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8 Dive Bars of Manhattan's Lower East Side

New York City Travel Insider Guides
by Megan Wood May 9, 2011
I went to college in Milwaukee, a city known for dive bars with inexpensive draft beers — where people drink cans of PBR, not to be ironic, but because they grew up with it.

WHEN I MOVED to the Lower East Side in Manhattan, a neighborhood known for overpriced martinis served by the attractive and indifferent, I became homesick. I scoured my new neighborhood for the best dive bars.

The Library

Sagging bookshelves filled with musty classics like Tom Sawyer line the walls of The Library, but it doesn’t look like many of the patrons have read much since they dropped out of 8th grade.

If you are still standing after two-for-the-price-of-one happy hour ends, try ordering The Pube: Five bucks for a shot of whiskey and a can of beer.
Ms. PacMan is conveniently located next to a decent jukebox filled with post-punk jams.

7 Ave. A

Home Sweet Home

Unmarked and underground, Home Sweet Home, is a little bit hidden, but there is never a line or a cover.

It’s one of the best places on this list for dancing, but be prepared to sweat out your three-dollar well drinks in this tiny, not-well-ventilated bar.

Random taxidermy adorns the walls.

131 Chyrstie St.

Mars Bar

From the outside, Mars Bar looks like a dilapidated shack covered in graffiti. From the inside it looks exactly the same. The bartenders and the crowd are overtly surly.

Drinks are cheap, but weak. A shot of tequila looks intimidatingly large, but barely burns going down. The jukebox is filled with mixes made by regulars with titles like, “No Sleeping in the God Damn Bar.”

There are no handles on the bathroom doors, and if you like wiping, bring your own toilet paper.

25 E. 1st St.

Welcome to the Johnsons

This place looks like a rec-room from the ’70s and smells like it too. Lady Gaga, The Patron Saint of the Lower East Side, has been linked to the owner.

Expect two-dollar cans of PBR and fascinating family photos on the walls from a time when mullets and bellbottoms were worn sincerely.

123 Rivington St.

Boiler Room

This is probably the cleanest, most modern dive bar I’ve been to. But then again, it’s a gay bar and the clientele here have higher standards.

Happy Hour runs all night long (in one form or another). So does the line for the pool table.

They’ve got free pizza on Wednesday nights.

86 E. 4th 6th St.


B-side is an ideal, chill spot for starting or ending the night. Five bucks buys a shot and a beer.

The spacious back room is perfect for an impromptu lap dance or game of foosball.

204 Ave. B


The hipsters have yet to discover Holiday.

The tap beers are domestic, the men at the bar just finished their shifts, and the jukebox is quiet. Misery loves company pretty much sums it up.

75 St. Marks Place

Parkside Lounge

There is toilet paper in the bathroom, but it’s sitting in a pool of urine on the floor. The Jameson promotion girls look like they will cut someone if provoked.

The grittiness and overall grime keeps out the poseurs, leaving the dartboard open for play. Parkside’s open until 4AM no matter how small the crowd.

317 E. Houston

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