When friends, or friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends visit New York, they always ask me where they should go. I tell them they should check out the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building–duh. But then they say, ‘No, we mean where should we go to get horribly drunk and make arseholes of ourselves.’ And then I say, ‘oh.’ Having a tipple in the city that never sleeps can be a bit of dice-roll if you don’t have a clue where you’re going. Case in point: a middle-aged European couple approached me on the street once and asked if I knew a good place to get a drink. I directed them to a spot on 2nd Avenue called The Cock. ‘You can’t miss it,’ I said, ‘there’s big neon rooster out front.’ They thanked me kindly and trundled off to the most brutal gay club in the city. I still feel terrible about sending them to that dungeon. It seemed hilarious at the time (I was slightly inebriated), but when I think of the sweaty horrors they must have confronted in that hellhole, I feel dreadful. So, to make amends, here’s where I should’ve sent them–my 7 favorite New York City bars.
The Subway Inn Nestled among Bloomingdales and a glittering assemblage of upscale boutiques, The Subway Inn is the original turd in the punchbowl. Cracked red booths, cheap booze, dim lighting and an overall sense of destitution, this dive has it all. The best thing about the Subway, though, is its outrageously eclectic clientele. Drug dealers, trannys, Bloomies girls, businessmen, undercover cops, prostitutes, the whole damn Zoo comes to the Subway, and that makes for a really good time. Drink: The Incredible Hulk.
Finelli’s This is another bar with an interesting customer-base. It’s right in the guts of the world’s greatest outdoor douche-mall, Soho, and that means Finelli’s serves not only the local boozers, but also a steady stream of thirsty, map-twitching, backwards backpack-wearing, street-congesting, know-nothing, pain-in-the-ass, local-economy-contributing tourists. Bob the bartender is a retired heavyweight boxer slash comedian, and from time to time he’ll buy a tourist a drink and say it’s from me. Unfortunately, the girl is almost always, to put it kindly, not my cup of tea. I met Ralph Steadman in here one time and he changed my life. Drink: Brooklyn Lager.
The Ear Inn Established in 1817, the Ear was once a gnarly sailor pub perched on the edge of the Hudson River. It’s two blocks from the water now because they built the island out in the 1920s, but there’s still a huge iron bollard out front where ships would tie up. The Ear is pretty much the same as it was 200 years ago, the only difference being the floors, doors, and everything else has become severely warped by time. A tasty bar menu, interesting regulars, and the occasional live performance by a local jazz outfit make the Ear in a good place to get drunk; and who doesn’t like getting drunk? I’ll tell you who–assholes. Drink: Guinness (one of the few bars in NY where it comes out good)
Julius’ Julius’ is the oldest gay bar in the city, and one of the oldest bars in the city, period. One time I got expelled from Julius’ for making out with a girl I was on a date with. Kind of a dick move I guess, but it was pretty funny; dirty looks all round and the bartender stopped serving us. It wasn’t like I finger blasted her in front of everyone, Jeez. Bloody racists. Anyway, if you’re homosexual or, like me, you enjoy the company of unthreatening men and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, you should drop in here on your next NYC trip. Drink: Dirty Gin Martini. Why not?
Milano’s I’ve never been to Milano’s, but I’ve seen photos of myself there. Milano’s is the quintessential New York shit-hole (second only to the now extinct Mars Bar), and you wouldn’t come here unless you were already pissed out of you mind and everything else was closed. I’m sorry, Milano’s, I love you but it’s true, you’re basically a port-a-loo with a liquor license. But then you have such a rich history! Not to mention the most flexible barroom rules of any tavern on the planet. Almost anything goes here. I once saw someone get a blowjob while selecting songs from the jukebox. Drink: anything bottled.
Nancy Whiskey This place is located near the Tribeca precinct, so it’s basically a cop bar. Is that bad? No because Cops are Tops, and according to my friend ‘Emilio,’ they have the best cocaine in the city. I didn’t say that–‘Emilio’ did. I wouldn’t know. I don’t do coke, and I certainly don’t do crimes. Check out Nancy Whiskey; I promise you won’t get frisked. Drink: whiskey, dummy.
Winnie’s I love Winnie’s so much. It’s a down-and-out Chinese Karaoke bar that still uses those LP-sized compact discs. There’s a small stage, two microphones, three miles of Christmas lights, and as much fun as you can handle on a Tuesday night with the entire cast of 杀破狼. Chinese people really know how to party, and you should get down with them at Winnie’s. Drink: Kryptonite. Trust me. You’ll be too scared to fart the next day, but it’ll be worth it.