11th Street Bar
For me, 11th Street Bar is basically the platonic ideal of a neighborhood bar. It's a warm, inviting place, with a great selection of beers on tap, from standards like Yuengling and Guinness to craft beers like Left Hand Brewing's Sawtooth Ale, 21st Amendment's Imperial Black IPA, Greenport's Black Duck Porter, and seasonals you won't see everywhere, like Abita's Mardi Gras Bock and Victory's Summer Love (nearly all drafts are $6.50, and happy hour means $2 off everything from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily). There are enough TVs to keep a sports fan happy but not too many to piss off a non-sports fan. The space is big, and even on weekend nights it never feels so crowded that it's uncomfortable. It's a deceptively simple formula for a good bar; I'd say there's nothing to it, but if that were true, wouldn't there be more places like 11th St. Bar in all of our lives?
You'll find The Scratcher in an inviting low-slung room just off the Bowery. It's especially pleasant in the quieter hours; it's a place to chill out with a pint and a few friends. There's a good selection of beers (Sixpoint Brownstone, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Left Hand Milk Stout, Wolaver's Coffee Porter, Yuengling, and Pilsner Urquel, among others), and a $6 PBR + shot of Evan Williams special Sunday to Thursday. $2 off drafts and well drinks during happy hour, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday (4 till 7:15 p.m. Sunday.)
Scratcher: 209 E. 5th Street, New York NY 10003 (map) 212-477-0030; no website.
This sliver of a dive bar fills up with regulars every night, and it has personality and cheap drinks to spare, from the Halloween banner and shriveled wreath that are both still hanging as of this writing to the two buck cans of Genesee. That's not a happy hour deal, either. International is cheap all day every day, with $2 Genesee, $3 Schaefer and High Life, and $5 for a Genesee and shot of Evan Williams (or $8 for Jameson). Well drinks and drafts are $5 (Brooklyn IPA, Negro Modelo, Franziskaner, Radeberger and Guinness were on tap on my last visit). Oh, and they've got a great jukebox. Happy hour lasts until 8 p.m. daily and promises $1 off drafts and well drinks.
Not to be confused with the recently opened fine dining spot in the Public Theater, Library Bar on Avenue A is a top notch dive bar—and it's been around for years. The drinks are cheap (drafts of Brooklyn Lager, Bronx Pale Ale, Kelso Nut Brown, and Guinness among others, and well drinks all hover around $6), the jukebox is well curated, the music is loud, B movies run on loop on a projector in the back, and it's dingy without being unpleasant. If "pleasantly dingy" doesn't sound like an oxymoron to you, then you'd probably enjoy having a drink or twelve here. During happy hour (5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily) just about everything is buy one, get one free.
The Library: 7 Avenue A, Manhattan, NY 10009 (map) 212-375-1352; no website.
Drop Off Service
Located in a former laundromat, the beer selection here is sophisticated enough to make one wonder if this place qualifies for inclusion on this list. But Drop Off Service is a neighborhood bar at heart, and the beer selection, while top notch, is only one selling point on top of the low key vibe, friendly staff, and prices that are rock bottom for such quality brews during happy hour (3 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, half price drafts, $2 off well drinks, $3 wines by the glass) and gentle the rest of the time.
Drop Off Service: 211 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 (map) 212-260-2914; no website.
Now that we're getting deep into this slideshow of neighborhood bars, I'm realizing that what's so special about these places is their lack of bells and whistles and fancy drinks and the like. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you can't find a way to enjoy Mona's, it's possible that the friends you're with are just no fun. This bar has a great big back room that houses a pool table and Big Buck Hunter, if that's your thing. And if you like Guinness, pints are only $3 here on Thursdays! Drafts are always five or six bucks, so you don't need to worry about scheduling around a happy hour.
Mona's: 224 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009 (map) 212-353-3780; no website.
B-Side is one hair short of being a full-on dive, but it offers a friendly staff and animated clientele that make for a fun evening out. They've also got a solid jukebox and a foosball table in case you get bored. B Side doesn't have beer on tap, but they do have a dirt cheap happy hour that lasts until 8 ($2.50 well drinks, $1.50 cans of PBR, and all beers $2 off). If you miss happy hour, don't worry: $5 will get you a PBR and a shot of house whiskey any time.
B-Side: 204 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009 (map) 212-475-4600; no website.