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Dives That Survive: Low-Key Bars We Love

By Billy Lyons
January 15, 2014

Though the New York bar scene is thriving from the likes of bacon-infused cocktails, retro speakeasies, and a new appreciation for craft beer and American wine, we're always sorry to see a member of the old guard shut its doors. On Monday, the New York Times reported on the last night at SoHo stalwart Milady's, a bar born in the 1940's. One of the few cheap blue collar respites in a neighborhood teeming with $15 drinks, the closing has us hankering for a piece of history the next time we're in need of a drink. Here's a look at ten of the best cheap watering holes where we can still pull up a sticky stool, appreciate the unusual, and leave with our wallet still intact - even if our memory is a bit fuzzy the morning after.

169 Bar: Oysters, jazz, and a $3 beer and shot happy hour make this eighty-plus-year-old LES bar a must for anyone in need of a pick me up. The food menu is a mash up of dive comfort food like po' boys, dumplings, and chicken thighs, with borsht and gazpacho added in for character. The bar's popularity has stood the test of time - it's even served as the setting for a Flight of the Concords episode -  proving that a solid selection of cheap canned beer and soul music are indeed everlasting - particularly if you're a struggling New Zealand singing duo on a budget (212-641-0357).

Doc Holliday's: We're pretty sure any bar named after a western gunslinger qualifies as an entrant in the dive bar handbook. Add in a pool table and juke box blasting Kenny Rogers, and any doubt that this is a dive bar fades quicker than the shot of Jack the guy next to you throws back. In an area full of rebirth, Doc's has held on to tradition; there's always a place for cheap brews and Big Buck Hunter wherever you come from - though you can expect to see plenty of button down shirts and homesick southerners on most days (212-979-0312).

Donovan's Pub: An oasis for Irish ex-pats since 1966, the bar with a well known burger is still going strong in Woodside after all these years. Dark wood booths and bartenders right off the Emerald Isle add authenticity to the family-friendly dining room, where ordering anything but a Guinness feels out of place. Though cops and firemen have always been known to enjoy a cold beer here after hours, the bar's classic feel is a hit with most residents - so much so that a long time employee purchased the place when it was scheduled to close a few years ago (718-429-9339).

Jeremy's Ale House: Even Hurricane Sandy couldn't take out this FiDi dive, where pictures of cops and fireman are plastered throughout the walls - though you might be distracted by the bras hanging from the ceiling. A popular hangout with Wall Street types, tourists, and anyone in uniform, the kitchen shells out surprisingly delicious crab cakes and seafood sandwiches. However, if you're looking to relax, a giant cup of Coors should do the trick - the bar has been pouring cheep beer for over forty years and has not one, but two daily happy hours (212-964-3537).

Nancy Whiskey Pub: If ever you walk into a bar and see Christmas lights, shuffleboard, and stained glass, you have officially located an authentic dive. One of a few TriBeCa originals - it opened in 1967 - that's managed to survive despite the influx of real estate developers and Robert DeNiro, bartenders are happy to make you any drink - just as long as it doesn't involve a blender. While you're waiting for a turn on the board, there's also $6 half pound burgers and baskets full of fried food (212-226-9943).

Old Town Bar: Born in 1892 when saloons were all the rage, this Flatiron bar may attract more suits than boots nowadays, but its formula for pleasing its customers hasn't veered much over a century. While the 55 foot mahogany and marble bar is usually where most of the action is, an upstairs dining room is also a known writer's hangout counting the likes of Frank McCourt and Nick Hornby as satisfied patrons (212-529-6732)

Rudy's Bar and Grill: When a bar can trace its origins to 1919, you know there's a solid amount of secrets behind those walls. Rudy's received one of Manhattan's first liquor licenses after Prohibition's repeal during the 1930's and has kept the party going ever since. Three dollar pints and equally cheap pitchers of the bar's own brew are one reason the bar is hit with Hell's Kitchen locals - particularly sports fans who can take advantage of the free hot dog with any drink order, plus the $5 beer and shot specials. We also enjoy the fact the bar has an official mascot, Baron, a porcelain pig that keeps guard by the entranceway (646-707-0890).

Turkey's Nest Tavern: Located on a prime piece of real estate just south of McCarren Park, this bare-minimum bar is a favorite whether a patron is wearing ripped construction worker jeans or hip skinny ones. The bar is especially popular with Brooklyn soft ball teams in need of a post-game celebration spot. (Though a potential styrofoam cup ban may put an end to the bar's famous drink ware.) It's also one of the few places in Williamsburg to grab a 32 ounce beer for less than four bucks (718-384-9774).

White Horse Tavern:  The bar that once served Jack Kerouac and Dylan Thomas has managed to weather the West Village's gentrification over the years. However, this historical spot that opened in the 1880's as a longshoreman's crash pad isn't a one trick pony - or tourist trap. Cheap burgers, brews, and equestrian inspired decor make this a watering hole that can inspire anyone by being nothing but original (212-989-3956).

Winnie's: A dive bar with a karaoke problem, this Chinatown bar tucked away on a quiet strip has perfected a recipe for cheap - and harmoniously weird - entertainment. Though there's a two drink minimum, the power of the pour in the Hawaiian punch and fair prices will be more than enough to get you up on your feet and embracing your inner Katy Perry - just as long as you can deal with the young post-college crowd looking for a wild girl's night out (212-732-2384).

Places Mentioned

Donovan's Pub

American • Woodside

Food20 Decor18 Service19 Cost$29
 
 
 
Old Town Bar

Bar • Flatiron

Atmo.18 Decor15 Service15 CostM
 
 
 
 
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