Some things change, these dives don’tI
f you’re reading this from a bar with marble countertops, signature cocktails or a bathroom you feel comfortable using, chances are you are not in a dive bar. You might, in fact, be in a bar that’s threatening the very existence of the bars we so strongly support, in which case, you should finish your craft beer, find the nearest exit and head to a dive on this list.
The following are not bars you go to in search of cocktails served with cucumber, berries, herbs or really anything fresh. If you’re looking for a mixologist or a place to take your next-most-liked Instagram photo, or a floor that isn’t covered in a layer of liquids you can only hope are beer, keep looking. These bars are the holdouts, the ones that symbolize the resilience it takes to survive in an ever-evolving space. Their notoriety for tacky décor and a lack of obvious hygiene might precede them, but that doesn’t make them any less heroic for sticking it out in neighborhoods that would rather replace them with some chic modern digs.
Los Angeles, CA 1962
With a maritime theme and mid-century vibe, HMS Bounty was built on the ground floor of the Gaylord Hotel in 1962. Since then, this neighborhood watering hole has been drawing diverse crowds with its cold beer, low-key atmosphere and kitschy décor. If it seems familiar, you might recognize it from that one scene in Mad Men.
Oakland, CA 1922
Dive bars in hip cities are dropping like flies, which makes the Kingfish’s survival all the more remarkable. As condos crept up in the area, Oakland’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board saved the bar—by literally loading it onto a trailer and moving it down the street. The old-school dive still draws in crowds with a jukebox, shuffleboard table, cheap drinks and unlimited popcorn.
In both 2012 and 2013, it sold the most PBR in the world.
The Sundown Saloon
Boulder, CO, early ’90s
Known by locals as “The Downer,” the Sundown is the last dive bar left on Pearl Street. In both 2012 and 2013, it sold the most PBR in the world, so it seems more like an upper to us. The basement bar is a welcome paradox from downtown Boulder’s hippie-dippy vibe, making it the perfect place for locals who need a break from meditation and incense. Through the years, they’ve broadened their selection of liquor, but all the dive bar essentials—pool tables, Foosball, cheap drinks, aloof staff and blaring music—remain.
Mac’s Club Deuce
Miami, FL (South Beach) 1926
When you make a list of Miami dive bars, “The Deuce” will always be number one. With a laid-back ambiance, rustic decor, pool tables and a jukebox, there’s no room for judgment. If you still need convincing, note that happy hour starts at 8 a.m. Not a typo. Some may call this desperation, but we prefer to call it dedication.
Atlanta, GA (Westside) 1972
Among a slew of upscale clubs on the Westside, the Northside Tavern is a less than subtle hole-in-the-wall. Once a gas station, the tavern offers live blues music, dancing, strong drinks and pool. It also offers a bathroom, but we recommend going before arriving at your destination. If you’re a woman who is slightly cute, you might not have to pay cover, which is our personal favorite perk of sexism.
Gold Star Bar
Chicago, IL (East Village) 1996
There’s something for every dive-lover at this veteran joint. Free popcorn, cheap booze, a pool table and a jukebox stocked with everything from jazz to doom metal make it the quintessential neighborhood dive. Plus, there’s a gargoyle above the bar that we hope wards off evil spirits and/or hangovers.
Boston, MA (Theater District)
For years, the Tam has reigned supreme as a no-nonsense oasis in the club-centered Theater District. The drinks are never watered down, and the bathroom, which completely lacks a door but does offer running water, is just the right level of sketchy.
Double Down Saloon
Las Vegas, NV 1992
If you’re in Vegas and in the mood for a bacon martini, take a minute to venture off the strip and experience the best dive in town. The walls are covered in graffiti and stickers, punk bands play and the jukebox is eclectic. What’s even more eclectic is their signature drink, called “ass juice.” Not sure what’s in ass juice, but if you’ve ordered the ass juice, it’s probably safe to say you don’t care.
New York, NY (Manhattan) 1817
In Manhattan, everything is in a constant state of renewal, being torn down and built back up. Rarely do you see an interior that’s stood, more or less unchanged, for decades or centuries, but Ear Inn is the exception. The 1817 building holds 200 years of history, plus beers and bar bites.
New York, NY (SoHo) 1880
Open since 1880, Milano’s survived the neighborhood’s transition from a manufacturing zone to an art-house hangout to a sanitized tourist haunt. The “diviest bar in the area” is divey in all the right ways. The bartenders are rude, the drinks are cheap and the walls are decked in pictures of dead presidents, mismatched string lights and dusty Polaroids. No one knows your name, and no one cares. You’re just here to drink.
Asheville, NC 1960
Disclaimer: they don’t serve burgers. They do serve $3 tallboys, cheap gin and tonics, and have a Honkey Tonk Ladies’ Night, which is objectively better than any burger could be. Off-season Christmas lights, bars on the windows, scarred furniture and a live music roster really make the place feel like home.