Incredible dive bars in every state

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Traveling across America these days can sometimes feel like a cultural blur. There’s the same fast-food and chain restaurants almost everywhere, and the same is true for big box retailers, banks, pharmacies and virtually every other business you can think of.

The one reliable exception to this erasure of local culture is the dive bar. Nearly every city has that one place where locals gather for a good chin wag or just to unwind, and they almost always reflect the true, unvarnished spirit of the community in which they’re located.

But what is it that makes a bar a dive and not just a pub or local watering hole? While there’s no specific checklist to go by, there are typically at least a few things that set dive bars apart:

  • Relaxed setting if not downright dumpy
  • Neon beer signs
  • A jukebox or space for live bands
  • Beer in bottles, but preferably cans (extra points for an ice chest on the floor behind the bar)
  • A spate of regulars, many of whom are old-timers and know each other well
  • Maybe some food, but vegetarians and vegans may not have many options
  • A pool table or other game options
  • A fine layer of dust, especially on the light fixtures (and those neon signs)
  • No dress code
  • A lingering smell of stale beer
  • Friendly bartenders
  • No hipsters and no tourists (except you, of course)

With that in mind, we put together this list of some of our very favorite dive bars across the country. Check them out if you ever get the chance.

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Alabama

Hayley’s, Mobile

Next time you’re in Mobile, drop by Hayley’s for a cold beer, a diverse group of locals, a game of pool and a jukebox that gets rave reviews. Smokers will be especially happy at Hayley’s. It’s a private club (you’ll have to pay a nominal fee to join) which means you can smoke inside.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Alaska

Polar Bar, Anchorage

Locals, locals, locals is what you’ll get at Polar Bar in Anchorage. Besides the solid jukebox, good drinks and chill atmosphere, you may also get a bit of rowdy action. Some Yelp reviews suggest it can be a bit rough, including one that said, “the woman bartender got punched in the face, a man was thrown out for trying to sell his Doritos, and there was a fight on the curb in front.”

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Arizona

Tallyho Cocktail Lounge, Scottsdale

Next time you’re in Scottsdale and in need of a stiff drink or an amazing bloody Mary, stop by the Tallyho and set a spell. The jukebox is on point, there are lots of local regulars and you can even shoot a little pool if you’re so inclined. Or you can just hang in one of the cozy booths and wile away the hours.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Arkansas

The Forge, North Little Rock

Nestled right up against the train tracks (where any good dive bar really ought to be), The Forge is a beer-only joint where you’ll find pool, snacks, friendly folks that treat each other like family and maybe even a dog or two.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

California

Cozy Inn, Culver City

Another little hole in the wall where the locals are like family is the Cozy Inn. Next time you head to the greater Los Angeles area, stop by and check out their pool tables, shuffleboard and strong drinks .

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Colorado

Don’s Club Tavern, Denver

It says it right on their website: Don’s is “Denver’s Best Dive Bar.” It’s been around since 1947 and hasn’t changed all that much (not that we were there back then). So, if you’re in the mile-high city and need a cold one, stop by the place where they say it’s a “virtual certainty” that Jack Kerouac stopped by back in the day and threw back one or a few.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Connecticut

The Groggy Frogg, Southington

Great burgers, famous wings, an excellent beer selection and loads of happy regulars are just a quick jaunt up from New Haven if you’re traveling between New York and Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Boston or Nantucket. They’re open 365 days a year, including “natural disasters, riots and holidays” according to their website.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Delaware

Valerie’s Bar & Grill, Dover

Do you want to go where everybody knows your name? Well, it may not be Boston, and your name may not be Norm, but Valerie’s is a great spot for a cold Yuengling on tap, some of the best wings and cheesesteaks in the area, and an outdoor bar that is perfect for day drinking.

Image Credit: Valeries Bar & Grill / Facebook.

Florida

Flora-Bama Lounge, Perdido Key, Florida (and Orange Beach, Alabama)

This is the one exception to our rule that good dive bars don’t have a lot of tourists. You’ll find them here, but that doesn’t detract from everything the Flora-Bama has to offer. Some will argue it’s not a dive bar. We disagree. It’s a dive bar on steroids. Voted the best beach bar in America, the Flora-Bama has a marina, multiple beach-side bars, a liquor store, an oyster bar, five stages and a shuttle to pick you up and take you home so you and your friends don’t end up drinking and driving.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Georgia

The Northside Tavern, Atlanta

If you’re serious about the blues and a stiff drink, you’re going to want to head to Northside the next time you’re in Atlanta. Open since 1972, Northside has won a whole slew of reader’s choice awards, and rightly so. There’s live music every night, so there’s really no bad day to check it out.

Image Credit: .

Hawaii

Koa Oasis Booze Shack, Honolulu

If you’re in Hawaii you certainly don’t want to be sitting in a dark, dingy dive bar. You want to be enjoying that sand and surf, right? That’s what makes Koa Oasis so perfect. Right on the beach, they serve a variety of tropical cocktails, beer and booze. It’s a great spot to grab a drink from the walk-up bar and hang out and watch the sunset.

Image Credit: TripAdvisor.com.

Idaho

O’Michael’s Sporting Club Pub & Grill, Boise

Cold beer? Check. Great food? Check. A host of friendly locals and talented live bands? Check and check. And if you’re a fan of taxidermy, well, there’s some of that, too.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Illinois

Shamrock Club, Chicago

In a big city full of delicious dives, it’s hard to pick just one. But in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, there is a great Irish bar and grill that you have to visit if you’re in the are: Shamrock Club. Complete with leprechauns and four-leaf clovers donning the walls, Shamrock Club is everything you’d hope an Irish bar would have, including on-tap beers, tasty burgers, and loads of fried food!

Image Credit: shamrockclubchicago.com.

Indiana

One More Lounge, Indianapolis

If you’re looking for a friendly vibe, cheap drinks, good food and live bands, this long-standing local hangout is a great choice, especially if you want to get away from more touristy areas.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Iowa

Flat Tire Lounge, Madrid

The Flat Tire is a mainstay for cyclists riding the High Trestle Trail, but you don’t have to ride or even own a bike to enjoy this bar’s tasty beverages (which include a menu dedicated solely to a variety of Moscow Mules).

Located right on the trail in an old Quonset hut, the Flat Tire isn’t your average looking dive bar. There’s food available from an outdoor food truck.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Kansas

Kickstart Saloon, Topeka

This biker-themed bar is home to the world’s oldest motorcycle (of course it’s a kitschy joke – what else would you expect at a dive bar?), an awesome pool table and daily specials that will keep you coming back for more.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Kentucky

The Pearl of Germantown, Louisville

Local residents love this unpretentious watering hole, and for good reason. There’s a great jukebox, friendly folks and … hold on to your hat … a drink wheel. Can’t decide what you want? Want to try something new? Spin the drink wheel and leave the decision to chance.

As one Yelp reviewer wrote, “If you ever fantasized about going to a bar that could become the kind of place where ‘everybody knows your name’, this is it. It’s familiar, comfortable, and yet simultaneously exciting.”

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Louisiana

Liuzza’s by the Track, New Orleans

Come for the expertly made bloody Mary’s and friendly service, but stay for the Cajun and Creole food that will make you want to buy a little house around the corner so this can be your local hangout.

Yes, it’s that good.

As the sign says, “come in and taste what it means to miss New Orleans.”

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Maine

Cottage Street Pub, Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor is about as touristy as any town can get, so it’s hard to find a spot that isn’t overrun with out-of-towners, especially during high season. You’ll find a good number of locals at Cottage Street Pub, though, especially during the day, chatting with each other and the friendly bartenders. Bonus: You’ll find some really great cocktails here.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Maryland

Hank Dietle’s Tavern, Rockville

Yes, we’re putting a non-existent (at this moment) bar on our list. Hank Dietle’s, the oldest bar in Rockville, burned down in February, but is being lovingly restored due in part to fundraising efforts by the bar’s longtime fans. You can keep track of the rebuild on the tavern’s Facebook page. We figure the grand opening party will be one for the record books!

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Massachusetts

Eddie C’s, Boston

Boston has a lot of neighborhood bars, and many of them fall solidly into the dive category, but Eddie C’s is among the best.

Owned by former cop Eddie Contilli until his death in 2017, Eddie C’s has cheap beer, solid mixed drinks, friendly service and a lot of regulars who love its ease and simplicity.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Michigan

Rubble’s Bar, Mt. Pleasant

Live music, karaoke and good drink specials keep this watering hole near Central Michigan University lively on almost any night of the week.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Minnesota

Palmer’s Bar, Minneapolis

Unpretentious and eclectic, Palmer’s has live music, friendly service, cold beer and a back porch if you need a little fresh air. What more do you need?

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Mississippi

The Project Lounge, Biloxi

Great food, strong drinks, lunchtime specials and, count ’em, TWO happy hours, combined with super-friendly service makes The Project Lounge a favorite stop for Biloxi residents and visitors alike.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Missouri

Zoo Bar, Kansas City

This no frills, cash-only local favorite is all the bar you need next time you’re in Kansas City. Live bands, graffiti everywhere and bloody Mary’s that could serve as lunch or a hearty snack. There’s plenty to love about Zoo Bar.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Montana

The Rhinoceros, Missoula

We’re going to keep this simple: 50 beers on tap. What? Not enough? OK, how about a massive selection of single-malt Scotches? No? Fine. They also have excellent daily drink specials, free pool and shuffleboard on Sundays and some serious craft cocktails.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Nebraska

Poop Deck Bar, Omaha

Let’s be honest with each other here: You know you want to invite your friends to join you at this Omaha dive bar. I mean seriously, you get to say poop, you get to see your friends and you get to drink cheap adult beverages served by really friendly folks.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Nevada

Double Down Saloon, Las Vegas

They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so you might as well drink the house special when you’re at the Double Down. What’s that special called, you ask? Why it’s called Ass Juice, my friend, Ass Juice. Be prepared for this level of class across the board when you enter the Double Down’s dark and stinky interior.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

New Hampshire

McGarvey’s, Manchester

If you’re a fan of karaoke, you’ll love it at McGarvey’s, where there’s singing every night of the week except Mondays. If you don’t like karaoke, you’ll love Monday nights at McGarvey’s. That’s when all drinks are half off. Grab a pint or two and shoot a little pool or just the breeze with other happy patrons.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

New Jersey

The Ivy Inn, Princeton

This family-owned and operated joint just a few blocks from Princeton University is the real deal. Serving up cold drinks, live music, trivia nights, a killer juke box and some of the friendliest service around, The Ivy is beloved by a lot of Princetonians. It’s worth a stop if you’re in town.

Image Credit: The Ivy Inn.

New Mexico

Silva’s Saloon, Bernalillo

It’s on Route 66. It’s been around since 1933. Inexpensive drinks and really decent food make it a must-stop for those in the know. And now that includes you.

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New York

Cubbyhole, West Village, Manhattan

This tiny neighborhood bar draws a diverse and cheerful crowd and is almost always packed to the point of inducing claustrophobia, even in people who like crowds. The bartenders aren’t particularly friendly and the drinks aren’t particularly cheap, but there’s just something about this place that makes it magical. You’ll find a great selection of tunes on the jukebox, but you can’t always hear the music over the crowd. Come early if you want a seat.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

North Carolina

The Thirsty Beaver, Charlotte

A big residential building project has cropped up on all sides of this little hole in the wall, but that doesn’t stop fans of the Thirsty Beaver from coming in for the cheap drinks and live music.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

North Dakota

Empire Tavern, Fargo

This is one of the first bars to open in Fargo after prohibition ended in 1936. If you’re into day drinking, you’re in luck! The Empire opens at 8 a.m. except on Sundays. And if you need one for the road when you’re finished, there’s a liquor store right next door.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Ohio

Dive Bar, Cincinnati

There had to be one, right? A dive bar literally named Dive Bar, that is. You’ll find lot of local beers, craft cocktails and good food in this friendly bar with a neighborhood pub vibe.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Oklahoma

Edna’s, Oklahoma City

Home of the famous Lunchbox cocktail (an unlikely mixture of Coors Light, amaretto and orange juice served in a frosted mug that was written about in The New York Times), Edna’s is a mainstay for many local drinkers and tourists alike. There’s a good selection of pub grub, a jukebox, and legend has it (and video proves it) that if you play a certain song on that jukebox the owner, Edna herself, will dance on the bar.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Oregon

Joe’s Cellar, Portland

Portland has more than its fair share of dive bars, and that makes it really tough to choose just one for this list. But when it comes down to it, Joe’s eked out our top spot for one very simple reason: they are open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in genuinely divey digs. Be sure to try the biscuits and gravy.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Pennsylvania

John & Peter’s Place, New Hope

Nestled amid retail shops, restaurants and other bars in charming New Hope, John & Peter’s is one of those venerable old places that feels like it could just start crumbling into your cold draft beer — but in the best possible way. With an outdoor patio, some of the best burgers around, live music and comedy, and a staff that feels like family, you’ll want to while your days away here along the Delaware River.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Rhode Island

Danny’s, Westerly

Danny’s is an old-fashioned place serving inexpensive drinks to local regulars who are as friendly and fun as the bartenders. It’s one of those places that can turn a bad day good. Don’t expect to sit alone and stare at your phone while you sip your beverage of choice. You’re going to be talked to, and chances are, the conversation is going to be great.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

South Carolina

The Griffon, Charleston

If you need to get away from all the tourists on East Bay Street, duck into this quaint establishment and find yourself as one with the local regulars. There’s plenty of pub grub if you want to grab a bite to eat, and a variety of craft beers to wash it all down with. Be sure to bring a dollar bill to staple to the wall along with the thousands of others.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

South Dakota

The Ice House, Yankton

This spot was named one of the 33 best dive bars in America by Thrillist and, well, we aren’t going to argue with them. How many other bars let you walk outside and smash your beer bottle under the old loading dock? So next time you’re in South Dakota and need a cold beer and maybe take out a little pent-up aggression, The Ice House is waiting for you.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Tennessee

The Lamplighter Lounge, Memphis

As one Yelp reviewer put it, “Anyone who loves dive bars will understand that walking into Lamplighter is like walking into heaven.”

There’s no liquor here, but if you want cold beer and a good, greasy cheeseburger, a rockin’ jukebox and live music, this is the spot to be in Memphis. There’s no early-bird option here, though. The Lamplighter doesn’t open until 7 p.m.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Texas

Giddy Ups, Austin

This capitol city was once was full of venerable dive bars with names like The Poodle Dog Lounge, The Horseshoe Lounge and The Cedar Door. Today, few remain, having become the victims of rising rents and gentrification. But in far-south Austin, Giddy Ups keeps on rockin’ with live music, pool tables and shuffleboard, an outdoor space, a giant old fireplace and some of the friendliest regulars and staff around. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood and want to feel like you’re with family.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Utah

Bunny’s Club, Coalville

If you find yourself in Coalville on a Tuesday sometime soon, head on over to Bunny’s where all food items are just $2. That’s one of the best bargains we’ve seen anywhere. Pair it with the regular drink specials, friendly and fast service and you can see why the locals love this place.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Vermont

Olde Northender Pub, Burlington

Here’s another one of those bars that seems to be in a former house. In this case, it makes it feel even cooler and cozier. Tap beer for $1.75 also adds to the cool factor. Throw in the patio, the funky mix of regulars and some good tunes on the jukebox and it’s practically heaven.

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Virginia

The Lynnhaven Pub, Virginia Beach

It’s a crusty old classic dive bar that most tourists wouldn’t even see driving by, so you’ll find virtually nothing but locals here. Happy, happy locals. They come for the wide selection of beer, the cozy vibe and also the food. This place makes its own bread, that’s how dedicated the Lynnhaven is to serving up some good grub.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

Washington

The Blue Moon Tavern, Seattle

The Blue Moon was established in 1934 one mile outside of the University of Washington campus to skirt liquor laws at the time and has been a cultural touchstone for generations of Seattleites. Given its proximity to campus, it’s also hosted a roster of huge names in poetry and literature, including regulars Theodore Roethke (the alley next to the bar was named “Roethke Mews”) and Carolyn Kizer, and visitors Tom Robbins and Dylan Thomas. These luminaries are part of its legend.

If you go, you’ll find that one of the last vibrant blue-collar bars in Seattle is seemingly unchanged since its heyday in the ’40s and ’50s. Ancient wooden booths, kind but no-nonsense bartenders, and regulars who are delightfully individualistic make this an excellent place to drink and have a conversation with a stranger.

Image Credit: thebluemoonseattle.com.

West Virginia

The Blue Parrot, Charleston

This cozy bar has a loyal following and for good reason. With plenty of live music, friendly service and cold beverages, it’s just the right spot to unwind after a long day. There’s also trivia, open mic nights and, of course, cold pitchers of beer. 

Image Credit: Google Maps.

Wisconsin

Moccasin Bar, Hayward

Creative and taxidermy aren’t words you usually want to hear together. Add them to dive bar, though, and the combination gets intriguing. If you don’t mind drinking cheap drinks with cheerful people while being surrounded by things like, oh, y’know, a squirrel sharing a beer with a chipmunk, the Moccasin Bar makes for a memorable night out.

Image Credit: Courtesy image.

Wyoming

The Buckhorn Bar & Parlor, Laramie

More taxidermy heading at you here! This bar has been around for more than 100 years and has a storied history. There’s a full bar, wide selection of beers and if you order an appetizer your next drink is half off.

This article was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Image Credit: Yelp.com.

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Constance Brinkley-Badgett

Constance Brinkley-Badgett is MediaFeed’s executive editor. She has more than 20 years of experience in digital, broadcast and print journalism, as well as several years of agency experience in content marketing. She has served as a digital producer at NBC Nightly News, Senior Producer at CNBC, Managing Editor at ICF Next, and as a tax reporter at Bloomberg BNA.