You’ve really been coming here for twenty years?
It could be. I’m only 20 years old, so you know, it’s hard to think I was coming here that young.
And you’re an artist?
Yes, and I’m in the middle of doing a mural of all of the regulars of the bar. There’ll be over a hundred people. Some come up to the studio, some I do from photos. I did the mural at Le Cirque also, but I’m enjoying doing this a lot more. I relate to these people.
What makes this a great bar?
Because it’s got a friendly feel. And it doesn’t change … you know, you have a building over here called One York. They created a new street, and they call the building One York, oh, wow, wow. You wouldn’t want to be 23 Hester Street. Oh, no … One York. This place has the fire and the spirit, and the great thing about Billy Wall, the owner, is that he’ll never change it to fit what’s going on around it.
And the prices are pretty good, right?
Yeah, and you wouldn’t mind spending more. And you get buybacks, like you used to.
What’s your drink?
My wife doesn’t think I drink Scotch, so this is, uh, a beer. It’s an adult beer. It’s called Bob’s Beer.
Annual Savings: $3,467
(The difference between two well Scotches [$4.25 each] a night at Nancy Whiskey and two [$9 each] at the Brandy Library, two blocks away.)
Three More First-Class Dive Bars
135 Ave. A, nr. 9th St.
Run by three generations of “Lucys”—the original Lucy and her daughter Barbara and granddaughter Kasia—the bar is flanked by Polish flags, red neon lights, and a poster for Hurricane Street, which was shot here. It only fills up late on weekends. The prices, Lucy says, are “elastic.”
355 W. 41st St., nr. Ninth Ave.
A seedy midtown location made only more so by the bartenders’ attire: bikini tops. “We get mostly construction workers in here,” says bar-back Robert McKuhan. “Some big surly dudes that look like they just want to rip your arm off. But honestly, in here, they’re the coolest guys.”
242 DeKalb Ave, nr. Vanderbilt Ave., Ft. Greene
The epitome of a Brooklyn dive: dim lighting, always-busy pool table, good jukebox, and a mixed white-collar–blue-collar crowd. “On weekends, they make Bloody Marys in big pint glasses and they are $3 and really good,” says Sarah Barney, a ten-year regular. “I don’t know what you can order that’s more than $4 or $5.”