It’s actually a lyric from one of my favorite songs (these days anyways…I use the term favorite way too loosely).
“If the Devil don’t want me, where the Hell do I go?”
And while Ashley Monroe is most likely referring to a failed personal relationship in her song, I more closely associate it to my relationship with New York (That’s probably telling, huh? Don’t answer that). Facing this beast of a city can be quite intimidating. Feeling like you actually belong, or fit in, is a whole different ball game. There has always been one scene however, that has helped me to cling and/or stay true to my roots here; those wonderfully unassuming, always there when you need them, dives.
Walking down Saint Marks Place will surely lead you to ask yourself “where in the Hell am I?” a time or two; it’s a pretty weird street. If you make it through the madness to #20 however, things might start to make sense. If you’re not looking for it, you’ll likely miss the bare bones entrance – one very basic neon-lit sign flashing “Grassroots Tavern,” is your only landmark. But after passing by an actual phone booth and taking in the expansive basement space, I knew I was in the right place.
For starters, there was a girl in fleece pajama’s talking with her friends as if that were totally normal at 8:30pm, which it was. I tucked myself into a corner
fearful of human interaction to wait for my friends, and struggled with engaged in a little google-research on the place, despite the lack of cell service. Since the 1970’s Grassroots Tavern has operated in its current capacity. I would manage to guess that not much about it has changed since then – or at least it doesn’t look that way. With a mess of random wooden tables, darts in the back, and some hair-raising bathrooms, it has all the makings of a classic dive.
Once I made my way over to explore the bar offerings, Grassroots Tavern solidified its standing in my personal list of great NYC Dives. The main reason? They had Malibu on the top shelf. Do yourself a favor, and bring cash if and when you visit. While they do take cards, the drinks are too cheap to deal with the minimum hassles. And you might want a dollar basket of “fresh” popcorn! Regardless, twenty bucks should get you significantly buzzed here, or so I’m assuming as I witnessed one patron being physically carried out by her friends at quarter to nine. Hey,
been there done that no judgement here.
The whole night as I joked around and caught up with my pals, I couldn’t help but feel at home. The low light bouncing off of the tin-pressed ceiling tiles cast a glow as warm as the feeling I get in my cheeks after two beers. In that dive, in that moment, it didn’t matter if I was cut out for this town, or where I was going to end up in five years from now. Will I still be here feeling
as awkward unsure of myself as I do now? Who knows, but I did hear somewhere that if “you keep knocking on the Devil’s door long enough, sooner or later someone’s gonna answer you.” (name that movie!)
20 St. Marks Pl.
New York, NY 10003
*If you have any dive recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or reach out to me via the Contact page!