New York City

16 Places you Must Drink in New York City

The best bars in NYC are not the crowded midtown joints: they are the locals-infested, happy-hour-loving, deep dark corners of the city. As a local, I can assure you that I don’t want hordes of tourists coming to stop into my local watering hole. That said, there are places you must drink in NYC because they are awesome and I am willing to share my secrets.

Lots of reasons to love New York: and drinking is one of them.

Good, cheap bars in NYC are sacred places. These hallowed houses of booze are where us natives can go to escape the throngs, the stuffy subway stations, the overcrowded tourist hot-spots. We New Yorkers hold our pubs close to our hearts (especially if you get to know the bartender).

I’m writing this list so that the weary traveler will know how to avoid the worst of the tourist traps and hopefully find a chance to go bar hopping at the best bars in NYC in locations that aren’t instagram famous.

A word of warning: cheap bars in New York are plentiful, but – the good ones, anyway – are by no means polished. Have an open mind and be willing to go to a dive if you want a deal and a good time.

So, without further ado, here are the best bars in New York (according to me: a local from Manhattan who now lives in Queens). This is a list of places I would go because they are great, not because they were featured in a glossy magazine. If you want more tips for NYC, or suggestions of places you should eat while in NY you can check out what I’ve written.

Best Cocktail Bars in New York City

Dutch Kills Bar

– Address: 2724 Jackson Ave
Long Island City 11101. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (718) 383-2724
– Hours: Bar Open: 5:00pm – 2:00am Sunday to Thursday; Friday and Saturday 5:00pm – 3:00am;
Kitchen Open: 5:00 pm – 1:00 am 7 days a week

Dutch Kills is speakeasy paradise. This awesome cocktail bar sits deep inside a totally unassuming exterior that simple tells the passerby that it is a “Bar.” I think it is one of the best bars in New York.

Come here with a date, by yourself, or with a group. They have cozy, secretive booths you can have a romantic conversation or a raucous hens’ night. In the way back is an olde-timey bar that stretches the length of the very narrow room.

I always order myself a Moscow Mule and sip out of my copper cup while enjoying the conversations around me. The bar is an incredibly intimate space because the room is so narrow, you’ll really feel cuddly with your neighbors.

This isn’t one of the cheap bars in New York, but I love Dutch Kills. It’s classy, it’s quality, and it’s totally unique. Their menu changes depending on the season, too, so every time you go back you can try something new. They also serve food if you are feeling peckish.

Pro Tip: make a reservation if going over the weekend, this place can get really crowded.

The Flatiron Room 

– Address: 37 W 26th St,
New York, NY 10010. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (212) 725-3860
– Hours: Monday to Saturday 5pm – 2am and Sunday 5pm – 12am

Here’s a great place to relax and oggle their incredible selection of bourbon, whiskey and scotch. This bar is a classy, take-your-date-somewhere-nice spot in The Flatiron district in Manhattan. This is a place you must drink in NYC.

Cait Jones performing with Seth Kessel and the Two Cent Band at the Flatiron Room.

Walk inside and you’ll be struck by the thick velvet curtains covering most of the bar and dozens and dozens of display cases featuring a massive selection of spirits from around the world. They make pretty yummy cocktails, too. I’m a big fan of their “dark and stormy” and “Russian Mule”.

If you come, you’ll be able to catch some live jazz music that plays on a small stage overlooking the whole bar. You can order food as you listen and sip.

Pro Tip: There is a dress code here, so best not to come in your flip-flops and cut-offs after a day out wandering the city.

Apotheke

– Address: 9 Doyers St,
New York, NY 10013. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (212) 406-0400
– Hours: Monday to Saturday 6:30pm–2am; Sunday 8pm–2am

Here’s a fabulous speakeasy in the heart of Chinatown. It’s located on a really tiny street that you can overlook easily, in what looks like a dusty old pharmacy that would never scream “awesome cocktail bar inside!” to the passerby.

But. It’s so cool and trendy in there, I promise. It’s one of the places you must drink in New York.

This is the kind of place you’ll need to put on your Sunday pants and get a little snazzy for. It’s dark, super hip, and those cocktails are off the hook.

This is not a cheap place, though. A delicious cocktail will run you somewhere between $16-$18 USD per drink (and that’s not including tax and tip at the end, sorry folks). It’s a joint like this that gives New York City a reputation for being expensive.

That said, it’s a REALLY great time in there. I love this place and think it’s one of the best bars in New York. Give yourself a treat and try a cocktail you’ve never heard of (because there will be many  on that menu; it’s a mixologist’s heaven).

Pro Tip: If you are looking to cut corners on spending money, you can get dinner in Chinatown for really cheap, then go blow $17 on a cocktail.

Best Cheap Bars in New York City

A big lineup of Pickleback Shots.

Skinny Dennis

– Address: 152 Metropolitan Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11211. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (212) 349-0923
– Hours: Monday to Sunday: 9am – 4am

Skinny Dennis is my go-to watering hole. I LOVE this place. It’s totally a honky-tonk dive bar and it’s everything I want if I’m looking for the best bar in NYC.

You want a cheap place to get a beer and a shot? Check. Free hot peanuts? Check. Live music on the weekends? Check.

Basically, if any of my English as a Foreign Language students need recommendations for the best cheap bars in NYC, I tell them to go here.

I’ve had nothing but fun at Skinny Dennis. If you want to make it part of a bigger bar crawl you can, too! It’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which is a really fun area to visit (and has lots of great bars to try!).

Pro Tip: Try their “frozen coffee” drink. It’s sure to get you buzzed quicker than anything and it’s tasty! They serve it in a blue coffee cup and float the top with bourbon. You can read what Gothamist wrote about it here.

12th Street Ale House

– Address: 192 2nd Ave,
New York, NY 10003. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (212) 253-2323
– Hours: Monday to Friday: 3pm – 4am; Saturday and Sunday 3pm – 4am

Dive bar at it’s best. This is a totally no frills, dive near the East Village in Manhattan. I think this is a great choice if you are looking for a cheap bar in New York City.

There is no food here, but it’s a good jump off point if you want to explore more of the East Village, see a show at STOMP! or wander around the old streets of the city. I love coming down to this area and going here, it’s a real local hang and a place you must drink in NYC.

There is no food here, but the old-school juke box is awesome.

Pro Tip: Go during their happy hour to get the best deals of the day.

Flats Fix

– Address: 14 E 23rd St,
New York, NY 10010. Click here for more information and a menu.
– Phone: (212) 349-0923
– Hours: Monday: 11:30am – 1am; Tuesday to Thursday: 11:30am – 2am; Friday and Saturday: 11:30am – 3am; Sunday: 3pm – 1am

Hello Happy Hour! Flats Fix is a fantastic cheap bar in NY that hits the thirsty passerby with good, cheap margaritas. You can get some Mexican snacks here and take a booth in the back, or stand by the bar under their tiki-themed front and chatter away with a group.

I’ve come here with some of my English language students and we had a great time. It’s good, cheap, and really convenient if you are hoping to wander around Madison Square Park (sits right across the street) oh, and it’s just up the road from the Flatiron Building.

I think this place is best enjoyed when you come for their happy hour.

They do have another branch on 16th street, this bar I’m referring to is on 23rd street opposite Madison Sq. Park.

Pro Tip: Get the margaritas during happy hour, a perfect deal to end your afternoon of oggling the Flatiron Building.

Claret

– Address: 4602 Skillman Ave,
Sunnyside, NY 11104. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (718) 937-7411
– Hours: Monday to Thursday: 5pm – 12am; Friday: 5pm – 2am; Saturday: 1pm – 2am; Sunday: 1pm – 12am

I used to live in Sunnyside, Queens and Claret was the spot to go for a Saturday booze-fest with friends.

This neighborhood bar and restaurant is awesome. It’s a great place to go on a summer evening to sit outside, or sit at the bar and enjoy the breeze coming in from their massive open windows. It’s bright, it’s clean, and their happy hour makes it one of the best cheap bars in New York City.

If you come during their happy hour you can get your own bottle of wine and a pizza or cheese plate for $30 USD per person. I hope you read that right: your Own. Bottle. Of. Wine. And a Pizza. $30 USD.

Can I get a “hell yeah”?

I haven’t seen this kind of deal anywhere else in the city. It’s glorious. Come here if you want to go on a nice date, drink by yourself, or join a group of friends. Claret will accommodate all of those choices, plus it’s an awesome addition to the list of cheap bars in NYC.

Pro Tip: Because this is a neighborhood bar in Sunnyside, it really never gets very crowded, making it a really nice break from Manhattan. It’s only 20 min from Times Square off the 7, so you’re not going too far afield. I’m always encouraging people to get out of Manhattan, and this is a great reason to!

Enjoying a celebratory bottle of wine (each) at Claret in Sunnyside, Queens.

Barbes

– Address: 376 9th St,
Brooklyn, NY 11215. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (347) 422-0248
– Hours: Monday to Thursday: 5pm – 2am; Friday and Saturday: 2pm – 4am; Sunday: 2pm – 2am
Happy Hour is before 7pm.

A great neighborhood bar with great bartenders, nice drinks, and a chill vibe.

There’s a cozy little room out back where they have live music, and seating for about 30. The music can range from gypsy jazz to Balkan brass bands, and everything in between. Bring a date, grabs some drinks, listen to some music, and you’ve got a built in conversation starter to finish off the night.

A must stop spot if you find yourself in Park Slope on a NYC bar crawl (it’s easy to do in Brooklyn). All events carry a strongly suggested $10 entrance fee.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry about checking what music is happening. On any given night it’s great. Even if it turns out not to be your jam, you’re at a sweet local bar, so it’s a win-win!

Threes Brewing 

– Address: 333 Douglass st.
Brooklyn, NY 11217. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (718) 522-2110
– Hours: Monday – Wednesday: 5pm – 12am; Thursday: 5pm – 2am; Friday: 3pm – 2am; Saturday: 12pm – 2am; Sunday: 12pm – 12am.

This one is in Gowanus and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Threes Brewing is all about beer. A little bit “beer hall”, a little bit “diner vibes”, they always have a unique selection pouring through their 24 different taps. I this is one of the best bars because it’s so cozy and fun to hang at.

You can grab food here as well, catered by The Meat Hook, with snacks starting at $6. Brunch is also very much a thing here so if you wanted to start your bar hopping in NYC early, you can pad your stomach with some yummy brunch items.

They’ve also got a back room where they host a variety of live acts, which you can check out on their calendar.

Pro Tip: If you’re in the mood for food, the Meat Hook burger is damn good!

Mission Dolores

– Address: 249 4th Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11215. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (347) 457-5606
– Hours: Monday and Tuesday: 4pm – 2am; Wednesday and Thursday: 2pm – 2am; Friday: 2pm – 4am; Saturday: 12:30pm – 4am; Sunday: 12:30pm – 2am
Happy Hour:
Monday – Friday from Open until 7pm ($1 off all Beer, Wine, and Cocktails and $4 Well Drinks).

Another great Park Slope spot, this former tire shop is funky and friendly. At street level it’s easy to miss, as you’ve got to head down a bit of an alley way to get to the bar, but you’ll be greeted by a hip little courtyard, and an inviting glow from the bar itself.

Excellent drink selection, dog friendly, hip tunes, and old school pinball machines. What’s not to love? As a tourist, you’ll meet your fair share of locals, and as a local, you’ll meet very few tourists! Plus, one of the reasons it is one of the best bars in NYC is because they also have board games you can play!

Come with a group of friends, and your couch-surfing host’s dog, and have a good time! (Oh, and they have a happy hour! Sweet!).

Pro Tip: It’s a little hidden, so keep your eyes peeled while looking for it, if you’re uncertain you’re looking at the right spot, you probably are!

Jalopy Tavern 

Dancing and drinking and music at the Jalopy. What more could you want? Picture taken by Ian Hutchison.

– Address: 317 Columbia St,
Brooklyn, NY 11231. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (718) 625-3214
– Hours: Monday to Thursday: 4pm – 2am; Friday: 4pm – 4am; Saturday: 12pm – 4am; Sunday: 11am – 12am
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday: 4pm – 7pm

Jalopy Tavern comes part and parcel with the next door Jalopy Theatre and School of Music. For us, there’s nothing better than checking what’s on at the Theatre, checkout out some great folk or bluegrass (with a drink, of course), then grabbing a bite and another drink next door at the Tavern.

This is another neighborhood spot, with some great drink specials (can you say “$5 beer and a shot?”), and a cozy locals vibe. There’s usually a steady flow of musicians moving between the tavern and the music venue, so even if you just drop in for a drink, you’ll be able to pick up on what music is happening that night.

The plus side of Jalopy, is that you may just find yourself inspired to enroll yourself in some music lessons while you’re there!

Pro Tip: This is primarily a beer and whiskey joint, but they can also cater to some classic cocktails and a decent glass of wine. It’s also really unpretentious – take it at face value. If you are hungry, just wander next door for some grub!

Best Unique Bars in NY

Radegast

– Address: 113 N 3rd St,
Brooklyn, NY 11211. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (718) 963-3973
– Hours: Monday to Thursday 12pm–2am; Friday 12pm–4am; Saturday and Sunday 11am–4am

This is where Jackson and I met. Maybe you’ll get some romance mojo sprinkled on you if you come here, too? I really enjoy this Biergarten. It’s all German Bier Hall style: big beer steins, schnitzel, German-style decor, and bratwurst. The music isn’t German, though.

Almost every night of the week you can swing by Radegast and catch some type of live music to listen and dance to as you drink your Pilsner. Although this wouldn’t rank among the cheapest bars in New York City, it’s still a pretty good deal.

This is a big spot: it’s a fine choice if you are looking to go somewhere with a group of friends. Get up and dance to some of the rock and roll and swing dance music that can be playing there when you walk in!

Pro Tip: Their bratwurst is always cooking in the back. If you are the kind of person that wants control of what they order and when, you can walk yourself to the grill and order anything you want yourself. There are MASSIVE tables to sit at, too, so bring a couple friends and enjoy the space!

Hudson Bar and Books

– Address: 636 Hudson St,
New York, NY 10014. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (212) 229-2642
– Hours: Monday to Thursday 5pm–4am; Friday 3pm–4am; Saturday 1pm–4pm; Sunday 1pm–3am

It’s a rare bar in New York that will let you smoke inside. It’s even rarer to find one that is fully stocked with cigars. Hudson Bar and Books is one of those bars, however.

I think this place is a real experience. It’s decorated in bookshelves, playing some type of James Bond movie in the back, and smokey with the smell of cigars and cigarettes.

This is not one of the cheap bars in New York, every time we go here we wind up spending WAY too much money on their fantastic selection of single malt scotch, charcuterie, and cigars, but it is a really nice way to treat yourself.

Pro Tip: Come here after listening to jazz at the Village Vanguard and get a late-night scotch and cigar to round out the evening. It’s only a few minutes walk away.

Silvana

– Address: 300 W 116th St,
New York, NY 10026. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (646) 692-4935
– Hours: Cafe is open Sunday to Monday 8am–10pm; Bar and Music is open Sunday – Monday: 4pm–4am

Run by the same people behind The Shrine in Harlem, it’s no surprise that Silvana’s has some great music. Up at street level, it’s a chilled out eclectic cafe / restaurant vibe with some tasty (but slightly pricey), Middle Eastern food, such as falafel, hummus, and shawarma.

Once you’re done there, head downstairs to the chilled out vibes of the bar and music venue.

Downstairs, there’s plenty of room and  you can see anything from jazz, to hip-hop, to African music. It’s a funky chilled out vibe, with either bar or table service. Room to dance if that’s your bag as well.

Pro Tip: It may sound unusual, but give the poached egg hummus bowl a try!

The Frying Pan

– Address: 207 12th Ave,
New York, NY 10001. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (212) 989-6363
– Hours: May 1 – October 1
Open 7 days a week (subject to weather)
12pm – 12am
Off-Season: April 1 – 31 & October 1 – 31
Open when weather is 65 degrees or over
12pm – 12am
Closed: November 1 – April 1

I really like this bar because it’s on a barge floating in the Hudson river. This makes it the perfect spot to come on a warm day and drink a beer while watching the Hudson float by.

If you are really feeling overwhelmed by the city, why not come and take a break on one of their deck chairs and face New Jersey? I can’t say that this is a particularly cheap bar, a Corona will cost you about $8 USD (ouch), but it’s a nice reason to take a break.

They are seasonal and are only open when the weather is nice – so make sure you check up on what is happening by looking at their website.

Pro Tip: Go for a drink and then walk uptown along Riverside Park. You can potentially walk all the way up to Upper Manhattan if you want.

Singlecut Beersmiths

Enjoying a beer at Singlecut one of the best cheap bars in NYC

– Address: 19-33 37th St,
Astoria, NY 11105. Click here for more information.
– Phone: (718) 606-0788
– Hours: Closed Monday and Tuesday; Wednesday 5pm– 10pm ; Thursday 4pm – 10pm; Friday 1pm – 12am; Saturday 11am–12am; Sunday 11am–10pm

This is a great neighborhood spot in upper Astoria, Queens. Tourists don’t come this far out and if you are looking for a secluded, neighborhoody, awesome spot this is one of the best cheap bars in NYC. Singlecut is a brewery and will make different brews throughout the year, making the list of drinks ever-changing.

You can come on a warm day and they’ll throw open the doors, letting in sunlight and air as you sip your beer.

They’ve got bar snacks and plates so if you get peckish you can grab something to nibble.

Highly recommend coming with a group of friends. This is one of the only places in the city where you can show up with a group and find a place for everyone to sit! I think this fact alone makes it one of the best bars in New York City.

Pro Tip: They have board games out on their tables so you can always play a game of “Connect 4!” if you’re feeling you inner 90s child coming out.

 

Like off the beaten path places in major tourist hubs? Check out my suggestions on where to get some of that in New York City here

Natalie

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Natalie

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