What makes a dive is in the eye of the beholder. At Travel + Leisure, we like our dives dark, cheap, and preferably old.
The perfect dive should be as comfortable and familiar as an old pair of shoes. Neither fussy nor fancy, these watering holes have a rough-around-the-edges charm that more than makes up for the fact that many don't take cards. Read on for our picks.
1. Brooklyn Inn (148 Hoyt Street, Brooklyn). Everyone deserves to enjoy a beer next to stained glass.
2. Ear Inn. Arguably the oldest continually operating bar in New York City.
3. Hank's Saloon. A haven of honky tonk, a great place to find live music (usually free) and cheap drinks.
4. Jeremy's Ale House. Nothing like 32 ounces of cold beer in a styrofoam cup and a plate of perfectly fried seafood. The decor is notably bra-themed.
5. Liedy's Shore Inn (748 Richmind Terrace, Staten Island). Staten Island represents with this bar that first opened in 1905.
6. McSorley's Old Ale House. They let in women now! Otherwise this institution is much as New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell described it in 1940: saw dust still on the floor, raw onion and cheese still on the menu, and beer still served in two tiny glasses.
7. Montero's (73 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn). This nautical-themed bar once catered to Brooklyn's longshoremen. Now karaoke (Thursday through Saturday) and cheap bottled beer bring in patrons of all professions, including proprieter Pepe Montero.
8. Red Hook Bait & Tackle. Once a social club and bait shop, this taxidermy-filled bar will appeal to anyone who wants to drink in a forgotten basement of the American Museum of Natural History.
9. Old Town Bar. Once Tammany Hall's favorite prohibition speakeasy; plus they have a solid burger and mozarella sticks.
10. Pete's Tavern. Another contender for the oldest bar in New York, it's also where, rumor has it, short story writer O. Henry drafted "The Gift of the Magi." Happy hour (select beers and wines available for $5) is the time to go.
11. Peter McManus Café. This Irish saloon has been run by the same family since 1932, and looks every bit the part.
12. Ready Penny Inn (37-07 73rd Street, Queens). A comfortable and well-tended bar in the heart of Jackson Heights.
13. Reif's Tavern. A sports bar for the ages--just make sure you like the Yankees.
14. Rudy's Bar and Grill. Two words: Free. Hotdogs. The torn and patched red vinyl booths are a nice touch, too.
15. Shenanigans (802 Caton Avenue, Brooklyn). A true neighborhood bar just south of Prospect Park. During summer there's a grill out back, but Saturday karaoke is all year round.
16. South. The only dive on this list tended by the New York Times's drinks columnist, Rosie Schaap.
17. Subway Inn (1140 2nd Avenue, Manhattan). After 77 years, this Upper East Side institution was forced by new development to move. Never fear: the new location has all the charm (and the same neon sign) of its old digs.
18. Sunny's. In view of the water and above a stretch of cobblestone street, Sunny's screams Red Hook. Live music is frequent and good.
19. Tip-Top Bar & Grill (432 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn). Here you'll find $3 beer, a killer juke box, and year-round Christmas lights. Turn up the Al Green.