BEST FORMER DIVE BAR WHOLLY LOST TO GENTRIFICATION: Bar 81/Café 81
, 81 E. 7th St.
There were a lot of sad faces around here a couple years ago when Ukrainian/starving artist institution Bar 81 closed its gates for the last time. And there were a lot of aghast faces when Café 81 opened in its stead. From “bar” to “café” — the story of gentrification.
BEST DIVE BAR ON THE EDGE OF HIPSTERIZATION: Rosemary’s Greenpoint Tavern
, 188 Bedford Ave.
Some might claim that Rosemary’s crossed the hipster edge a long time ago (it’s in downtown Williamsburg, after all), but the townie-to-tight-pants ratio remains consistently high, to the point, one might suspect, that Rosemary’s will survive forever.
BEST DIVE BAR THAT WILL RESIST GENTRIFICATION FOREVER: The Blarney Cove
, 510 E. 14th St.
Fourteenth Street between Aves B and C has never been anyone’s idea of nice. Nor has the Blarney Cove. But who gives a fuck about nice? Who needs angry young MFA dive-bar tourists playing l’uomo del popolo, quoting John Fante as they piss in the gutter? None of the old-school morning drinkers at the Blarney, that’s who.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH 18-YEAR-OLD NYU STUDENTS PRACTICE BASIC ALPHABET CITY DIVE BAR SKILLS LIKE POOL AND TIPPING: Sophie’s
, 507 E. 5th St
And when they’re ready, they can graduate to Mona’s.
SURLIEST BAR ON ST. MARK'S PLACE:
A tie between the warped wood and watery American beer of Grass Roots Tavern (20 St. Mark’s Pl)
, and the Christmas light-lit Holiday Cocktail Lounge (75 St. Mark’s Pl).
Back when they were your age, the closest thing there was to orthodontics was a swift sock in the jaw.
BEST PLACE TO TEST THE LIMITS OF YOUR FALSE NOSTALGIA FOR THE UNREMEMBERD 80’s: Mars Bar
, 25 E. 1st St.
Cozy up (it’s too small not to) to the crack epidemic-vintage graffiti and leather jackets beaten in by truncheon blows sustained during the Tompkins Square Riots. Ever heard a friend say he never gives money to homeless people because “they’re just going to spend it on beer?” He spent five minutes here once, and never recovered.
BEST DIVE BAR WITH FOOD AND OUTDOOR BOOTHS: Pedro’s
, 73 Jay St.
It might not be fair to label this Dumbo institution a “dive,” but hey, you do have to duck on your way down. At any rate, there is no finer way to spend an afternoon playing hooky from work, sipping ice-cold Presidentes and eating cheap nachos as Dumbovians walk on by…
BEST 10AM-ON-A-SATURDAY MORNING DRINKING EXPERIENCE (AKA, BEST SOCCER BAR): Iona
, 180 Grand St.
The coffee’s hot and fresh, the Guinness isn’t too cold, and you can happily munch away on an egg and cheese sandwich as you take in the English Premier League on a big screen. Bonus: you’ll be surrounded by people who actually hated jocks in high school.
FIVE BEST BARS THAT SAVE YOU THOUSANDS IN AIRLINE FAIRS
, 258 Wythe Ave.
Hey, look at this great bar someone opened in a cave near the Bastille. Vachement cool!
, 442 Court St.
That’s a town in Texas, right? Well, this spacious, tasteful, fairly non-descript local watering hole reminds us eerily of Toronto. And that’s a good thing.
, 8 Stuyvesant St.
This East Village institution maintains the highest standards for both the behavior of its guests (no milling about in groups of four or more, no yelling, etc.) and the precision mixing of its cocktails. It makes us feel like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.
, 96 Berry St.
Hey, what the hell are we doing in Chicago? Go Cubbies!
, 394 Broadway
Hey, what the hell are we doing in post-Apocalypse Zurich, circa 2173?
BEST OUTDOOR DRINKING IN BROOKLYN: Trout
, 269 Pacific St.
Not to be confused with the homey restaurant next door (same name, same owner), the backyard beachside bungalow (beach blanket bingo?) original is our favorite for long, long — like really long — nights of $5 burgers and plastic cups of ice-cold beer. Or have a few beers (or slushie machine mojitos) at eco-friendly Cuban-flavored restaurant, flea market and community hot spot Habana Outpost (575 Fulton St)
for a concentrated, stationary block party vibe. And Radegast Hall (113 N 3 St)
seems likely to be the closest you’ll get to Bohemia without going to Astoria, once it gets warm enough to retract the roof.
BEST LATE NIGHT BAR:
Get off the avenues and onto deserted residential cross streets, where you have to be a regular to spot the unilluminated signs, and spend the wee small hours watching the bartender sweep up. We’ll single out Cherry Tavern (441 E. 6th St)
for its grateful reminder that it’s still possible to be introspective in Alphabet City.
BEST FIELD TRIPS:
A ride on the Staten Island Ferry
lasts almost exactly as long as it takes to drink one of the Foster’s tallboys they sell on it. If you’re a character in a John Cheever story, swap the ferry for Metro North
(but only after staying for one Manhattan too long at a bar in Grand Central, and missing the train you told your wife you’d be taking). And shouldering your way through half of Williamsburg’s 26-and-under population just to get to and from the bar at Union Pool (484 Union Ave)
on a Saturday night is always an adventure.
BEST IMPROVEMENT ON SAVALAS FOR LATE-NIGHT BAR DANCING: Hugs
, 108 N 6th St.
Fastest and most deserved transition from Generic New Bar to Williamsburg Staple we’ve ever seen. The ample space, Skeeball, black leather booths and awesome DJs probably don’t hurt.
BEST BAR WE WISH HADN'T GOTTEN QUITE SO POPULAR: Whiskey Ward
, 121 Essex St.
The whiskey, unshelled peanuts, billiards and ragged-voiced bartenders made us feel cool, but we guess they do that for everyone, which is why Whiskey Ward’s always packed now. Oh well, still a great spot.
BEST FIREPLACE: Shoolbred’s
, 197 Second Ave.
What we imagine a traditional Scottish bar to be like, except smoothed over beautifully and beyond recognition. Fine with us.
BEST SNUG: Black Rabbit Bar
, 91 Greenpoint Ave.
Snugs are those cozy little booths with their own private doors. And the snugs at Black Rabbit even have buttons, pressable for cocktail service. In writing, it sounds douchey, but in practice it’s wonderful, and encouraged.
BEST REASON TO FEEL ALL RIGHT ABOUT PARK SLOPE'S BLOB-LIKE EXPANSION: Sheep Station
, 149 Fourth Ave.
Sometimes it seems like Park Slope is eating Brooklyn with its hungry, multi-directional seep, but the Lagunitas on draught, mussels and meat pies at this rugged-yet-polished Australian beer bar make us think it might be okay. MAYBE. We’re watching you, Park Slope.
BEST PROOF THAT STRANGE LOCATIONS CAN WORK OUT FINE: Black Mountain Wine House
, 415 Union St.
They took a gamble with this not-a-restaurant, not-yet-a-wine-bar by putting it on the hinterlands of Hoyt Street, but the removed location has worked in its favor as a casual and delicious lodgey destination for calmer drinkers, charcuterie enthusiasts and Adirondack chair-sitters.
BEST BAR WE'VE RELUCTANTLY COME TO ADMIRE: Spitzer’s Corner
, 101 Rivington St.
We’ve had after-work drinks at the communal tables, swung our legs from the floor-to-ceiling open windows and gone to a 20-person birthday blowout in the back room, and Spitzer’s has never hit a sour note. Mostly it’s been the pork-fat popcorn.