The Best Dive Bars for Armory-palooza in NYC.

Need to get your drink on after pondering the state of the art market? Boy, do we have the places for you. (Photos by C-M.) 

Everyday, it seems that the economy sucks harder. Which means that an awful lot of gallerists and artists are gonna be white-knuckling it through New York’s Armory Week as they try to move merch at a time when few people are busting open their wallets. This is where comes in. All of us, at some point this week, are gonna need a good stiff drink. Or seven. Either because we’re not making any money. Or because art fairs make us want to shove sticks in our eyes. So, in honor of Armory-palooza, I have rounded up the best spots for grabbing a snort — all in relatively close proximity to the fairs. I’ve even created a handy Google map that you can print and take with you. Cheers! And pray for a miracle.

NEAR THE ARMORY SHOW AND SCOPEJ. Mac’s. 600 W. 57th Street, west of 11th Ave. This eight year old spot is popular with the neighborhood auto mechanics, as well as the artists from the nearby chashama studios. It’s all bottles, no draft. But there’s a vintage cigarette machine that dispenses Marlboros, Newports and Parliaments and a pool table where a game costs a buck. The best part? The following advice, which is prominently displayed on the wall: “All you need in this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great eye. Brains don’t mean shit.” We’ll drink to that.

Click on images to supersize.

NEAR PULSE: Johnny’s Bar. 90 Greenwich Ave, between 7th and 8th Aves.

Johnny’s Bar. Many, many years before the West Village had been relentlessly Sex-and-the-City-fied, you might pull up a bar stool at Johnny’s to find yourself face-to-face with a Golden Retriever who’d take a slurp outta your cocktail and then look you in the eye, as if to say, “What of it?” Those good old days are gone, but Johnny’s still rocks (especially during the day, when it’s all about the locals). The prices, thankfully, are always excellent. You can get Coor’s on tap for $3 and Jack and Coke for $5. And the decades worth of goofy scrawl in the beat-up restrooms? Totally free.

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NEAR VOLTA: Desmond’s Taven. 433 Park Ave. South, below 30th Street.

Desmond’s Tavern. This straight up Irish beer hall is the place to pop into if you want to have a pint of Guinness or a shot of Jameson and catch up on the football game. (The kind the rest of the world watches, not the crap with all the pads.) It’s also a fine spot to try to beat the high score on Big Buck Hunter. Formerly a Blarney Stone, the bar has been around since the ’30s — a.ka. Great Depression v. 1 — and in its time has attracted the likes of Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono to its hallowed halls.

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NEAR THE BRIDGE AND FOUNTAIN FAIRS: Billymark’s West. 332 Ninth Ave, at 29th Street.

Billymark’s West. Not just any bar can pack in businessmen and transvestites. (The owner’s guiding philosophy: “no fights, no bullshit.”) But Billymark’s is not just any bar. It’s an institution (it’s been in continuous operation since 1956). And it’s cheap. All shots are $4, Coronas are $5 and well drinks are $6. Hell, you can even Grey Goose it at a whopping $7. In the meantime, you’ll get to spend some quality time at an old-school New York spot, and, if you’re lucky, join a few sauced locals in a tirade against an ex, a boss or the government.

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NEAR THE POOL ART FAIR: Live Bait. 14 E. 23rd St, between Madison & Broadway.

Live Bait. Okay, so it’s not really a dive bar. Worse. It’s a fake Southern dive bar. (I just spent eight days in the Florida panhandle, and I can tell you that if this were really a Southern dive bar, it’d have an owner named Cooter and a vending machine that sold nothing but cigarettes and beef jerky.) This is not to say that Live Bait doesn’t have its good points. There’s the raw bar (a dozen Little Necks will run you $8.95). Plus: you can get a super tasty Abita Purple Haze (a Louisiana beer) for only $5.50. And if that doesn’t do the trick, ask for a shot of a home-brewed concoction they call the “Hand Grenade,” which arrives at its nuclear-green shade by mixing rum, vodka and melon liqueur, among other things. Looks especially good coming up. 

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Not sure where you’re going? Print out our handy C-Mon Google Map of all the fairs, with nearby dive bar locations…for forgetting all those fairs.


  1. Vidalia

    This is invaluable information! Will create one for your next LA visit. At a loss as to where to find a friendly gay Ranchero bar? Not anymore.

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  3. harump harump harump

    Whoa I thought I knew all the good dive bars in the city, but this J Macs… Thanks for yet another spot to piss away my hard earned dollah. The old Irish guy at BillyMark’s is the best.

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