Latest Best of NY

The 7 Best ‘Hole In The Wall’ Bars In New York City

August 11, 2011 12:35 PM

View Comments
The Ear Inn bar in New York City

The Ear Inn bar in New York City. (credit: earinn.com)

Call ‘em taverns, call ‘em pubs, call ‘em watering holes, call ‘em dives. There’s one thing that can be said about a true-blue hole in the wall – in most neighborhoods, they’re hard to come by. And if they’re any good, they’re even harder to find. And while they may not be places where everybody knows your name, chances are – and with very few exceptions – they’ll still be glad you came, especially if you buy a few rounds. As for finding these places, most of them don’t have sites posted on the Internet, so forget Google’s help. Hit the streets by foot and hunt them down yourself. When you find ‘em, trust me: You’ll be glad you sought them out. By Kevin Byrne.

Dublin House

The Dublin House bar in New York City

The Dublin House (credit: ublinhousenyc.com)

225 West 79th Street
New York, N.Y.
212-874-9528
dublinhousenyc.com

Formerly an orphanage and dating back to Prohibition, this Upper West Side watering hole has been a real grass-roots, old school Irish bar and a bona-fide historical landmark since 1921, when its rather unsuspecting façade allowed the owner John Carway to operate it as a saloon and restaurant (even while Volstead was in effect). Its planks are currently walked by Mike Cormican, who not only bought the joint in 2006, but has been its bartender for 20 years. But again, this is no place for pretention or novice drinkers. So if you do go in, belly up to the bar and have a jar or two or three. Enjoy the juke and the craic (that’s Gaelic for “jokes”), mind your P’s and Q’s, and chances are, if you’re affable, you’ll end up making a friend or two by the end of the evening. Opens at 8 a.m. (except Sundays, when they open at noon), closes at 4 a.m. And when you leave, be sure to gaze up at the iconic neon harp. Just watch your step.

Ear Inn

The Ear Inn bar in New York City

The Ear Inn bar in New York City. (credit: earinn.com)

326 Spring Street
New York, N.Y.
(212) 431-9750
earinn.com
Reviews & more info

From the outside, it may look like a wicked cool South Boston tavern straight out of Friends of Eddie Coyle … but it ain’t. In fact, The Ear has been Soho-based from days of yore, and when you set foot inside you’ll feel like you walked right back into them. Everything – from its signage to its floors to the fireplace – suggests a place with a lot of crust and rust, and that’s what makes it a popular hangout for local artists and musicians who come to enjoy a cheap cold one, or revel in the cool surroundings.

Subway Inn

Beer

(file photo credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

143 E. 60th Street
New York, N.Y.
212-223-8929
Reviews & more info

If there’s anything that can be said about the well-heeled side of New York City, especially the ladies’ shopping district, it’s that little surprises still exist here and there, like this 30’s era gin mill. Everything from the beat-up steel of its front façade to the red neon signage screams “dump”, but since it sits in the fine shadow of the Bloomingdales flagship, it’s now a landmark with serious street cred, especially for ladies looking to enjoy a quick, cheap drink with pals after trolling for finery. Not that I’d recommend ladies go there. On the other hand, if you’re a guy looking to avoid a wife out shopping, it’s a great place to down a cold beer with the regulars (some of whom, don’t get me wrong, make Charles Bukowski look like George Clooney) while she rings up her purchases. And unless you enjoy the stinging aftertaste of pure vinegar, the “house wine” is not recommended.

St. Jerome’s

st jeromes1 The 7 Best Hole In The Wall Bars In New York City

(credit: St. Jerome's/Facebook)

155 Rivington St. (btw Clinton & Suffolk)
New York, N.Y.
(212) 533-1810

Dark, good music, and cheap drinks. Dare anyone ask for more in a neighborhood dive? That is the essence of St. Jeromes … a Lower East Side bar that, despite it’s anonymous exterior and graffiti-scrawled interior, is surprisingly clean and fresh-smelling once you walk inside, where the atmosphere is both grungy and inviting, and the DJ spins songs so familiar and good you’ll swear he stole your iPod. Cash is the preferred method of payment, but plastic is welcome, so long as you meet the $20 minimum. And come on, where else can you get $2 dollar Buds till midnight every night of the week? But remember: if a bouncer’s on duty, always defer to what the late great Swayze would do: “Be nice.”

Mama’s Bar

Mama's Bar in New York City

Mama's Bar in New York City. (credit: mamasbarnyc.com)

34 Avenue B
New York, N.Y.
(212) 777-5729
mamasbarnyc.com
Reviews & more info

Open “every damn day from 12 pm till 4 am”, Mama’s motto is all but spoken like a woman who’s had to deal with one too many rowdy kids in her day. It may look and smell dank ‘n dirty, but that’s not to say it isn’t a place to go and kick back with a few cold Kelsos and shoot the bull with arty East Village locals. Sure, its unisex bathroom is a little off-putting, but Mama’s friendly barkeeps more than make up for it by manufacturing some mighty snappy and sexy drinks (try the jalapeno-infused tequila margarita – only $5). As for its house-infused vodka selection, well … let’s just say nobody makes ‘em like mama does.

Blue & Gold Tavern

draft beer The 7 Best Hole In The Wall Bars In New York City

(file photo credit: AP)

79 E 7th St. (btw 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, N.Y.
(212) 777-1006
Reviews & more info

A well-respected and ratty East Village tavern where it pays to be both friendly and frequent, the Blue & Gold is a well-flocked haunt with a cool juke and pool table that draws a crowd ranging from young singles and senior citizens to clean-cut frat boys and badass bikers. The house beer (Blue & Gold Lager) is excellent at $4 apiece, and its roster of mixed drinks is exceptionally low-priced, with combos as low as $3. So just how beloved is the B&G? When word leaked out that management closed up shop to soundproof its ceiling in May, widespread panic hit its most loyal drinkers, who took to the web in mourning. Thankfully, its rumored demise turned out to be false. But, a good-natured warning to all first-time visitors: don’t drink TOO much or stay too long, or you’ll end up having to use the B&G bathroom, which easily makes the black hole of Calcutta look like a Friday night at the Four Seasons.

Holiday Cocktail Lounge

holiday cocktail bar The 7 Best Hole In The Wall Bars In New York City

(credit: Holiday Cocktail Bar & Lounge/Facebook)

75 St. Mark’s Place
New York, N.Y.
212-777-9637
Reviews & more info

Three steps down from street level (in every sense of the word), this legendary smoke-stained watering hole is so low you’d have to be looking straight ahead and miss it, and that’s what makes it special. Another ex-speakeasy, the Holiday has the distinction of being another neighborhood joint not easily found by Internet-savvy hipsters … because, in the words of a besotted regular who sounded a lot like Tom Waits, “this joint ain’t GOT no website.” So if you’re looking for a social scene with mixed drinks and ambiance, get lost. This is a place for solitary sorts who like $4 shots of straight whiskey and want to either shoot pool solo or comfortably slouch in a side booth and listen to a juke so packed with Rolling Stones you’d half-expect Keith Richards to bust out of the speakers and ask the owner for royalties. But not before having a drink first.

For the latest on the NYC bar and nightlife scene, follow us on Twitter!
View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus