Circus 

619 Ninth Ave, between 43rd and 44th Sts.
Cheapest drink: $3 pint — all times
Most expensive drink: $5 pint of Guinness
Overheard: “Don’t ever give up on drinking. Eventually drinking will give up on you… eventually.”

Most New Yorkers have heard of infamously raucous Hell’s Kitchen barroom Rudy’s. Well, now the owners have opened a second bar down the block with the same draw — free hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts, and a broad selection of cheap, cheap beer.

Hallelujah! With the cheap rent (for Manhattan) and the cheap beer (again, for Manhattan), could it be that Hell’s Kitchen is the last island bastion for the common man’s woes?

My crew and I walked in on a warm Friday evening for the tail end of happy hour — to a boisterous room blaring American rock ‘n’ roll as an after-work crowd and the usual blue collar regulars eased into the weekend. With high ceilings, a long bar, and half-moon red booth seating, the main room is not exactly a dive — yet — but pulverized peanut shells and popcorn blanket the floor. You’ll also find a small back room, which leads to a large outdoor patio. There are minimal pictures on the walls of ringleaders and the like, and clown mobiles hanging from the ceiling — but that’s where the three-ring theme ends and the guzzling of a million beers begins.
Circus, non-ironically, featured one joker after another, seemingly all offering an arsenal of one-liners to anyone who would listen. The old guy at the door checking IDs asked me if I was there because I was running away from home. Har har. Within 20 minutes we’d inhaled our free hot dogs and were buying pitchers for $9 with a binge drinker’s lust. Within an hour we were launching food into the air, spilling whole baskets of popcorn on our heads, and, consequently, in our beers as well. Who cares? It’s cheap and doesn’t hurt! Laughter flowed like tears from a clown.

Around 11pm though, the music got a little lame, as did the crowd. All the local characters were gone, and a parade of shiny, tank-topped buffoons took over. Make sure to get there early and then get out quick, before the late-night crowd shows up. If you can manage that, you’re in good shape for good times. Hell’s Kitchen? Hells yeah.


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