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The Best East Village Dive Bars

Mars Bar, East Village, New York City 10Vivienne Gucwa

When I walked into Mars Bar for the first time I immediately noticed the smell. It was more of a stench, the same odor that permeates my yoga studio after a crowded Bikram class. The second thing I noticed was the man next to me at the bar, who pulled out a deli-bought sub from a paper bag. After a few bites, he ordered a Budweiser from the bartender. Mars Bar does not serve food. Even so, the bartender was remarkably nonchalant about the customer who was halfway through his dinner.

The establishment has been tirelessly documented as a quintessential New York City dive bar — a remnant of an East Village before the Bowery accommodated luxury hotels. Its graffiti-adorned walls, scrawled with disparaging phrases like “Die, Yuppie Scum,” take aim at the shiny high rises and condominiums popping up at an alarming rate.

Now, as Mars Bar prepares to close its doors for at least the next two years – and perhaps longer – it seems like an appropriate time to take a step back and assess the East Village’s best dive bars before they close for good.
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