Restaurants have suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them have gone out of business for good.
Bars have had it even worse, though. Restaurants tend to be larger than bars and are more likely to have outdoor seating areas, making it easier for them to abide by social distancing rules.
Bars are another story. They’re usually smaller than restaurants and by definition are arranged so that people sit side by side. The whole point of bars is close-up camaraderie. They’re places to hang out, meet people, get raucous with friends. And, of course, they are a place to drink — and alcohol is known for lowering inhibitions, making it less likely that patrons will observe safety protocols. For all these reasons, bars have often remained closed even as states allowed restaurants to resume serving.
There are many kinds of bars, of course, but the ones that seem to define “bar” most vividly are those known as dive bars.
Dive bars used to be notoriously disreputable, dirty, and possibly dangerous — the kinds of places where strangers weren’t welcome. Today, though, the term is used increasingly to mean simply a bar with character, someplace not too fancy, an establishment with a personality of its own — maybe a little ill-kempt but rarely worrisomely unclean or in any way threatening.
Here are some attributes common to most dive bars: A neighborhood clientele; graffiti on the walls (or, at the very least, on the restroom walls); an old-school jukebox (extra points if it takes quarters or dollar bills), tuned a little too loud; at least one pool table; and furnishings repaired with duct tape.
Dive bars aren’t known for their wine lists or fancy cocktails. They usually serve beer in cans (especially PBR — Pabst Blue Ribbon) as well as in bottles (taps are optional), and they have bartenders who are either really friendly or really surly — nothing in between. And the drinks are cheap, especially at happy hour. (These are the best happy hour spots in every state.)
A few caveats: Some dive bars still permit smoking. Many are cash-only (though probably have an in-house ATM). And with only occasional exceptions, they’re not places where you’d want to eat anything fancier than a bag of chips or a microwaved pizza.
24/7 Tempo has drawn on Yelp and numerous other sources to assemble a list of the best dive bars in every corner of America. They may not all fulfill all of the above requirements, but each has true dive bar character.
Alabama: Snapper’s Lounge
> City: Orange Beach
The unique feature at this no-frills beach dive, in a Gulf Coast town just across Perdido Bay from Florida, is a weathered 25-foot-long shuffleboard table, said to be half a century old. Beer is the usual tipple here, though simple mixed drinks are available.
Alaska: Sourdough Cocktail Bar
> City: Ketchikan
This Ketchikan institution, a classic fisherman’s bar favored by locals, is known for its friendly bartenders and its selection of Alaska-brewed beer. The walls are covered with photos of historic local shipwrecks, perhaps an oblique reminder to take an Uber home.
Arizona: Bay Horse Tavern
> City: Tucson
The illuminated head of retired Bud Light mascot Spuds MacKenzie looks out over the bar above a cooler filled with “Important Beers” at this Tucson standby, praised by Yelp reviewers for its “sharp, funny bartenders,” “great prices on drinks,” and “small patio for smoking with a TV.” “What a dump!” wrote another Yelper, adding, “I mean that in a good way.”
Arkansas: Midtown Billiards
> City: Little Rock
Yelp comments include “Worse bar I’ve ever been to,” “[D]on’t think you’ll leave without a layer of grease on your clothes,” and “[Y]ou get hassled at the door, insulted by the staff, and hustled by the low rent meth head[s]…who camp out on the only two…pool tables.” In other words, it’s the perfect dive bar. And on the plus side, other Yelpers do say things like “Fantastic place,” “a delicious burger and staff,” and “This is as real as it gets.”
> City: San Francisco
A Mission District bar and beer garden, Zeitgeist is famous for its Bloody Marys and its outdoor seating area (now limited in capacity and with social distancing enforced). Aficionados might question whether a true dive would have 22 beers on tap, as this one does, but Thrillist described it as “biker-friendly/everyone-else-not-that-friendly,” which helps solidify its dive bar credentials. Most San Francisco bars are currently closed, but those that serve food, like Zeitgeist, may operate outdoors and for takeout.
Colorado: Nob Hill Inn
> City: Denver
This slightly gritty Denver old-timer — there’s been a bar or restaurant on the site since 1937 and it’s been called the Nob Hill Inn since 1954 — is decorated with paintings done by the owner when he was an art student 30-plus years ago. According to the Denver news and arts publication Westword, “The off-band jukebox still takes dollar bills, and…[t]he crowd ebbs and flows as hipsters, old-timers, and guys wearing sunglasses indoors all come and go.” Facing permanent closure in July, after the state shut down bars for in-person service, Nob Hill launched a GoFundMe page and managed to survive. It is now open again.
Connecticut: Carousel Club
> City: New London
“$2 PBR’s, punk shows all the time,” noted a Yelp reviewer late last year. “No other bar like it around!” Another reviewer called the place, formerly known as 33 Golden Street (its address), “The last real dive bar with ‘meaning’ in the area.” Darts, pool tables, and a jukebox are part of the scene. As if this weren’t enough, there’s a sign on the bar mirror reading, “Employees Must Carve Slayer Into Forearms Before Returning to Work.” What more could a dive-bar aficionado want?
Delaware: Comegys’ Pub
> City: Wilmington
A small, family-owned blue-collar watering hole known for its friendly staff and friendly regulars, Comegys’ has been called “the Cheers of Wilmington.” It’s the kind of place, one regular told the local entertainment site Out&About, where “Someone will always buy you a drink, whether you want one or not!”
Florida: Anclote River Boat Club
> City: Tarpon Springs
There’s beer and a little wine but no hard booze at what Yelp reviewers hail as a “dilapidated, crooked,” “classic Floridian dive bar” with live music and “the wildest ambiance, the best bartenders, the greatest stories.” Perched above the Anclote River, leaning over it on “at least a 20 degree angle,” it’s “jam packed with character.” As one comment notes, “Don’t come here looking for hipsteresque irony; you’ll be eaten alive.” And bring money: It’s cash only.
Georgia: The Rail Pub
> City: Savannah
Opened in 1890 in what was then the city’s red light district, the Rail Pub has been everything from a railroad workers’ bar to a boarding house to a brothel. Today, the attractions in this “dark, dank, sketchy, and…amazing” joint (as one Yelper called it) include $5 40s (40-ounce beers), free fried chicken on Fridays, and, according to the bar’s website, “the city’s finest collection of daytime drinkers.”
Hawaii: Arnold’s Beach Bar & Grill
> City: Honolulu
Free popcorn popped in bacon grease, $5 mai tais and margaritas, and $3 beers are on the menu at this dive-like tiki bar. Some reviewers find it a little too polished and touristy, but with what Yelp reviews describe as “super cheap alcohol” and “a gaggle of drunk folks being rude to the bartender,” it’s obviously divey enough for Waikiki.
Idaho: Cactus Bar
> City: Boise
“Many a Jäger Bomb has been defused at this downtown institution,” according to Boise Weekly. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., Cactus Bar offers “cheap strong drinks,” including $2 well drinks and $2 domestic drafts — cash only. The clientele, says the Old Boise website, “includes bikers, students, and pretty much anyone who loves to drink.”
Illinois: Lange’s Lounge
> City: Chicago
An “old-school Chicago landmark,” according to one Yelp review, Lange’s offers what the Chicago Bar Project website calls “a mellow atmosphere conducive for conversation, swigging Bud, shooting some stick…” The site notes that it “mostly draws older neighborhood types who suspiciously (sic) eye younger patrons,” but “offers a refreshing change from some of the pretension and fratishness found…nearby….” Eater reports that the place offers “an impressive selection of dad beer in cans.”
Indiana: The Alley
> City: Bloomington
“This is a day drinker’s paradise: peanut shells on the floor, solid selection of taps, natural light from street windows (but not too much), and a salty and well seasoned bartender/owner/operator.” That’s according to a Yelp reviewer from Indianapolis. “Dark, narrow, hole in the wall, but perfect,” wrote another Yelper, adding, “it’s a place your father would have had drinks.”
Iowa: Locust Tap
> City: Des Moines
Extravagantly graffiti’d walls, a decrepit tin ceiling, a drink-stained pool table — and, in the words of one Yelp reviewer, “They play loud music, have cheap beer, [and] the booths are falling apart…” Another commented “[I]f you can get past the fact that this place smells like a men’s restroom, then sit back, relax and have some $2 PBR.”
Kansas: Louise’s Bar
> City: Lawrence
“Here’s what you get here:,” a fan wrote on Yelp earlier this year. “A couple classic bar games, cheap drinks, and a house-party vibe with your neighbors. In other words, it’s nearly perfection.” Another reviewer, earlier in the decade, described the old wooden bar, mismatched chairs, “impossibly too much graffiti that is apparently encouraged,” and “massive schooners of cheap swill” — a perfect portrait of a classic dive bar. Nightly specials include $6.50 double Bloody Marys on Sundays and $2.25 domestic bottled beer on Tuesdays.
Kentucky: Chevy Chase Inn
> City: Lexington
“The cocktails are cheap [and] [t]he ambiance is dark, dirty, vintage, and brooding, in the best way” at this old-school dive bar, according to one Yelp comment. Another warns, “This place is not for posers! Zero poser policy!” Live music and a good choice of carry-in food options nearby are added attractions, and “Beer comes canned and ice cold.”
Louisiana: Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
> City: New Orleans
With one of the great rundown-dive-bar exteriors — complete with a large sign advertising Regal Beer on tap (the Bourbon Street brewery that produced it closed down in 1962) — Snake & Jake’s has been called a “bucket list dive bar destination” on Yelp. The site also notes that “The drinks are cheap, the staff is friendly and accommodating, and the bar dog is a friendly pup…” The bar is currently closed “due to COVID-19” and is raising money through a GoFundMe page. For now, New Orleans bars may open only for takeout business, and Snake & Jake’s owner Dave Clements told NOLA.com that he preferred to remain shuttered until he could seat patrons again.
Maine: Downtown Lounge
> City: Portland
“If you are looking for trendy, hipster vibes, this is not your place,” wrote one local on Yelp last year. “This is a dive bar…” Maine Today elaborated, calling it a cross between a dive bar and a diner with “appropriately dim lighting” and “red walls covered with old photographs, old license plates and old road signs.” The place is currently open only Wednesday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., and it posts its pandemic-era rules on Facebook, including “Four per table,” “Two drink minimum unless food ordered,” “Try to stay in booth,” and “No jukebox.”
Maryland: Nautical Lounge
> City: Pasadena
“Dimly lit with karaoke, pool tables, a juke box, keno, a take out store attached, and fully of friendly locals,” according to a post on Foursquare. “What more could you ask for in a neighborhood dive?” And a visitor from nearby Baltimore wrote on Yelp, “[E]ven if you aren’t a regular you’ll definitely leave feeling like one.” Maryland now allows limited seating in bars, and owners of this establishment also announced in September that they were “Super excited to let everyone know that you can come, hang out and drink on our porch 10pm-1:30am.”
Massachusetts: Silhouette Lounge
> City: Allston (Boston)
Patronized by what The Infatuation calls “a mix of both old-school regulars and college kids drinking ironically,” this local institution features cheap beer (PBR pitchers for $11), free popcorn, a pool table, and dart boards, among other attractions. One bartender has been described on Eater as being the best “in the city/country/universe,” while other reviewers complained about the rude and abusive waitresses and bouncers. Like all bars in Massachusetts, the Sil, as regulars call it, will remain closed until the state enters Phase 4 of its reopening program, which isn’t projected to occur until the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
Michigan: The Bronx Bar
> City: Detroit
Until she retired in late 2018 after 42 years on the job, the big draw here was curmudgeonly daytime bartender Charleen Dexter, who remembers when beer was 15 cents a glass at this midtown standby. You can still get a brew for $2 here, and the burgers, fries, and fried pickle spears get good reviews. Critics complain about lousy service and too-loud music, but it has also been called “a fun, gritty place.” Michigan bars were closed for Indoor bar service in July, but the state’s Department of Health and Human Services permitted them to reopen in early October.
Minnesota: Palmer’s Bar
> City: Minneapolis
This music club-сum-dive bar dates its origins to 1906, and has operated under various names and owners ever since — becoming Palmer’s Bar in 1950. Strong drinks, cheap beer, and an outdoor area are among the attractions. According to the bar’s website, Palmer’s has been described as “a church for down and outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities.” As one Yelper put it, “You might meet your new best friend here. You might also get stabbed. Kidding. Sort of.”
Mississippi: Gil’s Fish Camp Bayou Bar
> City: Ocean Springs
This “laid back beach-hut bar with cheap booze, tasty crawfish, and a splendid waterfront view” (according to The Daily Meal) has cabins attached, in case you dive a little too deep. The beer is ice cold (“damn near frozen”), the atmosphere is great, and the bartender is “usually entertaining,” say Yelp reviewers. In a thank-you note to its customers posted on Facebook on Oct. 12, Gil’s promised that “Soon as restrictions ease a little more we will have a 10th anniversary party for y’all!” (Bar capacity and operating hours are currently limited in the state.)
Missouri: Silverleaf Lounge
> City: St. Louis
“The standard by which all other neighborhood bars should be judged,” according to St. Louis’s Riverfront Times. “Patriotic relics line the walls,” the Times continues, “and a collection of regulars are a fixture at the bar, trading jokes and jibes with the bartender while a jukebox cranks out soul and oldies that harken back to the time music was actually good.” The Silverleaf is cash only, but prices are low. “[T]he only way you can enjoy a cheaper drink is to drink at home,” noted one Yelper.
Montana: The Rhino
> City: Missoula
One Missoula resident posted all you need to know about this place, officially known as The Rhinoceros, on Yelp: “Peanut shells on the floor, a boozy musty aroma floating in the air, non-apologetic gruff bartenders and a crowd full of a nice mash up of college students, resident alcoholics and adults trying to escape their children.” Its array of 50 beers on tap and more than 50 single-malt scotches may move it out of true dive bar territory for some, but the nightly specials are definitely dive-like in price — for instance, PBR for $8 a pitcher on Mondays, seven ounces of any draft beer for $2 on Tuesdays, and Espolón tequila for $3.25 on Sundays.
Nebraska: Harry’s Wonder Bar
> City: Lincoln
This downtown Lincoln institution takes its name from the fact that it occupies an old Wonder Bread store. Drinks are poured generously, and domestic beers are $6 a pitcher or $2 a bottle or draft daily from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. There’s no food other than chips, jerky, and the like, but bartenders will nuke a Tombstone frozen pizza on request. There’s a pool table and there are some video games, but the main sport here is keno. “All of us in here play,” bartender Steve Coufal told the Lincoln Journal Star.
Nevada: Rusty Spur Saloon
> City: Las Vegas
There’s a rearing silver-hued horse with a PBR logo on its hindquarters outside this old-style cocktail lounge in a motel parking lot, located in the Dollar Tree/Bass Pro Shops/Ross Dress for Less part of Sin City. “This is not a craft beer bar…” warned one Yelp reviewer. “This is a Bud, Coors, PBR bar.” Best indication on Yelp that this is a true dive bar: “Unfriendly towards Pokemon Go players.”
New Hampshire: McGarvey’s Saloon
> City: Manchester
Want dive bar cred? About a year ago, a man was arrested here and charged with biting off a portion of the bouncer’s finger when he tried to eject him. On the other hand, many Yelp reviewers praise the great service, drink specials, and welcoming locals. And one visitor from California on karaoke night noted: “[W]e had the distinct pleasure of witnessing two of the biggest ugliest gnarliest biker dudes singing the most beautiful love ballads — not together.”
New Jersey: Hudson House Bar
> City: Beach Haven
“The Hud,” not far from Fantasy Island Amusement Park on the Jersey Shore’s Long Beach Island, was originally a Prohibition-era speakeasy. It’s deliberately unpromising looking from the outside. “[A]fter years of intentional disrepair, the Hud now resembles a haunted house,” wrote The Press of Atlantic City, “something akin to the Addams Family home with its peeling paint, strips of duct tape holding cracked windows together and lack of landscaping.” “Come here for cheap beer, the ambiance, and to experience a bar that time forgot,” counseled one Yelper. “Dirty Jersey at its finest,” said another.
New Mexico: The Matador
> City: Santa Fe
According to Yelp: “Sort of gnarly dark post punk atmosphere but great music and GREAT bartending.” “[B]e prepared to get up close and personal with other patrons when it’s busy…[and] don’t order anything complicated!” “If you want a lil’ grit, a good pour from a happy bartender…, good metal/punk, and that general feel of being transported somewhere that time doesn’t exist, head here.” According to a new public health order issued in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the state, effective Oct. 16, all bars (as well as restaurants that serve alcohol) must close nightly no later than 10 p.m.
New York: One Star
> City: New York City
Joe DiPietro’s No Idea was a no-frills downtown dive bar on a trendy street in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood. When the landlord priced him out of the place after 21 years, DiPietro moved to a new location nearby and opened this place — which owes its name to the one-star reviews of No Idea on Yelp, which he thought were funny. Of course, the One Star pages on Yelp are filled with four- and five-star assessments. Among the comments: “Kinda dingy lighting, long bar to sit at…” “Go for the tallboy and whiskey shot special for $8;” “Sure it’s simple, and plain, and that’s exactly what it’s meant to me.” The food offerings: Cheez-its for $1, Pop-Tarts for $3. One Star is currently open at 25% capacity. “You know the rules:,” says a recent post on its Facebook page. “Kindly drink 4x as much as you normally would.”
North Carolina: Thirsty Beaver Saloon
> City: Charlotte
The owners of this modest brick-walled neighborhood dive refused to sell their property to developers a few years back, so the developers built a 323-unit apartment building around the place on three sides. Inside, wrote a Yelper, “It’s a small biker-esque bar with one bar, a couple of pool tables and cheap beer…and it has a 70s vibe” — expressed partly through a collection of bras hanging from the rafters and barred windows. “Grab yourself a PBR and pull up a stump to the old school jukebox,” advised another, “and slip into honky tonk heaven.” Thirsty Beaver is currently closed due to state restrictions. According to its Facebook page, “[W]ith the mandate of 30% capacity and outdoor seating only we feel it would be difficult at best to maintain the proper number and distance for the safety of our customers” — but it plans to reopen when restrictions are eased.
North Dakota: The Box
> City: South Fargo
The Box is a combination bar and mini-casino off the lobby of an inexpensive chain hotel. It isn’t dark or dirty or dangerous-feeling, but qualifies as a dive with its menu (it includes cheese curds, fried pickles, pretzels with ranch dressing, and frozen pizzas); its low-priced drinks (including $6 domestic beer pitchers on Sundays, and $3.50 shots of various liquors on different nights — Jameson on Wednesdays, Fireball on Fridays, etc.); its “cool” and “friendly” bartenders (according to Yelp); and the fact that it’s the place to go when you don’t want to be (Yelp again) “creeped out by the low lives of downtown, but don’t want to drink in these boring places where people have name tags and company logos all over their clothing.”
Ohio: Harbor Inn
> City: Cleveland
Reviewers on Yelp like this West Bank dive bar — one of the oldest bars in Cleveland — for its “nautical and rather outdated” decor; “friendly bartender [and] friendlier patrons,” and “the history, the vibe, the thorough beer list and the low price tag.” Advice from one Yelper from the ‘burbs: “Take 15 people here, drink a lot of beer and play darts. Don’t overthink it, you’ll hurt yourself.”
> City: Oklahoma City
The signature cocktail here sets the tone: It’s called the Lunchbox; it’s made with fresh orange juice, light beer, and amaretto in a frosty mug; and the bar claims to have served more than 2 million of them since it was invented accidentally in the 1990s. Reviewers describe Edna’s as a classic dive bar, with decor featuring dollar bills stapled to the walls. Bar namesake Edna Scott, who died in 2014, used to dance on the bar every time somebody played “Great Balls of Fire” on the jukebox.
Oregon: Montavilla Station
> City: Portland
“[A] true dive and I mean that in the best way,” wrote a Yelper earlier this year. “It’s full of locals who know each other; some ride motorcycles, others chain smoke and start drinking at 9AM.” Another hailed it as a “Great spot to have a stiff drink and some cheap food” (like $2 hot dogs, $4 mac & cheese wedges, and chili cheese fries for $4.75). A sign of the times: One Yelp review from September noted that there were “appropriate socially distant tables inside.”
> City: Pittsburgh
“Gooski’s is always first up when you ask anyone for the best dive bar in town,” reports Thrillist, “and rightly so.” A Yelp reviewer notes that the place “is very dim, red lighting fills the bar area, smoke floats in the air and noise is abundant” (Philadelphia law allows smoking in bars under some conditions) and “Graffiti covers everything, including the ATM.” “Tattoos not required, but recommended,” cracks Pittsburgh CityPaper.
Rhode Island: Nick-A-Nee’s
> City: Providence
A self-described “heavenly dive,” dog-friendly and cash-only, Nick-a-Nee’s is known for its live music and friendly atmosphere. It’s a great change of pace “if you need a break from trendy,” according to one Yelper. Another, praising “the most amazing vibe,” adds that “the setting is wildly unpretentious” and “the beer’s ice cold!” And a review from a visitor from Massachusetts says that it’s the “Best dive bar in New England.”
South Carolina: The Hidden Tavern
> City: Lexington
“Great place to hang out, drink, shoot pool, play darts,” according to one local on Yelp. The pondside Tavern offers live music, karaoke, and an occasional fish fry or oyster roast, and there’s highly informal outdoor seating. “Best bar in the greater Columbia, Lexington area,” in the words of another Yelp review, and “Service is great” and “Drinks stay flowing.” One critic on Google said it was “A bar where the bartender is more drunk than you” and recommended that readers “stay far away” — but that just adds to its dive-bar cred.
South Dakota: Carey’s Bar
> City: Vermillion
Founded in 1954, Carey’s is a college-town dive bar (Vermillion, in the southeastern corner of the state, is home to the University of South Dakota). It’s cash only (there are nightly discounts on various drinks) and there’s no food other than free popcorn — though food may be brought in. “This is a cozy dive bar with wood throughout,” according to one Yelper. “A cool place to have a pint.” A taxidermied elk head with a cigarette in its mouth and “Go Yotes” mittens on its antlers (the USD football team is the Coyotes) overlooks the bar. “We at Carey’s have been and still are operating at limited capacity for optimal social distancing,” according to a tweet from the bar.
Tennessee: Fran’s East Side
> City: Nashville
With its “giant velvet painting of a kitten with a rose on the wall…cinder block walls, no windows… [and] $2 Miller High Life and occasional free beer from the bartender,” according to a visitor from Ohio on Yelp, “This place raises the Dive Bar bar.” In addition to frozen burritos and corn dogs, sustenance here, wrote another Yelper, includes “Microwave popcorn and buckets of domestics…so don’t come in looking for a frilly cocktail.” It’s cash only, beer only, and full of smoke, but also, according to one comment, “amazing.”
Texas: Club No Minors
> City: Houston
In response to local liquor laws in the 1960s, the Galleria area Mexican restaurant El Patio opened a separate operation, the Club Villa Sana, through a door just inside the entrance. A sign reading “No Minors” was attached to the door, and the place soon became known as Club No Minors. The room is small, the live music (sometimes mariachis) is loud, and the margaritas — served in big water glasses — are potent. Patrons have been known to dance on the tables after a couple too many. While bars had been closed by the state following a spike in COVID-19 cases in the state in late June, they were allowed to reopen on Oct. 14, at 50% occupancy.
Utah: Cheers to You
> City: Salt Lake City
“[L]oud and crowded and the design was likely commissioned by a drunk,” according to Yelp, whose reviewers also comment repeatedly on the rude bouncers. On the other hand, it’s a “fun casual dive bar with great drinks” with “[a]wesome bartenders and very friendly door guys” and “[e]xcellent, timely, courteous service.”
> City: Montpelier
This one-time biker hangout has turned into what one Yelper reviewer described as “a tiny little dive bar like you see in the movies where all the locals hang out for cheap drinks.” Another cited the “diverse crowd of bureaucrats, hippies and pool sharks” (or as another one put it “[n]ice people from all walks of life…congressmen to bums (if you can tell them apart)….” Alcohol is cheap here, but several reviewers have complained about the bar’s practice of limiting the number of drinks they’ll serve each customer (a not very dive-bar-like policy).
Virginia: Mel’s Place
> City: Virginia Beach
A Yelp reviewer from Georgia liked Mel’s because “you can smoke inside and the drinks are cheap yet strong.” (There is a non-smoking section.) A Virginia Beach resident added that “[T]his is actually a really cool dive bar. Not what I expected at all!” And another said on Yelp, “I’d say this is our modern day ‘Cheers’.” There are three pool tables, and pool tournaments on Saturday nights, and the bar hosts Geeks That Drink trivia contests.
Washington: Streamline Tavern
> City: Seattle
“I love dive bars and Streamline didn’t fail,” wrote a Yelp reviewer of this “super casual” establishment, owned by a former Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter. “Staff are blunt, unapologetic and real,” noted another Yelper. There’s a bar food menu (pizza, hot dogs, sliders, etc.), and comments on Yelp suggest that the fare is better than usual for a dive bar. Pitchers of PBR are $8.50 and well drinks are $3 during nightly happy hour, and there are free peanuts.
West Virginia: Red Carpet Lounge
> City: Charleston
“[A] beloved dive bar to the locals” and “the purest version of a dive bar in existence,” according to its fans on Yelp, the Red Carpet would be perfect except that “it’s too bright and the walls are too white for a real dive.” Hefty liquor pours and cheap beer attract “[e]very walk of life.” However, warns one reviewer, “The bar staff doesn’t like you. This is not ironic detachment. They honestly do not care for you. They will sell and serve you drinks regardless.”
Wisconsin: Wolski’s Tavern
> City: Milwaukee
Wolski’s celebrates its 111th anniversary this year, offering patrons “Great bartenders, outstanding popcorn, inexpensive drinks and steel dart boards,” according to one Yelp reviewer. Others call it a “Dark, dark, classic forever neighborhood bar,” but “NOT a dive bar in the traditional sticky floor, dirty bathroom sense.” Anyone who stays until the bar shuts down (at 2 or 2:30 a.m., depending on the night) gets an “I closed Wolksi’s” bumper sticker. In light of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin, the state recently limited bar and restaurant capacity to 25% through Nov. 6. But on Oct 15, a Wisconsin County Circuit judge temporarily blocked the limitation order, so capacity is back to 50% for now.
Wyoming: Joe’s Liquor & Bar
> City: Rock Springs
This combination of a package liquor store and what is said to be Wyoming’s smallest bar (with seating for only about 20 customers) is “as divey as divey can get, as local as local can get, and as cool as cool can get,” according to one Yelp review. The 1961-vintage Joe’s supplies “an authentic Wyoming experience,” and while there’s no beer on tap, the bar makes up for the omission “in personality and rowdiness.”
To assemble this list of the best dive bar in every state, 24/7 Tempo began by consulting ratings and reviews of establishments identifying themselves as dive bars, in whole or in part, on Yelp. Many of these were disqualified because they were primarily restaurants, sports bars, or chain operations, or because they were judged editorially to lack essential dive bar characteristics. (Some dive bars on this list have low Yelp scores, because the things reviewers criticize are sometimes the things that define good dive bars, like surly service or dingy atmosphere.)
We also consulted numerous roundups of dive bars, ranked and otherwise, from a variety of websites, including those of Thrillist, Eater, Tasting Table, Foursquare, Complex, Mental Floss, The Daily Meal, and Trekbible, as well as numerous local and regional sites and both websites and Facebook pages belonging to some of the bars under consideration.
Most quotes were taken from reviews by Yelp users.
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