By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
256 West 52nd Street, 212-757-0168, New York, NY 10019, russiansamovar.com
Much has been written about the mysterious Russian soul; if the depths of Russian Samovar are any indication, it's a dark, nefarious, wonderful place. If a trek to Brighton Beach isn't on the travel agenda, this Theater District classic—a netherworld with dark wood, a white piano, mutterings in East Slavic tongues, and laboratorial glass jugs fit for the pickled head of Alyona Ivanova—offers the authentic Russian experience without leaving Manhattan. From 5 to 7 p.m., a collection of knowledgeable locals and Russian professionals in suits assemble for $5 cosmos and shots of infused vodka. With a bellyful of spirits, Osetra caviar, and blini, you'll soon be sounding out Cyrillic and negotiating to cop a crate of Kalashnikovs off some sketchy dude named Dmitri in the bathroom. If you had other plans, forget them.
Terraza 7 Train
40-19 Gleane Street (at Roosevelt), Elmhurst, NY 11373, 718-803-9602, terrazacafe.com
A stretch of taquerias, Latin clubs, and hustling "card holders" who hand out flyers and whisper directions to brothels, Roosevelt Avenue is gritty but vibrant. It's a unique location for an artsy, bohemian outpost that presents live Afro-Peruvian jazz (Thursdays at 10 p.m.), screens experimental short films (Mondays at 9 p.m.), and acts as a bunker for community activists—making Terraza 7 the Nuyorican Poets Café of the Q-Borough. The DIY feel extends to the dainty suspended stage, eclectic furniture, and Latin-themed décor (Dia de la Muerte skulls and photos of Frida Kahlo). From 4 to 8 p.m., piña coladas, martinis, and other specialty mixed drinks are five bucks. On weekends, you can finish off the evening by trotting down to 78th and Roosevelt, where Maria Piedad Cano, the beloved "Arepa Lady," emerges after 10 to peddle her cheese-stuffed confections.
96 Greenwich Street (at Rector), New York, NY 10006, 212-249-5800, pussycatlounge.com
This sleazy strip club in the Financial District is the sort of place where every person who steps through the entrance should re-evaluate important life decisions. The topless dancers who jiggle behind the bar should reconsider their meth-opiate cocktail diets. The collection of creepers watching said performers should ponder the possibility of acquiring mail-order brides. The slumming investment bankers should explore shifting into a career less destructive for humanity—like engineering anthrax spores. And you should discern how you ended up drinking $5 beers (from 5 to 8 p.m.) in a place that makes normal sentient creatures yearn for a body-size antibacterial wet wipe. The conclusions drawn to these existential conundrums vary, but a truth remains: This dive bar with checkerboard floors, gaudy chandeliers, and barely clad women can be a lot of fun.
168 Avenue B (between 10th and 11th), New York, NY 10009, 212-473-2830, boxcarlounge.com
As any experienced afternoon drinker is well aware, the vortex of time between 7 and 10 p.m. is something to be treasured, feared, and respected. In a darkened bar that chokes out sunlight, the transformation from after-work drinks to real boozing can be seamless: One moment, you're making droll comments about Kleinschmidt in accounts payable, and the next, you're emerging from the cavern a gin-blind wolverine with a bellyful of rage. On pleasant evenings, the backyard patio at this slender East Village bar offers some delineation points. Until 10 p.m. on weekdays (excluding Friday) and until 8 p.m. otherwise, visitors watch darkness descend from the tangle of outdoor seating while mashing two-for-one specials on mixed drinks and draft beer. When the sun sets and drinks return to full price, you go hard or go home.
One Bryant Park135 West 42nd Street (between Broadway and Sixth), New York, NY 10036, 212-319-1660, charliepalmer.com
The price of wine can be prohibitive when it comes to getting properly splashy at upper-tier restaurants, but every now and then, there's a bargain that gives the riff-raff (read: you) an opportunity to dive in. Charlie Palmer's flagship relocated here last year, and has since introduced the "Sunday Supper Club" special. For $49, patrons gorge on a three-course meal—the ever-changing menu of treats, like spring vegetables, roast pork loin with tarragon peach jus, and blueberry pie, is updated weekly online—with a "bottomless glass" of paired wine. Considering how easy it is to shell out 50 clams on dinner and drinks elsewhere (a burger, fries, a few pints of lager, a pack of smokes, and you're there), even a miserly drunkard can live like a wealthy drunkard for an evening.
207 Tenth Avenue (between 22nd and 23rd), New York, NY 10011, 212-627-7777, izakayaten.com
Mournful nightlife veterans complain that the metastasizing of bottle-service culture has transformed New York's club scene into one big muddle of Grey Goose–bobbing with stiff-collared Israeli scions, but Izakaya Ten takes a less obnoxious approach to bottle-popping. From 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, this narrow Japanese corridor—replete with bamboo latticework, paper lamps, and piped-in J-pop—strips $20 off the price of whole bottles of shocho, a clear, vodka-esque spirit that blends nicely with cucumber, lime, and Luxardo. Unfinished bottles are labeled and shelved (for up to three months), awaiting your next post-gallery-crawl bender. Izakaya Ten's late hours and Chelsea location also make it a popular after-work drinking hole for staffers from local eateries like Il Posto and Morimoto, who take advantage of the two-for-one night-owl discount on sake. Just imagine: bottles unaccompanied by carafes of orange juice and cranberry!