Everyone has a favorite dive bar. The best ones are cheap, sticky, and unpretentious, with questionable bathrooms and a rogues’ gallery of regulars. They make perfect spots to talk to strangers, get in fights, or bury a broken heart. Some of the greatest holes-in-the-wall have been shuttered — Mars Bar is a thing of the past and beloved Sunny’s in Red Hook is still struggling to reopen after Hurricane Sandy (though it raised over $30,000 from Kickstarter donations). But instead of mourning, we can keep the city’s dive bar culture alive by drinking. Here are ten places to start.
Horseshoe Bar Through an arched door on Avenue B is a bar that goes by three names: Horseshoe, 7B, or Vazacs. Customers can start ordering signature Bloody Marys at noon; come nighttime, the pinball machines whiz while regulars line up at the coveted Big Buck Hunter machine. Order a “Dude” shot — Mountain Dew-flavored vodka — and cue up Motörhead on the jukebox. 108 Ave. B
Sophie’s Sophie’s got press when Anthony Bourdain stopped by on an episode of No Reservations. But the ol’ gal didn’t let the publicity get to her head. Instead, the barest bar in the glitzified East Village did nothing. No watermelon garnish. No craft brews. Just a bunch of almost-broken bar stools, a pool table, and cheap drinks. 507 E. 5th St.
Turkey’s Nest Tavern Far away — at least in spirit — from Williamsburg’s artisanal everything, Turkey’s Nest is a no-frills slice of Bedford Avenue where absinthe margaritas and beer are served in giant Styrofoam cups. The sticky floor is a testament to just how many sloshed cups runneth over. In summer, McCarren Park’s kickball players can be found sipping on discounted $1 PBRs. 94 Bedford Ave.
Goodbye Blue Monday Packed with bookshelves, thrift-shop lamps, and, every night of the week, the best band you’ve never heard of, Goodbye Blue Monday is literally falling apart. The tin roof, rusty front gate, and decrepit furniture are cause for the Bushwick bar’s new Improvement Initiative. Go before the solicited donations are used to spruce anything up. 1087 Broadway, Brooklyn
Palace Cafe The jukebox is full of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Ted Nugent, and pitchers of beer cost a measly $8 at this family-owned pub that’s been a Greenpoint staple since 1933. Monday nights at the Palace during football season are a sacred ritual for Giants fans, who can be found devouring meat and potatoes from a buffet. Order wine here and you’ll get a generous glass of boxed Franzia from behind the bar. 206 Nassau Ave., Brooklyn
Red Hook Bait and Tackle Even Hurricane Sandy couldn’t close ten-year-old Bait and Tackle. The day after the storm, a neighbor dropped by with two generators and owner Barry O’Meara threw on some music as Red Hook locals came through to see one another. A successful Kickstarter campaign helped the bar redo its electrical wirings and make repairs from water damage. Famed taxidermied creatures — a bear on its hind legs, a mounted ram’s head, and assorted small rodents — are still intact. The bar treats its customers like family, which makes it both a local and a citywide favorite. 320 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn
Coal Yard Bar One tiny window is not enough to light Coal Yard Bar in the East Village, where the entrance is painted black and the one oddity is a birdcage hanging near the back. The long maple bartop is usually filled with friendly lone drinkers, who strike up conversations with just about anyone who walks through the door. The outdoor patio stays open all year round for smokers and folks who want an escape from busy First Avenue. A few Mars Bar refugees have adopted Coal Yard as their bar. Though the crowd is a little less rowdy, it’s just as rough around the edges. 102 First Ave.
Tip-Top Bar and Grill It’s always Christmas at Bed-Stuy’s Tip-Top, where twinkling lights and tinsel line the ceilings, even though the windows are reinforced with iron bars. For 30 years, it operated as an after-hours spot without a license. But a go-ahead from the State Liquor Authority hasn’t watered down the mixed drinks, made with just a few splashes of soda. Tip-Top is in the basement of a townhouse, and only a buzzer will get you through the locked doors. 432 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn
Holland Bar MTA workers and Port Authority stragglers stop by the Hell’s Kitchen bar. Regulars have been coming to Holland Bar since 1944, though some were scared it wouldn’t reopen after a six-month closure in 2008 when the landlord raised the rent. The doors open at 8 a.m. and soon after, folks fill up the stools under a giant neon sign that spells out “Holland” in script. Though the ashes of a past bartender no longer rest in peace behind the bar — a casualty of the 2008 shutter — pints are still $2.50, and the bathroom door is more often than not held together by duct tape. 532 Ninth Ave.
Jimmy’s Corner Tourists are rare at this boxing shrine, even though it’s smack in the middle of Times Square. Fight posters, news clippings, and giant photos of Muhammad Ali line the walls. If you’re lucky, Jimmy Glenn himself might make you a signature Hurricane with spiced rum, cranberry juice, grenadine, and amaretto while slinging stories about his days as a boxing coach. Some say Jimmy’s is the only reason to go to Times Square, perhaps because it’s a tiny oasis in the center of New York’s craziest commotion. 140 W. 44th St.
Don’t see you favorite dive bar on this list? Tell us what we missed in the comments, or tweet with the hashtag #VVdivebars. Then keep an eye out for a readers’-favorites edition next time around.