Who needs the glitz and glamor of Midtown when you’ve got the East Village to show you a good time? One of the crowned jewels of Manhattan nightlife, the East Village proves that trendy is trashy and lounges are lame. Dive bars set the standard for what’s truly cool in this always rockin’ part of the borough. Sticky floors, exposed brick walls, dingy dance floors, narrow walkways, and crummy crappers can be found in most of these watering holes, but we’ve compiled a list of the ones we find ourselves diving into again and again and highly recommend you do the same. Oh yeah, did we mention that perhaps our favorite dive bar trait are the cheap drinks and happening happy hours most offer?
Two words: Beer cozies. At Whiskey Town, there’s lots to love, but it’s the canned beer and colorful cozies for every single one of them that stole our hearts. Not to mention, you buy six beers, they even give you a standard cooler to keep them cold. Whiskey Town has lots of endearing qualities for a dive: black-and-white photo booth, live DJ spinning our favorite rock n’ roll, and down to earth tattooed bartenders who occasionally have you pour your own shots. It can get hot, it can get packed, but we’ve never walked out of Whiskey Town dissatisfied. It’s best kept secret? The Pickle Back shot. It’s a shot of Jameson chased with a shot of pickle juice. It sounds awful, but it tastes amazing.
McSorley’s Old Ale House
15 E. 7th St. (Near Second Ave.)
There’s barely a space on the walls of this East Village landmark that doesn’t have some piece of city history attached to it, be it a photograph, memento, or relic of some sort. Their most popular plate might be the cheese, onion, and cracker dish. And you can down two glasses of beer for just five bucks. What more can we say? The place fills up quickly and tightly, often with bridge and tunnel travelers or out of towners, but no one seems to mind the mess. McSorley’s reeks of old school New York: gritty, grimy, and lush with loaded locals. It’s New York at its finest, and East Village at its best, and we love it.
64 Third Ave. (At 11th Street)
Every good dive bar has a quirky selling point, and for this super sports bar, it might just be the phone number. 979-BEER. How cool is that? It’s more like the Village Frat House, but the Pourhouse lives up to its name and is far cooler than just a phone number. It’s every sports lover’s dream come true: dozens of brands of bottled beer, and two dozen on tap — one for every TV screen adorning the walls of this giant tavern. Even their burgers are mouth-watering. But even when the games aren’t on, the Pourhouse is hopping late at night when the bar is slammed with a raucous crowd young and old, rocking out to our favorite hits from the ’70s and ’80s. There are specials just about every night, be it Rock Band Tuesdays or Trivia Thursdays, giving us plenty of reasons to come back for more and more.
Lucy’s (a.k.a. Blanche’s Tavern)
135 Ave. A (bet. 9th St. & St. Marks Pl.)
She’s reason enough to frequent this dive that dates back to the 1970s. Lucy, a Polish septuagenarian, has worked the counter of her bar for what seems like an eternity, and she hasn’t lost a beat. Still pouring the perfect beer with a warm smile and a heart of golden hops, it’s easy to mute out the rock music blaring from the jukebox while you get to know the face behind the name. Lucy’s has the ultimate look of a true dive bar: graffiti-covered walls, bleak décor, red cushioned barstools, and gnarly bathrooms that make holding it in a better option. Of course, if Lucy and her beyond-reasonably priced drinks don’t do the trick, you can always chalk it up for a game of billiards.
Tile Bar/WCOU Radio
115 First Avenue (Betw. 7th & 8th Streets)
Though there’s no official nameplate above this bar to let you know what it’s actually called, WCOU Radio has been going by “Tile Bar” to its frequent visitors because of its tiled walls covering the outside of it. This stellar spot has all the fixins for a great dive. Its vast jukebox rocks out during happy hour every day from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with $3 shots. Yes, $3 shots, making it a standout bender-starter. Of course, what we love most about Tile Bar is that it’s just one of those good places to hang during any portion of your night out. It draws a fun crowd, and has friendly bartenders eager to feed your liqour habit. We hate to say there’s nothing truly special at Tile Bar, but perhaps that, in fact, is what makes this place so very special indeed.