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Some readers might give pause to Travel + Leisure publishing stories about dive bars, but we're the kind of globetrotters who relish the full range of experiences on a trip, from top-of-the-line luxury to truly authentic. We enjoy the high-end cocktail bars just as easily as a trusty neighborhood joint where you're guaranteed a decent whiskey with a soda back.
A fine drink can be the cornerstone of a good trip made better, and it can happen anywhere: the perfect airport bar to wait out an unexpected layover or delay, the ultimate rooftop bar for enjoying a killer view from above, a pool- or ocean-side swim-up bar so you're never thirsty, even when you're surrounded by water.
In light of that, it seemed time to take a look at dive bars. As much as people like to argue who makes the best Manhattan or negroni, thay also like to debate what constitutes a proper dive bar. Global bar culture has taught us that a dive doesn't necessarily mean dirty or dilapidated--sometimes, a city's best dives are generally spotless, manned by a longtime owner, wonderfully cozy, and a bit lost in time.
A dive can mean a classic, long-lasting watering hole that's hosted regulars and visitors for such a consistent amount of time that it's an iconic spot known for affordable drinks in a relaxed environment. In some cities, having an outdoor patio or games like pool and darts is mandatory; in others, graffiti, daily specials, and surly bartenders are.
Just like with other types of bars and cocktail dens, dives have a range, and we celebrate the full spectrum. So read on for our picks in these 10 cities, noting when to go, what to order, and why they're famous.
Best Dive Bars: Dallas
Dallas is a city full of talented mixologists and creative, ever-changing cocktail menus, but also it has a full roster of dive bars where the drinks are cheap and the food is good. Adair’s Saloonin Deep Ellum is unique to Texas; grab a bucket of Shiner from this local haunt and listen to some live country music. At Double Wide, go for the eclectic drinks featuring Yoohoo, Tang, and Pixy Stix. Oak Lawn locals love the Grapevine Barfor its jukebox and Playstation 2, while they head to Lee Harvey’sin The Cedars if they’re keen to bring their dog. The wood-walled Lakewood Landingserves an addictive burger, the Goat offers authentic blues bands. Time Out Tavernis a great spot to watch the game, the Velvet Elvisfor karaoke or $3 fireball shots. The Windmill Loungeis perfect for cocktail drinkers who want their drinks no-frills and affordable. —Diana Oates Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Best Dive Bars Around the WorldPhoto: Thomas Hawk/Flickr
Best Dive Bars: Washington, DC
Washington, DC, has plenty of dives, from basement spots serving giant beers for $5, to decades-old classics with killer jukeboxes, to cash-only corners that refuse to serve you shooters. The Big Hunt has an excellent location just off Dupont Circle, quirky adventure safari decor, and a top-notch 32-tap beer list, though since 1979, the Bottom Line has been an ideal spot for the office workers of downtown DC. Notorious for serving shots in plastic squeeze bottles, Dan’s Cafe is an Adams Morgan institution. If you’re from Chicago or Detroit, Ivy & Coneyis the best dive in the city. The Pug’s website sums up its philosophy neatly: “No idiots. No bombs. No shooters. No specials. No politics. Relax. Drink. Be cool. Behave.” The subterranean Recessions has everything a true dive should, though The Ravengives it a run for its money with its killer jukebox and cheap drinks. Red Derbyhas an extensive beer list; Showtime, one of the city’s newer dives, has live bands. Trusty’s is a veritable community gathering spot, and the Tune Innis an icon on Capitol Hill. —Amy McKeever Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Our Favorite Dive Bars Around The WorldPhoto: Courtesy of The Tune Inn
Best Dive Bars: New York City
The perfect dive should be as comfortable and familiar as an old pair of shoes. Neither fussy nor fancy, these watering holes have a rough-around-the-edges charm that more than makes up for the fact that many don't take cards. Manhattan had the most; we picked the Ear Inn, Jeremy’s Ale House, McSorley’s Old Ale House, Old Town Bar, Pete’s Tavern, Peter McManus Café, Reif’s Tavern, Rudy’s Bar & Grill, and the Subway Inn. Brooklyn wasn’t far behind, with the Brooklyn Inn, Hank’s Saloon, Montero’s, Red Hook Bait & Tackle, Shenanigan’s, South, Sunny’s, and Tip-Top Bar & Grill. We didn’t leave out the other boroughs, either, with the Ready Penny Innin Queens, and Liedy’s Shore Innon Staten Island. —Molly McArdle Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Our Favorite Dive Bars Around The WorldPhoto: Tom Francis/Flickr
Best Dive Bars: Chicago
Most locals know the best dive bars offer cheap beer in an unpretentious atmosphere. Walk into any of them in Chicago and, while each has its own DNA, they all have the same thing in common: a handful of stools, bare bones tables, and cheap beer. Our picks include Bernice’s Tavernin Bridgeport, which still serves $2 PBRs, Carol’s Pubin Uptown, a legitimate country western bar. The Galway Bay Irish Pubin Lincoln Park feels like a basement, while Lakeview’s L&L Tavernis notorious for serving Jeffry Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy. Finally, there’s Simon’s Tavernin Uptown, a staple among the local Swedish-American community. —Megy Karydes Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Our Favorite Dive Bars Around The WorldPhoto: Carol's Pub
Best Dive Bars: Vancouver
Gentrification is a hallmark of the new Vancouver, and many of its finest dive bars have recently been remade as hipster boîtes, though a few notable downscale drinking spots remain. From the distinctive faux Tudor exterior to the elegant simplicity of its name (!), you know the Army, Navy & Airforce Veterans Unit 298 Canteenis something special. While it’s about as under-the-radar as you can get, celebrities like Seth Rogen, who hails from here, have been known to show up. The downtown Eastside’s Astoria Pubhas repositioned itself as part dive bar, part live music venue, where a predominantly 20-something crowd gathers to slug draught beer while watching indie bands tear it up. The venerable Cambie Bar & Grillstill retains a sort of Skid Row charm; today, however, you’re more likely to see tables of leggy models and university students quaffing pitchers of draught alongside your occasional rosacea-nosed rummy. Known affectionately as “The Hoe,” the Ivanhoe Pubis a true throwback to a time when Vancouver came home from a hard day’s work with calluses on its palms and dirt under its nails. For decades, the Railway Clubhas been a staple of Vancouver’s live music scene, and everyone from k.d. lang to Sarah McLaughlin and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has performed here. —Guy Saddy Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Our Favorite Dive Bars Around The WorldPhoto: jan zeschky via Flickr.com / CC BY-NC 2.0
Best Dive Bars: Miami
Many of Miami’s oldest dive bars are gone, but the city has a new order of artisanal dives, helmed by young hipsters that evoke the romance of the past. Mac’s Club Deucehas showed up everywhere from Miami Vice episodes to fashion spreads, and it's the city’s standard-bearer for dive bars. Ted’s Hideawayis low-key and a haven for locals making use of the eight-hour happy hour featuring $3.50 beers. Lost Weekenddraws the crowds in South Beach for the 1980s video games, while West Miami’s Seven Seasgarners them for the karaoke. Finally, Ball & Chainis set in a club space dating to 1935 that still offers live jazz. —Tom Austin Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Our Favorite Dive Bars Around The WorldPhoto: Chris Kruger Photography
Best Dive Bars: Amsterdam
The city of Amsterdam is perhaps best known for the curb appeal of its canal-side rowhouses, springtime tulips, and abundance of bikes. It’s got no shortage of world-class attractions or award-winning restaurants—and it also has plenty of dives, too. Check out live music acts for $2 or less alongside $4 pints at the saloon-like Last Waterhole, or make use of the jukebox, pool tables, and TVs at Susie’s. For a grungy option, The Mindsis Amsterdam’s last punk café, playing the music to prove it, while patrons play pinball below the Doc Martens that hang from the ceiling. —Jane Szita Want to know more? Read the full story here. See More of the Our Favorite Dive Bars Around The WorldPhoto: Helen Olney/ FLICKR