The Top 7 Tattoo Shops in NYC
I used to love Yelp.
I was the first to hop on the Yelp bandwagon, I used it for everything - and for a while it was great.
I'd find that little Rock & Roll dive bar in my neighborhood, and on my travels the best places to eat in foreign territories for what I was craving. But then something terrible happened. With the emergence of competition television - Top Chef, American Idol, Chopped and Inkmaster everyone suddenly became a judge.
"That bartender gave me a funny look, minus two stars for his vibe"
"I couldn't get my tattoo with the artist I wanted RIGHT AWAY - ONE STAR!!"
"He told me 10 names wouldn't work inside this palm size feather, Never going back!"
We're judges of everything. Even things we know nothing about. The website I used to love became an avenue of 1000 complaints from entitled snobs. We expect every service experience to be mind-blowingly luxurious and fuck-your-business if you don't jump through hoops of fire for our hard-earned dollar. We want to be entertained.
My beef with Yelp initially started when I became the manager of a business. A pretty successful tattoo shop, to be specific. I love what I do, and have great pride in where I work. I do my best to make sure everyone leaves happy because IF not, my ass is grass. Even still, ya' can't please 'em all. We've gotten our share of yelp princes and princesses who took to writing hateful reviews simply because we aren't trained dolphins at Sea World. We gave our professional opinions, to the dismay of the client... because guess again, in this field - you ain't always right. If you have bad idea - that won't read well as a tattoo... it's the job of a professional to tell you so. Though instead of realizing that we've just saved you from yourself, you take to Yelp with hellfire to ream us a new one. People are more likely to leave a negative review out of spite, than a positive one nowadays.
So I'd like to take a moment to drop a knowledge bomb on those of you that are still reading.
People. hate. us. on. Yelp.
US meaning the Tattoo Industry as a whole.
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A tattoo shop is no ordinary 9-5 business. We're the punks, outcasts, and rejects of the world. Indeed that's a blanketed statement but for the majority, it's true. We rebelled against your norm. and took the path less traveled. If you're expecting 5 star hotel service and a personal concierge you should probably get your expectations in line and think again, friend. It's a fucking tattoo shop. We're artists, with vision. We'll do our best to give you a nice piece of work, but really - we're only people- who found this job because we didn't want / couldn't hold a real one - and we won't be hiding what we are in our home.
So today's aim is to DE-BUNK all you entitled Yelp-ers, and give it to you straight. Solely speaking from body of work and practice, and despite what Yelp says, *in NO particular ranking order* I give you an honest and unbiased review the Top 7 Tattoo Shops in New York City.
1. Love Hate Social Club
127 Lafayette Street, NY NY 10013
Formerly known as the Wooster Street Social Club, and widely known for their television reality show "NY Ink" Ami James' Love Hate Social Club plays host to some of the top tattoo artists in the industry. Love Hate is considered as one of New York City's premiere custom tattoo studios. You won't find any flash on the wall in this establishment, so knowing what you want is important and encouraged. Every fan seems to have their own favorite tattoo artist, but the bottom line is that everyone on staff is a standout. Resident artists include Rodrigo Canteras (NY Ink, Season 3) Eddy Ospina, Guy Waisman, Morgwn Pennypacker, and Axel Mercier. Guest artists include Tim Hendricks, Luke Wessman, and Tommy Montoya to name a few. Ami James also accepts walk-in's when he is in town.
They are predominantly a walk-in shop, but accept appointments for larger scale body work. Consultations are free, and the studio minimum is $200.
2. Kings Avenue Tattoo
188 Bowery, 2nd Floor, NY NY 10002
Owner Mike Rubendall keeps it super-clean and super-professional at his second floor walk-up on the Bowery. The first location of Kings Avenue resides in Massapequa, for those of you out on the island. The shop is best known for it's world renowned skill in Japanese and American Traditional stylings. They specialize in custom work, and place a large emphasis on client satisfaction. Resident artists include heavy-hitters GREZ, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Beckerich, Phil Slozek, Justin Weatherholtz, Zac Scheinbaum, Chuck D and Rose Hardy.
Kings Avenue is typically an appointment shop, so be prepared to book in advance. It will be worth your wait.
3. Invisible NYC
148 Orchard Street, NY NY 10002
You'll need to keep your eyes peeled if you want to seek out Troy Dennings studio in the Lower East Side. The establishment is scarcely marked and unassuming, remaining in-line with it's name. Though modest in ornamentation, Invisible boasts an elite roster of world class tattooers including owner Troy, Chris Garver, Regino Gonzales, Kiku, Damien Rodriguez and Beau Brady to name a few. The body of work coming out of Invisible speaks for itself, honestly. Just note that they won't coddle you here, and if you want something they don't think is a good idea, they'll be straight with you... No matter how badly you think you want it.
4. New York Adorned
47 2nd Avenue, NY NY 10003
With nearly two decades under it's belt New York Adorned is steep in the NYC history of tattooing. Owner Lori Leven opened before the craft was legal in 1996 - and has been running the studio like a machine ever since. Customer favorites these days include artists Brad Stevens and Bart Bingham - who cater to clients looking for American Traditional, Kazuhisa Matsumoto, and Kris Magnotti offer beautiful Japanese stylings. Yoni Zilber specializes in fine-line Tibetan art. The studio focuses an emphasis on guest artists also, who flock to the LES studio from around the globe. Studio minimum is $100 and goes up from there.
5. Saved Tattoo
426 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11211
At Saved, you'll find that each artist comes with a diverse skill set, capable of a multitude of different styles. Housing 10 resident tattooers, you can be sure there is an artist for every flavor. Anderson Luna for black and grey. John Sultana offers a plethora of geometric, alchemic and pattern designs. Scott Campbell, Virginia Elwood, Stephanie Tamez, Tamara Santibez, Chris, Will, and Jeb for traditional application in varying styles. To book in with a particular artist you'll have to use their website, however - a little patience goes a long way.
6. Smith Street Tattoo Parlor
411 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11231
Studio foursome Bert Krak, Dan Santoro, Steve Boltz, and Eli Quinters—specialize in bold, beautiful Traditional pieces. Flash is the number one commodity in running a Traditional shop, so expect to find Smith St. covered from floor to ceiling in it. Panthers, Mermaids, Skulls, Roses, Daggers, and the like. If you want a Traditional tattoo, but don't know where to begin - stop by and take a look around.
7. Grit N Glory
186 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Grit 'n' Glory started out as a rock & roll clothing boutique with a mean espresso machine - though in 2014 it gained a partner by the name of Megan Massacre, who converted the back end of their retail space into her own private studio. You can book an appointment with Megan by filling out a tattoo inquiry on her website - or get in line to receive a themed tattoo on one of her $100 walk-in days.
Footnote: Wolf sign painted by @larock1shot