Operation: Save the Bars

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. Don’t you go hitting the snooze button or think these guys only love cups of Earl Grey tea. This one will grow on you.


he National Trust protects significant places representing America’s diverse cultural experience by taking direct action and inspiring broad public support. In other words, these guys and girls don’t want the good stuff torn down for more mattress stores or Globo Gyms and need public support to prevent that from happening. And if you’ve been following along in this magazine, even at a casual pace, you would gather that dive bars fall under the category of “good stuff,” and the folks from The National Trust for Historic Preservation seem to agree. They recently said, “Dive bars play an integral part of America’s historic character. These careworn buildings emulate the love and energy we put into our communities.” Nicely stated from an unexpected source.

After learning a little more about their affinity for dive bars and efforts to preserve and protect some of the finer establishments in the country, we thought it would be fair to highlight those efforts and a few of the places on their list. Seems to all make sense given the nature of this specific issue.

Let’s not stand on ceremony, the following are seven casual drinking establishments around the country to get you on your way, as compiled by The National Trust.

The Old Pink

Buffalo, New York

While some patrons of The Old Pink (more commonly known as “The Pink”) recommend the steak sandwich above all else. Others are surprised to learn you can even order food at this dive bar—there is no printed menu, and you have to ask a bartender for their offerings. The bar’s blue and purple paint job, dotted with snowy clouds and bright green flames, is hard to miss in downtown Buffalo.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This beloved, no-fuss Pittsburgh dive’s mission statements are etched into the wall behind the bar for all to see, “We decide who has a good time,” and, “If you needed Yelp to find this place, you don’t belong here,” for example. Movies and sports are always playing, local bands perform on weekends, and there’s a ping-pong table in the bar’s back room.

Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar Bar

Washington, D.C.

Little Miss Whiskey’s fan-favorite drink is a peach, sweet-tea-flavored slushy called “the Awesomeness,” but this D.C. staple offers 60+ whiskeys and 130+ craft beers. Events like whiskey tastings, pig roasts, crayfish boils and crab feasts are regularly hosted at the bar. While they do play every New Orleans Saints game, Little Miss Whiskey’s isn’t actually New Orleans themed.

Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge

New Orleans, Louisiana

Called “the best dive bar in New Orleans” by the HuffPost, Snake and Jake’s is little more than a tiny shack on Oak Street, bedecked in its characteristic Christmas decor throughout the year. It’s a quiet relief from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter. The bar’s signature drink—a shot of Jagermeister in a pint of Schlitz named “the Possum Drop”—is so-called because one night a possum dropped through the bar’s ceiling onto someone’s head.

Donn’s Depot

Austin, Texas

Donn Adelman, the current owner of Donn’s Depot, first started working there as a pianist. The bar reopened under his name on November 1, 1978, and—according to Adelman—Donn’s is now “here for live music and adult beverages.” It features nightly local acts, from a single piano player to a 12-piece orchestra. You might even catch Adelman on the keys and his son, also a bartender at Donn’s, hitting the drums. The bar’s most popular drink is a premium margarita-esque beverage called “The Great Trainwreck.” Adelman’s advice: “Don’t ask what’s in it.”

St. Elmo

Bisbee, Arizona

The longest continually operating drinking establishment in the state of Arizona, St. Elmo survived Prohibition by converting into a soda shop and was later regularly patronized by celebrities such as John Wayne and Charlie Sheen. The current owner of the bar, Phil Yossem, said the vibe is most similar to that of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars, according to a story from Tucson.com. The best drink on the menu is the Bloody Mary, which uses a special “chili water” to give it some extra kick.

Cactus Bar

Boise, Idaho

Cactus Bar, founded in 1936, is the oldest bar in the city of Boise, and its down-home brews and friendly community feel have made it last through the ages. The bar was named Uber’s most popular destination in Idaho in 2017. According to one Yelp reviewer, “Every downtown needs a place like this one! Drinks are stiff, bartenders are quick and prices are CHEAP.”

Be sure to visit savingplaces.org to learn more about how to make a difference in preserving some of the better places in America.