The question to ask is, “Should an authentic dive bar get zero stars or five stars?”
You can go to Dive Bar on 75th at Columbus—the Disneyland version: safe, clean, looks like a real dive bar. Is that a New York dive bar experience? Well, it is in NYC, but I don’t think so. More of an Orlando experience.
So, do a tour with friends. This will be a New York experience.
First stop, The Duck, (Facebook links), way up in East Harlem.
Second stop, A Touch of Dee, not far from The Duck.
Third stop: Paris Blues, not far away either. It’s crowded, a bit ‘B&T’, yet you might pick up info about a newly discovered ‘hot spot’. A legit joint to really carouse.
You’re not clearing brush here, these bars are already ‘discovered’, so there’s that. Visitors are unlikely to discover something more earthy/dangerous anyway. Consider hiring an Uber to take you around.
Random Yelp reviews (The Duck): “It’s cool because it’s a mess/it sucks because it’s a mess.” & “If I ever return it’s because I’ve hit the lowest of the low”
Of the three, I favour Paris Blues, sort of a more divey, more unkempt (if you can imagine that) version of Shrine, not far away. Totally legit and very popular. Funky, very funky. Loud. Around since 1969.
The Duck: 2171 Second Ave (111th Street), (212) 831-3464, 12:00 – 04:00 daily
A Touch of Dee: 657 Malcom X Blvd (143rd Street), (212) 694-9530, 22:00 – 04:00 daily
Paris Blues (see map): 2021 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. (121st Street), (917) 257-7831, 12:00 – 03:00 daily