How to drink cheaply in NYC

Paying $8 for a beer where you’re from might seem outrageous, but to us New Yorkers, that’s just life.  However, it doesn’t mean we drink like that all of the time.  There are plenty of occasions where we need to pinch pennies, and we’ve all found our favorite cheap drink haunt.  Here are my tips for having a good time in NYC without spending all of your souvenir money on something you’ll eventually forget (because you’ll be blacked out!):

Hit up Happy Hour.  Get your drank on between 4pm and 7pm.  Almost every bar has some kind of Happy Hour special, from half priced drinks, twofers, fishbowls, etc.  Depending on where you are as well, some places extend their HH hours, or reverse them (ie between 10pm and 2pm).

123BurgerShotBeer.  This place is named after $1 sliders, $2 shots, and $3 beers.  I would say it’s probably THE cheapest place to get smashed in the city.  While you won’t be getting quality booze here (beers range from Bud Light to Shocktop, shots are super sweet, girly things), you’ll be happy when your tab comes out to the price of one fancy cocktail elsewhere.

Stick to dive bars.  The shadier a place looks, the cheaper the alcohol most likely is.  I’ve been to places on the Lower East Side that offer $1.50 cans of PBR and looked like someone took a homeless guy’s stuff to furnish the place.  But booze is booze, does it really matter where you drink it?

Sign up for Bar Parties.  Before you arrive in NYC, sign up for bars and clubs where you can “win” an open bar party.  These usually consist of free drinks for yourself the entire night, with an hour or so open bar for your friends, or discounts on drinks for them.  Take advantage of that hour to get schwasted or pregame before your next big move elsewhere.

Don’t be afraid to go ethnic.  Lots of places recommend dining NYC’s ethnic eateries for a cheap meal, but this also applies to booze as well.  Japas 38 karaoke bar offers unlimited sushi, sake bombs and 2 hours of private-booth karaoke, for about $35 each.  And lots of Mexican restaurants are not stingy about how much tequila they put in their margaritas.

Photo by in-boulder.

Nurse it, baby.  Don’t want to lower your standards?  Want to feel fancy or treat yo’self?  Buy one of those $15 drinks and nurse it in one place.  At any other bar, you’ll probably spend just as much, if not more, on drinking, but if you’re looking for atmosphere or trying to save money, nursing your cocktail is the way to go.  Plus, then you get to say you’ve had a hibiscus green tea martini with flakes of gold sprinkled on the top at the Standard Hotel.

Travel to the outer boroughs.  While places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Astoria, Queens are only slightly cheaper, you can still find good drink deals the further from Manhattan you go.  Check out Bushwick, Forest Hills, and even Staten Island for a change of scene.

Want to learn more about NYC’s party scene?  Check out my entry on the Big Apple in the forthcoming publication, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die.  Part travel guide, part social commentary, 101 Places is the coolest, funniest way to get to know a place you want be when good times are rolling in.  Wide release is January 7th, but you can reserve your own copy today!

New York Stories: What September 11th means to me


Read more about Tom Gate's personal account at 8:46 am, 9/11 Manhattan

Read more about Tom Gate’s personal account at 8:46 am, 9/11 Manhattan

Third period.  Biology with Ms. Laureria.  She was going over the syllabus.  I was wiping down my T-Zone with some loose powder.  My best friend Rob sat on the far right side of the classroom.  She was discussing Regents prep in the slow, labored voice of someone who smokes too much.  Rob and I exchanged glances of “What the hell is this?” and started laughing.

Father Joe came on the loudspeaker.

“Students and faculty members.  We have just heard that a plane has crashed into the Twin Towers.  We will announce more information as it comes.  Let us pray.” 

He probably said it more eloquently than that.  At 6 foot 2, Amazon of a teenager Kate Manton shrieks and begins sobbing into the palms of her hands.  The other students in my class sit silent and stunned.  I’m confused – how is this different from any other plane crash?  We get announcements like this for when Presidents get shot, not flight malfunctions.

“You could see the smoke from the window this morning,” Ms. Laureria says, gesturing to the large, bright panoramic windows of the biology lab.  “It was that clear, and that much.”

We shuffle to our next few classes.  Every teacher has loaded onto the classroom computers.  We discuss theories.  I’m introduced to Al Queda, and Osama Bin Laden, and what Middle Eastern terrorism means to the United States.  At first, I think it’s all speculation based on racism and past events.

But then Father Joe comes on the loudspeaker again.

“Attention students.  A second plane has flown into the Twin Towers.”

Could this honestly be terrorism, and not a coincidence?

Students’ names are called over the loudspeaker periodically.  My friend Kathlyn is asked to leave the our social studies class.  My skin starts to goosepimple, and I wonder if someone in her family has been affected by this.

The day is sober and quiet.  We make nervous jokes on the bus ride home and I remember walking into my house, my stay-at-home mom in the living room with the same television program that I’m sure was on everyone’s television sets at the same time.

I look at her – neither of us is crying but she knows what I’m about to say.

“Is dad okay?”

“I haven’t heard from him yet,” she replies calmly.

“Does he – does he work in that area?”  He was an internal auditor at GHI.  I’d visited his office a dozen times, but couldn’t quite remember where it was located in the city.

“No,” she says.  She is visibly relieved.  “His office is in Midtown, far from where it happened.  He works three blocks from Penn Station.”

I am also relieved, although something told me he was going to be okay.

He comes home around the same time he normally arrives after work.  “They shut everything down and evacuated the city,” he tells me.  “I had to walk over 59th Street bridge, to Jamaica Station.”

That’s over ten miles for an obese man to walk, in a trench coat, in the heat.

From there he was able to catch a bus back to our house.  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have him home when who knows who would come back.

The names started trickling in after that.  A few fathers of students I didn’t know at my school.  Some firefighters from my town.  Kathlyn’s mom worked in the Twin Towers but that day, played hookie and called in sick when she was actually quite healthy – she just wanted a day off.

I wasn’t directly connected to any of the deceased, but I still felt the burn of sorrow that I think only New Yorkers, and those from New Jersey and Connecticut, feel every year at this time.

Months after it happened, we were still affected in ways that others across the country and around the world, were not.  My dad lost his job.  It took them years to get rid of the debris, destruction, and dead bodies.  Ground Zero was a massive pit of dirt and iron for us to remember what had happened.  Only now has it been filled in with a lovely fountain as a memorial.

Twelve years later, how do I feel?  Heavier than twelve years ago.  I think it’s hard to comprehend the affect September 11th had on me in the moment.  While I’m not patriotic by any means, I am fiercely loyal to the City that Never Sleeps.  And I know that what happened has shaped its citizens into the city we are today.  Nowhere else will you ever find a group of people as resilient and connected in the entire world.

That’s what September 11th means to me.



#FriFotos: Stairs


I’d never been to Harlem until Dana had decided to bunk there during an improv festival in New York City. We were volunteering there, and my shift was at 7:00am. I decided to stay the night with her because waking up and taking the train at 6:30am is a lot easier than waking up at 5:00am to catch a train from Long Island at 6:00am that would probably get me there late anyway.

Harlem is a place where people say you’ll get stabbed for looking at the sidewalk too long. This is white-person speak for “multi-ethnic.” At first I was hesitant to head beyond Columbia University, but then I thought to myself “Honestly, this is New York City, not a slum. There are lights and people everywhere. If I keep my wits about me, I should be fine.”
And it was true – everything was fine. I found Dana’s guesthouse right near the subway, and I was pleasantly surprised – it was an old, turn-of-the-century Brownstone divided into several rooms. Her own lodging had a little kitchenette and a bathroom, and luxurious furnishings, including a settee and a chandelier. I wanted to stay for longer just so that I could take advantage of the spiral staircase, whose stained-class skylight was something to look up to.


#AtoZChallenge Day 25: #Yonkers

Untermyer Gardens (courtesy of the Untermyer Gardens website)

Yonkers is a city in New York State.

Yonkers is a stone’s-throw from New York City. My grandmother lived there for the longest time, and that is where my mom grew up. Lots of famous people have lived there and there are even plays about Yonkers. It’s an interesting place, for sure.

What I remember about Yonkers is how hilly it is. When driving to my grandmother’s, we had to crawl up several steep slopes. When driving home, it was like a roller coaster of hills and valleys, and steep inclines, which always made me wonder how people ever stayed alive and didn’t get into car accidents, it was that crazy. Yonkers has it’s good parts, and it’s bad parts. It’s about a thirty-minute train ride into the city, but suburban enough to feel like the old-fashioned suburbs of New York.

There are a couple of cool tourist attractions in Yonkers. The Hudson River Museum is a pretty cool place to visit, and as a kid I really enjoyed Untermyer Gardens, a place that feels like Europe in the summertime. There is also a casino there for gambling types, and some great parks/hiking. For a fun day trip out of Manhattan I’d make the trek to Yonkers, just to see how suburban New Yorkers live!



#AtoZChallenge Day 17: #Queens

Hanging out at CitiField, eating and drinking and baseball watching!

Queens is a borough of New York City

Most people have never heard of my small, suburban town. “It’s on the border of Queens” seems to be a statement people can relate to. But even if you say to someone that you live in Queens, nine times out of ten they still won’t know what area you’re referring to. Public transportation doesn’t run very much on that side of town, so many parts of Queens are their own microcosms of cool.

Czech and Slovak festival at the Bohemian Beer Garden, Astoria

Queens is sort of this anomaly of New York City. You have Astoria, which is super Greek and starting to get hipper. You have Flushing which is a melting pot of Orthodox Jews, Koreans, Middle Eastern folks and more. You have the somewhat “ghetto” areas of Jamaica, Woodmere, Ozone Park and Rosedale, and then there are the beaches of the Rockaways. Plus more, in between. Queens is a cool area because it’s largely residential – even apartment buildings are cramped into single-family houses, not blocky apartment buildings. It’s a great place to raise a family if you want to have the house, and the yard, and the parking space, and the convenience to NYC.

Wining and dining in Forest Hills at Bonfire Grill

There are some great hidden gems in Queens that people should look into. Astoria has a great bar scene, and a huge Czech population, centering around the amazing Bohemian Beer Garden. Woodmere has an awesome tattoo shop that is run by and employs only females. Forest Hills has incredible architecture and I do enjoy the food and beverage scene at CitiField, even if I don’t like the Mets. I student taught in Far Rockaway and although I didn’t get to explore the area, the students I had were incredible. There’s a lot to be said about Queens, and people need to start speaking up!