The question to ask is, “Should a real dive bar get zero stars or five stars?”
You can go to Dive Bar on 75th at Columbus – the Disneyland version: safe, clean, looks exactly 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 a Fargo 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.
Third stop: Paris Blues, not far 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.
2171 Second Ave (111th Street)
12:00 – 04:00
A Touch of Dee
657 Malcom X Blvd (143rd Street)
22:00 – 04:00
Paris Blues (see map)
2021 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. (121st Street)
12:00 – 03:00