204 Avenue B, 212-475-4600
Cheapest Drink: $1.50, 8 oz can of Bud (2 for 1 during Happy Hour)
Most Expensive Drink: $9, Hennessy Martini
Extras: Great Juke, pool table, and flattering lighting
B-Sides masquerades well as a dive bar: sweaty, blue-collar old men drinking Bud from a can have been replaced with sweaty 20-somethings drinking Bud from a can. But a few things separate B-Sides from your average stripped-down-LES-hipster haunt.
For one, occasional mustached locals of an older Alphabet City do make their way into the crowd, apparently to preach conservative politics to young girls, like the gentleman I encountered. He ended the conversation by telling an Asian woman to go back to China. And while charming relics like him are far from the norm here, B-Sides does keep the best casual qualities of a true dive. The bartenders move freely from behind the bar to engage with the crowd, and it’s tough to tell the difference between the owner and a regular. Though the pool table in the back is a popular draw, the jukebox, built into the column adjoining the two rooms, is the centerpiece. Its music collection is an appropriate b-side to modern trends, a mix of alt-rock and classics, like Built to Spill, Serge Gainsbourg and Ella Fitzgerald.
In the dimly lit front, chandeliers made from red Christmas bulbs cast a hazy glow across the room. Fun-house mirrors behind the bar contribute to the pleasing sense of disorientation. As one bartender remarked, “Everyone looks better in red.” And so everyone here does, particularly after drinking the B-Side special: $5 for a can of Rheingold and a shot of whiskey. There are no beers on tap, which may over-fetishize the hipness of canned beer (at least they don’t sell PBR) — but in the end, a can rests better on a pool table anyway.