The Glass Spider is cheap enough with no entry fee, it is quite popular. They serve until 4am in the morning and there are 2 levels inside. At first glance it looks like a lapdancing bar I think, but it's not.
Dress Code: Smart casual...
Below the cliffs at Marsden (literally, cut into the cliff face) is a pub called "The Marsden Grotto". Inside, the walls are all, well, stone, as you'd expect! The views out to the ocean past the stacks are pretty cool too.
Dress Code: Simple
Just off the seafront in the area known as Fullwell is The Sunderland Flying Boat pub. This was a favourite pre-match haunt of mine before the stadium moved. The pub is decked out with memorobilia of Sunderland Flying Boats.
The planes were made by Shorts of Belfast and Rochester, the only connection they had to do with Sunderland was the name. All the same, they are a totally magnificent plane and only two or three remain today, and I've been on one at lake Windermere. It didn't take off though, thankfully, it was just moored there for a week or so!
The pub seems to have gone downhill a bit now, probaly losing a lot of custom with the stadium move.
Surprising selection of bars and pubs in a very small area in the city centre. Anyone who knows Sunderland will be familiar with the normal nitespot names - Annabels, Idols, Chambers, etc.
Unlike nearby Newcastle, the names of places don't change that much in Sunderland.