By Michael Musto
By Capt. James Van Thach told to Jonathan Wei
By Kera Bolonik
By Michael Musto
By Nick Pinto
By Steve Weinstein
By Michael Musto
By Michael Musto
The term "happy hour" conjures up easy, distinct portraits. A cluster of proletarian workers downing Budweisers after a long day laboring on the assembly line. A gaggle of tipsy secretaries dancing wildly to Top 40 hits after knocking back margaritas. A beaten businessman with a loosened tie staring into a whisky and dreading the LIRR ride back home. Such magic! Such history!
At its core, the concept of happy hour is simply promotion: How can bars lure in thirsty customers during off-hours? Here, in New York City—a place where nine-to-five schedules are an anachronism and weeknights swiftly spiral into boozy mayhem—off-hours don't really exist. No matter the time, there's always someone willing to sidle up to a bar, and there's always a bar willing to resort to bribery once it gets those sidlers in the door. Thanks to relatively liberal drinking laws (open containers sadly excluded), there are 20 hours in the day when cheap public drinking is readily accessible. We've done our best to guide you, intrepid barfly, by listing places with great deals from sunup until last call.
Jackie's Fifth Amendment
404 Fifth Avenue (between 7th and 8th), Brooklyn, NY 11215, 718-788-9123
A dirty old uncle lurking along Park Slope's double-decker-stroller parade, Jackie's provides two important things: alcohol and a place to drink it. There's mythology in the marrow of this bare-bones establishment—allegedly founded during prohibition, the bar is named for a gangster who refused to snitch—but we hesitate to use the word "timeless" for a place where the harrows of age are so readily apparent among the stool-mounted denizens. Median age during daylight hours? Oh, about 60. Fortunately, prices seem similarly mired in liver-spotted days of yesteryear—a bucket with six seven-ounce bottles of beer costs a mere $9, whether they're sucked down at the ass-crack of dawn or not. "Come in happy, and bring a lot of cash," advises the gray-haired bartender with a toothy grin. "No markers here." That's right, Park Slopers: Save your credit cards and running tabs for your dog's vegan bakery.
Jeremy's Ale House
South Street Seaport
228 Front Street (between Beekman and Peck Slip), 212-964-3537, New York, NY 10038, jeremysalehouse.com
With the Fulton Street Fish Market and its halibut-heaving laborers gone, South Street Seaport is little more than a cobblestoned outcropping of gourmet coffee breweries and Italian seafood joints fit for tourists and lunching nine-to-fivers. In short, it's a non-neighborhood. But like a rat lurking in the basement of the Gap (there's one of those down there, too), Jeremy's Ale House remains a splendidly seedy blue-collar place to get plastered. Beneath ceilings scrawled with Magic Marker and strung with hundreds of dangling bras ("The girls take 'em off and donate 'em," says the bartender, a hulking Sopranos extra whose eyes stay trained on the Yankees game), thirsty firemen and assorted C-shifters come in for the "eye-opener" special running between 8 and 10 a.m.: $1.75 for 32-ounce Styrofoam cups of Coors or Coors Light, and half-price off everything else. A few too many of those monstrosities, and you'll be plotting how to hijack the water taxi for a joy ride to Governor's Island.
The prototypical Brooklyn cop hangout, Farrell's Bar & Grill—a misnomer, as there isn't actually a grill here—reputedly used to sell more Budweiser than anyplace else on the East Coast. The 77-year-old establishment still pours volume: Five bucks gets a recipient a 32-ounce Styrofoam "Farrellizer" of frigid Bud or Bud Light. The gentrification wars have been fought and lost in much of Kings County, but an old-guard Irishness reigns here in Windsor Terrace: The piercing overhead lighting, football fanaticism, and overwhelming testosterone (actress Shirley MacLaine famously broke a gender barrier in the '70s by arriving without a chaperone) make it inhospitable for the messenger-bag-and-clear-framed-eyewear set. On the Brooklynian message board, a poster described the Farrell's crowd as "early hominids." But you needn't wait for evolution—by intelligent design, these beers are portable, and Prospect Park is only a block away.
318 Grand Street (between Havemeyer and Marcy), Brooklyn, NY 11211, 718-486-9400, lodgenyc.com
In theory, those all-you-can-drink brunch specials are a brilliant way to chase away the wrenching shame from last night's mistakes and start the new day in a languid haze. In practice, a gallon of mimosas made from ratchet-ass sparkling white wine is a recipe for pulsating late-afternoon headaches. The solution? Lodge's delicious two-for-one Bloody Marys. Served weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in a rugged mason jar with a protruding celery stalk, they're peppery and potent. Like seemingly every other eatery that has sprung up in Williamsburg over the past few years, the bustling Lodge also offers neo-American fare fit for haughty lumberjacks, so refuel for a weekend of clearing imaginary brush off the Metropolitan Avenue Trail by tucking into a heap of pulled pork and grits or a stack of banana pancakes.
On the classic game show Beat the Clock, couples raced against time to accomplish feats of balance and dexterity. With all-you-can-drink happy hours, the idea is similar—except motor skills deteriorate in the process. The ground rules at this lively Lower East Side tapas joint are as follows: On weekends, for $20 you get toast, a salad or home fries, and an entrée (like an omelet, eggs Benedict, or whole-wheat pancakes), along with a two-hour window of an opportunity to mainline mimosas, Bloody Marys, and screwdrivers. Throngs of patrons may necessitate sitting at the bar, but you ventured into this Iberian den of exposed brick and velvet drapery to drink. Remember how the triumphant couple on the TV show entered the "Swirling Whirlwind of Cash and Prizes"? You'll get sucked into the "Swirling Whirlwind of Afternoon Intoxication," while potentially losing your cell phone.
Well before the enormously popular Habana Outpost turned warm-weather weekends on the corner of Fulton and South Portland into an Afro-chic Mardi Gras, Moe's was a nightlife crucible for the colliding worlds of old-school Fort Greene, urban bohemianism, and yuppification. Sociological interests notwithstanding, it's a standard neighborhood watering hole: polished wooden bar, compact dance floor in the back, and plenty of eccentric but familiar local faces. Moe's can become a teeming Earth, Wind & Fire–fueled meat market in the evenings, but during the day, patrons leisurely sip two-for-one drafts and $5 frozen drinks—making it an ideal jumping-off point from which to stagger toward the Brooklyn Flea in search of kimchee-laced wieners and friendly people to copulate with.
304 East 6th Street (at Second Avenue), New York, NY 10003, 212-253-5888, mayahuelny.com
Mezcal may have been last year's "it" spirit, but the smoky, complex liquor remains eminently more interesting than Patrón in almost any incarnation. The closest thing New York has to an upscale mezcalaria, this sultry two-level East Village haunt, from the creators of Death & Co., does the whole "painstakingly crafted cocktail" thing with a Mexican shake (the "Stone Raft," for example, blends jalapeño-infused tequila, mezcal, sherry, nectar, and celery bitters). On Sundays, from 2 p.m. until midnight, such concoctions cost 10 bucks—that's $3 or $4 cheaper than normal—and tacos are just a dollar. For learning the language of mezcal, this is an ideal immersion program.
Lower East Side
158 Ludlow Street (between Rivington and Stanton), New York, NY 10002, 212-505-3733, pianosnyc.com
On Friday nights, an influx of jerks wearing Oxford shirts and glassy-eyed jerkettes wearing tiaras turns the intersection of Ludlow and Stanton into Beelzebub's anus. Piano's, caught in the undertow of this wretched bowel movement, can be an unbearable mess. But during the afternoon, the bar, restaurant, and performance venue is a winner: Scruffy skaters, LES artistes, and hooky-playing yuppies slam $4 frozen margaritas until 7 p.m.—making it a reasonable surrogate for the mythically rad but now-banned portable beverages from nearby El Sombrero. "No one would expect me to be here," says frequent visitor Jah-Jah, a vocalist from electro-punk outfit Ninjasonik. "But all the staff are derelicts like me, and I can bag hot Midtown babes." Put down a cheeseburger with a $3 pint of beer and escape, Persephone-style, before things descend into hellishness.
51 East Houston Street (at Mott), New York, NY 10012, 212-226-8844
Despite a name reminiscent of an Italian trattoria (or Pepperidge Farm cookies), Milano's is a proudly Celtic establishment—just peep the prominently displayed poster of Liam Neeson brandishing a rifle in Michael Collins behind the bar. Black-and-white photos of boxers, racehorses, and baseball teams of yore clutter the walls of this narrow LES dive, but the spirit of antiquity applies to the staff and eccentric cast of regulars, too. "I always have a box of wine at home," says a man eating a sandwich at the bar. Later, the matronly bartender rants about a skinflint custie: "Fuck 'em," she says in an Irish lilt. "If you can't tip the bartender, you can't drink here. Go back to your miserable little home and drink alone." Fair enough. Those who know how to behave in a classic bar can knock a buck off every drink from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
With a rounded bar of polished wood, dark blue booths, and circular port windows, Lure is a luxury liner moored beneath the Soho sidewalk. Accordingly, the reasons to visit are oceanic: From 5 to 7 p.m., oysters and littleneck clams—served magnificently on tundras of crushed ice—are a dollar a pop. The mollusks are the clear price-point winner, but the drinks are reasonable ($5 Kirin, Brooklyn Lager, and Corona; $7 lime-spiked grapefruit margaritas; $6 wine). It's a button-down, business-class crowd here, and one that gloms up most of the available seating by roughly 5:30. "They know the happy hour because they come every day," the bartender says of his regulars. By Great Poseidon's trident, make reservations to ensure crustaceans.
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!
50 Carmine Street (between Bleecker and Bedford), New York, NY 10014, 212-929-5050, cabritonyc.com
There are conflicting claims as to the origins of the humble hot dog (Frankfurt? Austria? Coney Island?), but those beloved meat tubes were accessorized masterfully in warmer climes. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., this Mexican sister restaurant to Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue slings "Border Dogs." Wrapped in bacon and deep-fried, they're served alongside a pint of Dos Equis for $8. Other deals abound: $5 margaritas, $3 drafts, and $3 tacos, best taken al pastor with pork and pineapple. On Monday nights at 9, Cabrito also airs cult flicks (like Caddyshack, Top Gun, and The Breakfast Club) and encourages gluttony with unlimited brew and tacos for $25 during the movie. Record to beat? Fourteen tacos and eight beers during Weird Science. "It's fun for groups of people to go into a beer and food coma together," says the bartender, who clearly enjoys the scene from Seven in which the gastropod gorges himself to death.
On Saturday evenings, this Greenpoint restaurant/bar is a sweaty sea of flannel, neckbeards, and enthusiastic dancing to Three 6 Mafia (credit the frequent DJ sets from East Village Radio's "Baller's Eve" crew for that). It's not as pumping on weeknights, but late-night discounts make a compelling argument that doesn't involve DJ Paul and Juicy J: The "second-shift" happy hour from midnight to 2 a.m. provides half-price drinks, a bargain that puts a bottle of Miller High Life at a laughably low $1.50. On Mondays, the deal runs all day. Even if you've blown your entire allowance on cut-off Jordache jeans, vintage New Order vinyl, and kickball lessons from an Argentine national in McCarren Park, you can afford to toss back a few brews here.
531 East 5th Street (between Avenue A and Avenue B), New York, NY 10009, 212-979-8476, acebar.com
There's something particularly delicious about getting shit-hammered and listening to Judas Priest on a Sunday. If blaspheming needs any excuse, the sinfulness starts here at midnight with a selection of cheap booze ($3 Pabst and Yuengling, $4 Guinness and Radeberger, $4 well drinks) and continues until 4 a.m. on the traditional day of rest. Leave the jukebox alone and let the bartender's iPod handle the heavy lifting with a playlist that includes Motörhead, Fugazi, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, and the usual hardcore suspects. The array of games may seem a bit dissonant with the heavy vibe (despite the skeleton perched above one of the pool tables), but Ace Bar does have a pair of awesome vintage Skee-Ball machines. "People seem to obsess over those things," says the bartender with a bemused shrug. Hello: It's Skee-Ball!
999 Manhattan Avenue (between Huron and Green), Brooklyn, NY 11222, 718-349-7292, papacitosbrooklyn.com
Carried on the wings of stocky Pueblan angels, authentic tacos—doubled-up flour tortillas, clumps of shredded carne, splashes of salsa verde—are now easier to find in this town than a decent Tex-Mex burrito. This Greenpoint Mexican restaurant may have been more charming as a BYOB hole-in-the-wall, but with its expansion into a bona fide eatery came benefits: $2 Tecates and $1.50 tacos from noon until 4 p.m. on weekdays, and two-for-one frozen margaritas and $3 platters of gooey nachos from 4 to 7 p.m. daily. Plus, during Papacito's last hour of operation (3 to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, and earlier on other nights), they cram the day's remnants of carne asada, talapia, and chili verde pork into patrons' gnashing maws by offering $1 tacos to anyone who buys a drink. Strangely, this sweet "fourth meal" concept was vile when proposed by the gristle-slangers at Taco Bell. Now, it's just happy hour.
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