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Ranking the best Yankees pregame spots

Dreaming of Opening Day in the depths of winter, we made a ranking of the best ways to pregame in the Bronx.

Yankee Stadium

Much like last winter, the 2018-2019 MLB offseason has been painfully slow. While we wait for the market to sort itself out, it’s nice to dream of the warmer days of April in the Bronx. When we’re this far out from Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, it’s more than watching baseball that we miss. January is a time of longing for donning your pinstripes and taking the subway ride uptown to the familiar sights and sounds of your favorite Yankee haunts.

Pregaming Yankee games is a time-honored tradition, and as such, there is more than one way to do it. The Bronx has plenty of pubs, bars, and taverns to wet your whistle before you pay $15 per beer inside the walls of the stadium. Is there a best way to pregame? Isn’t it a matter of opinion? No, it’s not. There’s a science behind it.

So, without further ado, here is the definitive ranking of Yankee Stadium pregames:

7. Bronx Drafthouse
Yelp rating: 4 stars

Let me start by saying that the Bronx Drafthouse is a lovely bar. Since its opening in 2016, this place has been a consistently solid choice for local food and craft beers. However, this is a ranking of places to go before a game. Even though the Drafthouse has a great atmosphere, it’s not uniquely “Yankee,” so it falls to the bottom of this list. With all that said, if Yankee culture isn’t important to you and you just want a good pregame meal, this might be your spot.

6. Billy’s Sports Bar
Yelp rating: 2.5 stars

Billy’s is a wild place. From the charmed season of 1998 to the dark days of Derek Jeter’s broken ankle during the postseason of 2012, this dive bar occupied the lobby of an old movie theater. It was a small, cozy place. Then, at the start of the 2013 season, Billy’s debuted its new look. The empty movie theater auditorium that sat behind the bar was transformed into a huge night club with a second entrance on River Avenue.

I’m not going to say that it’s not a nice place—it is. And I’m not going to say that it’s not fun to celebrate after a win with a crowd on that gigantic dance floor, because it’s a blast. I will say that a nightclub is a weird place to get a pregame drink for a baseball game. But hey, do you.

5. Stan’s Sports Bar
Yelp rating: 4 stars

Most would assume that Stan’s would be number one on this list. Since 1979, its location and decor have made it the Yankee bar. It’s covered in the team’s memorabilia and has that great old-school baseball atmosphere you might find at a watering hole outside of Wrigley Field. Derek Jeter even stops by Stan’s in that tearjerker of a Gatorade commercial before his retirement.

The truth, though, is that Stan’s isn’t a great time. Its history and over-the-top Yankee-ness are the only things keeping it from being last on this list. Going to Stan’s before a game is like going to Rockefeller Center during the holiday season: it’s a great idea, but the problem is that everyone has the same idea. There’s never a game when Stan’s isn’t crowded. Don’t expect to go there without being packed in like a sardine, having to wrestle your way to the bar. If you’ve never been to the Bronx for a game before, it’s worth the struggle to scratch it off your bucket list, but maybe just for one beer’s time.

4. Vega Alta Sports Bar
Yelp rating: 3.5 stars

I was first taken to Vega Alta by a friend of a friend who was a member of the Yankees grounds crew. Located only a block off of River Ave, this local bar keeps a low profile and therefore became the go-to spot for the employees that spend the seventh-inning stretch doing the YMCA on the infield. The beers are cheaper, the people are friendly, and it’s one of the only bars on the list where your personal space isn’t also someone else’s personal space.

3. Yankee Tavern
Yelp rating: 3.5 stars

Yankee Tavern is the oldest of the local haunts on this list. Since 1927 it’s been serving food and beers to Yankee fans, and even Yankee legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Yogi Berra have supposedly thrown a few back here in their day. The Tavern is essentially what you get in theory at Stan’s, but it has more history to back it up and less crowds to ruin your time. If you want food, beers, and to feel connected to the ghosts of the pinstripes, then Yankee Tavern is for you.

2. Tailgating

It’s hard to beat a straightforward tailgate. A couple friends, the comfort of your own space surrounding your car, and the financial relief of the letters B-Y-O-B. Whether you’re parked with a sandwich and a cooler at one of the garages or playing corn hole down in the Harlem River Lots, tailgating is living the high life. New York City isn’t a driving town, so pregaming a Yankee game has traditionally meant hopping off the subway and finding a bar. Yet there’s something so nice about pulling into a spot and settling in. The parking lot fees will put a hurting on your wallet, but that’s the price your pay for convenience. Also, please don’t drink and drive.

1. The Dugout
Yelp rating: 3.5 stars

Why is the Dugout number one on a list that also shows tailgating, Stan’s, and Yankee Tavern? Because no establishment has benefited from the opening of the new Yankee Stadium quite like this one. Only steps away from the entrance to the bleacher seats, it’s the perfect place to grab a cheap(er) beer before heading into the game. The Dugout is big. The Dugout is dark. The Dugout is dirty. Remind you of anywhere?

The Dugout is the essence of New York City squeezed down into an L-shaped bar. It gets packed in there before games but the back room is so spacious that it never seems to be an issue. It may not be the prettiest bar or have the most history or memorabilia, but what it lacks in atmosphere it more than makes up for in efficiency. Look no further for your pregame drink than the Dugout.