canned beer, but the erratic hours (it’s inexplicably closed quite often) and very existence on a stretch of real estate that has more closed storefronts (thanks to greedy landlords) than open businesses makes it feel more like a local museum than a place to let loose. As in any great bar, time stands still when you’re drinking in it, and this place clocked out a long time ago.” (Photo: Melissa Hom, Yelp)

Jason Mendenhall

Owner/bar guy at The Wayland


Favorite dive bar: Mona’s (224 Avenue B; 212-353-3780, Facebook/MonasBarNYC)

Mendenhall says: “There’s nothing quite like a great dive bar where you can kick back in an unpretentious environment and enjoy a Guinness. That would be enough for me, but when your neighborhood dive adds Skee-ball, a pool table, and a live ’20s/’30s ragtime band squeezed into the corner playing acoustic banjo, clarinet, and brass with a vocalist who sounds like all she eats is honey—well that, my friends, is magic.” (Photo: Lianna Tarantin, Facebook)

Michael Neff

Bar director at Holiday Cocktail Loungevox

Favorite dive bar: East Village Social (126 St. Mark’s Place; 646-755-8662, evsnyc.com)

Neff says: ““EVS has everything you want from a good dive. It’s gritty without being dirty, has tons of attitude but no pretension, and an effortless cool that is only acheivable when bars are made by people, not design firms. Good beer, decent spirits, food served late, amazing playlists, way too dark—it’s an unapologetic little joint in a sea of tourist traps, college bars, and fancy cocktail dens. Worth the wait for a seat at the bar.” (Photo: Michael Neff, Foursquare)

Jade Brown-Godfrey

Head bartender at Wassailbarrrr

Favorite dive bar: Josie’s Bar (520 E. 6th St; 212-228-9532, JosiesBar/Facebook); Sophie’s (507 E. 5th St; 212-228-5680, SophiesBar/Facebook)

Brown-Godfrey says: “I used to go to Mona’s almost every day after working at Pouring Ribbons. But I also love Mona’s sister bars, Josie’s and Sophie’s, for the same reasons: they’re relatively low-key and have fantastic bartenders, large pours of whiskey, and cold beer.” (Photo: Noah Devereaux, Yelp)

Hell’s Kitchen

Kenta Goto

Pegu Clubrude

Favorite dive bar: Rudy’s Bar & Grill (627 9th Ave; 646-707-0890, rudysbarnyc.com)

Goto says: “Beer is cheap. Hot dogs are free. Rudy’s has been in business forever and it’s an institution in Hell’s Kitchen. Everyone goes there—from MTA transit workers to actors on Broadway shows. It’s open in the morning, too.” (Photo: Liz Barclay, Flickr)


Meaghan Dorman

Bar director at Raines Law Room and Dear Irvingplus

Favorite dive bar: Plug Uglies (257 3rd Ave; 212-780-1944, plugugliesnyc.com)

Dorman says: Plug Uglies is just a couple of blocks away from Dear Irving. It opens early afternoon and stays open late, so anytime you need a refuge it’s there. It has shuffleboard and pool, but my favorite part is the jukebox, which has a great variety (including my late-night go-tos: Fleetwood Mac and Heart). I’ve seen quite a few sing-a-longs, which always cheers me up. Plug Uglies has a nice crew of bartenders and regulars if you feel like a conversation, but like all good dive bars, they are happy to leave you on your own and just make sure your glass is full.”

Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

Maxwell Britten

Bar director at Maison Premieremont

Favorite dive bar: Montero’s Bar & Grill (73 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn; 646-729-4129, Facebook/MonterosBar)

Britten says: “Montero’s is dirty and old, and supposedly has a nautical theme. They always have some really interesting late-night karaoke and the bar staff have been there ever since I’ve been stepping in 10 years ago. I believe Montero has been there over 30 years. Go there in between romantic walks down Hicks Street and crack open a PBR.” (Photo: Michael McCarthy, Facebook/MonterosBar)

Red Hook, Brooklyn

Justin Israelson

Owner of Sycamore Flower Shop & Bar


Favorite dive bar: Sunny’s (253 Conover St, Red Hook, Brooklyn; 718-625-8211, sunnysredhook.com)

Israelson says: “Sunny’s isn’t open everyday, but when it is, its such a wonderful space to be in, rain or shine. The music is always fantastic. The staff is great. All in all, it’s just a good environment to be in whether you’re on your own or hanging out with some friends.” (Photo: Nona Brooklyn, Sunny’s)

Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Natasha David

Co-owner of Nightcapfishh

Favorite dive bar: Dynaco (1112 Bedford Ave, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; Facebook/Dynaco)

David says: “It’s comfy. It’s unpretentious. They have a great back bar. I’ll usually stop by early in the week for a big glass of their house red wine on my way home from work. Their food menu consists of gold fish and chocolate cake, and in my humble opinion, that’s all anyone needs to be happy.” (Photo: Daniel Krieger, Yelp)

Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Alla Lapushchik

Owner/bartender at Post Officeyes

Favorite dive bar: RBar (451 Meeker Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 718-486-6116, Facebook/RBarBrooklyn)

Lapushchik says: “I’m a big fan of shooting pool. RBar has a good pool table, plus a jukebox, beers, shots, and a slew of characters. Some places you go into and somehow always end up in a fight. Not here—this place is what it is and doesn’t care if you want to be what you are. It might be under the BQE, but it’s a little piece of heaven after a tough day/shift/week/year.” (Photo: Alla Lapushchik, Instagram)

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