Best Dive Bars in America
Dive bars may be unassuming at first (that’s kind of the point), but take a closer look and you’ll see they’re so much more than just affordable watering holes—they’re veritable community pillars. Many of the best act as both time warps and recorders of local history, collecting a plethora of kooky decor, bathroom graffiti, and sometimes even ghosts along the way.
While dive bar drink offerings tend to skew toward rail beverages and light beer, some of our favorites also provide unexpectedly delicious culinary options that uniquely reflect their city’s cuisine: pierogies in Pittsburgh, po’ boys in New Orleans, cheesesteaks in Philly.
Some dive bars are also top-notch arbitrators of “camp,” injected with an authentic kookiness that only comes from playing host to, well, interesting folks.
Sure, you won’t be able to order a top-notch cocktail at most dive bars, but you might be able to play a game of billiards or darts, take regrettable shots, meet unique people, and go home with some interesting stories to tell. With that in mind, here’s our list of the top ten dives across the U.S.—from New York to San Francisco—whose barstools are worth sidling up to.
1. Blue Moon Tavern
This iconic Seattle dive has played host to students, journalists, artists, hippies, and now you since it first opened over 80 years ago in 1934. You’ll be greeted at the entrance by a neon lady stretching out atop a crescent moon—a theme reiterated inside. The decor comprises a litany of books and art that line the walls and shelves. The sheer history of this dive alone makes it worth a visit, but it also plays host to regular musical acts (think cover bands, local acts, and open mic night. Dogs are welcome.
2. Mac’s Club Deuce
The oldest bar on our list, which is saying a lot, Mac’s Club Deuce has been welcoming South Beach locals to take up a barstool since 1926. Located just two blocks away from the beach, it’s a must for any trip to Miami, especially considering its generous opening hours: 8 am to 5 am daily. From the time it opens until 7 pm, Mac’s Club Deuce even boasts a two-for-one happy hour. Grab two beers and head over to the pool table to shoot a game or maybe to the jukebox to choose a tune. You’ll leave smelling like cigarettes, but it’s all part of the experience.
3. Clermont Lounge
Move aside, Magic City. Clermont Lounge is actually the first and longest-operating strip club in Atlanta, and is entirely owned by women. It can be found in the basement of a historic motor lodge turned trendy boutique hotel, which is your first indication of many that this is not the kind of place you head to for bottle service. Your second cue is that the late, great Anthony Bourdain has been here. Leave your phone camera in your pocket and have your singles at the ready.
4. Dan’s Cafe
Squirt bottle of rail whiskey, anyone? That might sound a little gruesome, but it’s par for the course at Dan’s Cafe—an iconic dive located in the lively Adams Morgan neighborhood of our nation’s capital. Here, college students and rowdy locals lobby up to the bar, cash in hand, to pick their spirit of choice to imbibe from a plastic condiment bottle. It’s not exactly good, clean family fun—but it is a riotous good time.
5. Tiki Ti’s
Los Angeles, CA
Tiki Ti is a longstanding, family-owned institution and the place for blue curaçao-soaked debauchery on Sunset Boulevard. The fact all its employees are family members provided the dive with an interesting legal loophole that allowed for indoor smoking until 2015. The interiors of this Polynesian-themed tiny building are the campiest of camp, covered in rattan accents, vintage license plates, tiki mugs, and even a glowing blue pufferfish light. The drinks are strong and delicious. Order the Blood & Sand and everyone will yell out “Toro! Tori!” Don’t ask why, because we aren’t sure…
6. Tattooed Mom
Tattooed Mom on Philly’s bumping South Street probably deserves a spot on this list for the name alone, but we also love that its interiors double as a bonafide street art museum—covered floor to ceiling in stickers, spray paint, Sharpie and more, contributed by artists both local and famed. The food menu also far exceeds dive expectations, with everything from Philly cheesesteaks and pierogies to vegan cheesy fries and tots. Don’t leave without grabbing a picture sitting in the sticker-bedecked bumper cars.
7. The Commodore
The City That Never Sleeps is full of interesting dives, but it’s actually the fried chicken that makes this Brooklyn haunt an instant classic. The crowd here is definitely atypical from your regular dive (way more Doc Martens and rolled up jeans), but the vibe is everything you want, from the Pac Man machine and television playing classics like The Shining to the cheap beer sloshing onto your shoes.
8. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
New Orleans, LA
It’s completely unsurprising that a city like New Orleans would be packed full of fun, unique, and bizarre dive bars—many only accessible by buzzer, making them feel like speakeasies. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge, in the Sixteenth Ward near Tulane, is not only a mouthful to say, but an eyeful to take in, from its questionable tin roof to the dimly lit red interiors festooned with retro holiday decor. The signature beverage is a “possum drop” comprising a shot of Jagermeister in a pint of Schlitz, which supposedly got its name the night a possum dropped through the ceiling onto someone’s head. We’ll take two.
9. Earnestine & Hazel’s
There’s so much to say about Earnestine and Hazel’s that can’t be captured in a few lines of text, including the fact that no fewer than 13 people have kicked the bucket here, and that they’re known for their delicious “Soul Burger.” The venue itself was originally built with the intention of being a church, but instead became (at varying stages) a dry goods store, a pharmacy, a brothel (upstairs), a jazz club, and finally a dive bar with a one-item food menu. Whether you visit for a late-night burger, to listen to live music, or to potentially glimpse a ghost, there’s really something for everyone.
10. Li Po Lounge
San Francisco, CA
While most dives are known for beer and shot combos, this one in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood has a trademark on its mai tai recipe. It’s been serving up the iconic sugary concoction for over 25 years, but has been in business since 1937 (over 85 years). The iconic red neon sign signals you’ve reached the spot, and hip hop blasting inside means you’re in for a good time. This is another dive once graced by Anthony Bourdain—we swear we aren’t stalking his former movements.
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