The Best Dive Bars In The US: A Guide For True Barflies

Informational

College friends enjoying beer at a local dive bar

Do you love dive bars?

We sure do! In fact, we’ve compiled a list of the best dive bars in the U.S. So, whether you’re looking for a new place to drink or just want to reminisce about your favorite dive bar, we’ve got you covered!

We know that dive bars are special places—they have character and personality that you can’t find anywhere else. That’s why we want to share them with you. We hope that our list will inspire you to visit some of these amazing bars and experience their unique charm for yourself.

Check out our list of the best dive bars in the U.S. below!

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1. Northside Tavern | Atlanta, Georgia

Northside Tavern website

Northside Tavern originally served as a supermarket and gasoline station in the 1940s before transforming into a neighborhood bar. The exterior facade appears somewhat seedy with bars across the windows and a damaged exterior, but these imperfections only add to the bar’s allure. 

Northside Tavern is a haven for live music lovers, and you can often find some of the best jazz and blues performers in Atlanta playing on stage. This jazz and blues venue is featured in countless films and TV shows such as "Fast and Furious 8", " Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," and "Barbershop 3: Next Cut".

2. Café Lafitte in Exile | New Orleans, Louisiana

People outside the Café Lafitte

People outside the Café Lafitte - Image by Café Lafitte in Exile

Café Lafitte has long been a part of New Orleans history, based as the longest-running gay-centric restaurant in America (opened in 1933 the same year as the Oakland White Horse Inn). In addition to being a gay-friendly dive bar, Lafitte's is also a great place to catch some Zydeco music. 

The bar features an outdoor courtyard, perfect for people watching and enjoying the New Orleans weather.

Café Lafitte is well known for being an evening Bourbon Street hangout and The Balcony is an ideal spot for Mardi Gra's and other street festivities.

3. Mozzi's Saloon | Cambria, California

Bar counter inside Mozzi’s Saloon

Bar counter inside Mozzi’s Saloon - Image by Mozzi’s Saloon

A dark Western-style dive bar displaying a fine taxidermy craft, pool tables, string lights, and Saturday night music.

Mozzi's Saloon's cowboy origins can be dated back to 1866. These origins contributed to its unique features, such as saddle-notched door jambs and wagon wheel light fixtures. The bar offers a great selection of regional microbrews on tap, and the staff is always happy to chat and recommend a drink.

This cowboy-inspired dive bar underwent a complete makeover in 20. However, it has kept its historic feel despite upgrading the wooden bar with new wooden floors and varnished wooden furniture.

4. Van's Dive Bar | Anchorage, Alaska

Van’s Dive Bar Signage

Van’s Dive Bar Signage - Image by Van’s Dive Bar

It's easy to find Van's Dive Bar—you should notice changeable outdoor letters with messages such as “Whiskey won't solve your problems and deserves a shot” or “Exercise makes you look better naked, so does whiskey. Your choice.”

At Van's Dive Bar, locals visit to hear live music performed around an open stage and, of course, cheap beer. A pool table and a few dart boards are also available for entertainment. The small space gets crowded quickly, so it's best to visit early. 

This place is most famous for its raw, unpretentious appeal. If you're visiting Van's, it's best to leave your judgment at the door.

5. Kahale's Maui's Local Dive Bar | Maui, Hawaii

Inside Kahale’s Dive Bar

Inside Kahale’s Dive Bar - Image by Tripadvisor

Kahale's Maui's Local Dive Bar features live musical performances and is open all days of the year. Many beers are offered in cans and bottles, but a few tapped can be found.

It is the oldest running bar on Maui and is said to be one of the friendliest places around. If you are looking for a place to make friends while enjoying some tunes and drinks, Kahale's is the place for you.

6. The Haunt | St. Louis, Missouri

Bar counter inside The Haunt

Bar counter inside The Haunt - Image by Yelp

This dark-themed dive bar is the perfect place to get your spooky on. With its gothic-style decor and exciting menu items, The Haunt will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a horror booth. The drinks are strong, and the atmosphere is gloomy, so be sure to come here with a friend or two who share the same interest in the dark side.

You will also find animal skulls (real ones) around the area and other macabre stuff.

7. Cactus Bar | Boise, Idaho

Cactus Bar signage

Cactus Bar signage - Image by Insider

Dubbed as the oldest dive bar established in 1936, the Cactus Bar is another extremely informal hole-in-the-wall bar that enables guests to have low-key experiences inside an upscale bar decorated with photographs of downtown Boise over the last century.

Did I hear someone say you can't mix history with fun? You better check out this old-school dive bar in Boise then!

8. The Dive | Cave City, Kentucky

Inside The Dive

Inside The Dive - Image by The Dive

The Dive is a dive bar based in Cave City, Kentucky. It is operated by women and has a welcoming feel for all who enter. The Dive is a great place for a cheap drink, great live music, and amazing company.

The nightlife is crowded with countless activities and entertainment. You can sing karaoke, test your trivia, perform live or laugh with a comedian on the live stage. It's a place where you drink and make friends.

9. White Water Tavern | Little Rock, Arkansas

Bar counter inside White Water Tavern

Bar counter inside White Water Tavern - Image by White Water Tavern

When a party is started at White Water Tavern, it attracts the crowds from their seats as the lighting illuminates the colorful graffiti. Musicians tap the ears of the masses while the music continues as the toe-tapping and head-banging do. The bartenders are great at making conversation, and drinks flow until the last call.

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10. The Sink | Boulder, Colorado

Exterior shot of The Sink

Exterior shot of The Sink - Image by The Sink

This famous watering hole is near the University of Colorado campus, so Buffalos—students and fans frequent it. It has built a name for its eclectic atmosphere, alluring art, and rowdy nights in Old Boulder.

The Sink is a legendary watering hole and burger restaurant on The Hill in Boulder that has been serving delicious burgers and pizza for almost a century. The restaurant and bar, which is family-owned, boast the most incredible burgers and pizzas in town.

11. Upsidedown Plaza | Birmingham, Alabama

Live band equipment displayed inside the bar

Live band equipment displayed inside the bar - Image by The Upsidedown Plaza

The Upsidedown Plaza, which has been a historic Birmingham landmark since 1962, has long served as a local pub. Aside from the usual cheap drinks, you'll also find some great live rock and roll music and drag shows at the same time, which make this dive bar enjoyable.

The bar is notable for its laid-back atmosphere, as well as pool tables. The walls of the restrooms are recognized for their thick layers of graffiti.

12. Smith's Union Bar | Honolulu, Hawaii

Smith’s Union Bar current owner Dwight Lockwood

Smith’s Union Bar current owner Dwight Lockwood - Image by Honolulu Civil Beat

The oldest bar in Honolulu isn't very different than your traditional dive bar. However, the waterhole has a history unlike any of its peers: Smith's Union Bar was the favorite of the crew of the USS Arizona, America's super-dreadnought that was famous for being attacked by the Japanese and sunk at Pearl Harbor.

As always, beer is ice cold and cheap. And, as a bonus, the bartenders here are more than happy to share stories of Hawaii's storied past. What makes Smith's Union Bar the best dive bar in Honolulu is its rich history and the dive bar atmosphere that makes it perfect for locals and tourists alike.

13. The Rail Pub | Savannah, Georgia

Business as usual at The Rail Pub

Business as usual at The Rail Pub - Image by Eat It and Like It

Built as part of a brothel, the Rail Pub in Savannah, Georgia, has moved on from its dark past but remains loyal to the idea of a “home of pleasure,” which is now a venue where you can buy low priced beer and find fundraisers. The Rail Pub is an excellent bar and is an integral part of the downtown area’s bar scene.

14. The Bikini Lounge | Phoenix, Arizona

The Bikini Lounge Bar counter

The Bikini Lounge Bar counter - Image by Phoenix New Times

This old dive bar opened in 1947 but many rooms appear frozen in time. Wear the best Hawaiian shirt, order a Mai Tai, and enjoy the tiki-themed dive bar. The Bikini Lounge is cash only, so come prepared.

15. Comegys' Pub | Wilmington, Delaware

Comegy’s Pub from the outside

Comegy’s Pub from the outside - Image by Comegy’s Pub

The walk into the watering hole is essentially a walk into the museum: pictures of stars such as Johnny Cash, Allen Iverson, and other historic images decorate the walls of Comegys’ Bar. Co-owner Fred Comegys, whose career lasted 53 years, painted a poster with his artwork so that customers can watch it or listen as he sips the sauce.

16. Checkered Flag Tavern | Indianapolis, Indiana

Bar counter view from the table with customers

Bar counter view from the table with customers - Image by BusinessYab

This historic American pub is a landmark filled with memorabilia freshly taken out of the pits thanks to enthusiastic race team members from nearby speedway.

It's not your usual dive bar that serves only cheap drinks. This place is a full-fledged resto-bar with an extensive menu that'll keep you coming back for more.

But the best part about it? The Indy 500 memorabilia on the walls and the well-rounded bartenders who can tell you everything you need to know about the history of racing in Indy.

17. The Last Resort | Port Orange, Florida

A shot from the outside of the The Last Resort bar

A shot from the outside of the The Last Resort bar - Image by TripAdvisor

Florida has no shortage of great dive bars, but one that always stands out is The Last Resort.

This dive bar in Port Orange became famous because of Aileen Wournos, a serial killer who was arrested here. Most people who flock to The Last Resort are curious about its dark past, but they stay for the great drinks and even better company.

But even if you're not interested in its dark history, The Last Resort is worth visiting for its great atmosphere and cheap drinks.

18. Pengilly's Saloon | Boise, Idaho

Inside Pengilly’s Saloon

Inside Pengilly’s Saloon - Image by Everyday Runaway

At first glance, Pengilly seems to be a quaint, sleepy waterhole. There are vintage wallpapers and tables on red-velvet pools, a mounted bison's head, and an antique check-out. Regulars enjoy its charms nonetheless. It is filled with stiff drinks, good musical entertainment, and rolls in their hand.

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19. The Wheel Bar | Estes Park, Colorado

Customers at the bar counter

Customers at the bar counter - Image by Globalphile

The Wheelbar in Estes Park, Colorado, serves as the entranceway into Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park and is home to The Stanley Hotel. The Nagl family first opened the Wheel Bar in the center of the town in 1945. This bar is a local attraction that you should definitely experience.

This dive bar is the top choice for many reasons: great beer, good food, and amazing people.

20. Dive Bar and Restaurant | West Haven, Connecticut

Beautiful sea view from the inside

Beautiful sea view from the inside - Image by Dive Bar and Restaurant

The Dive Bar is located just a few steps away from Long Island Sound and is the perfect place for families to have fun and relax at night. With the Connecticut twist, bars serve various bar food (you can also enjoy the lobster rolls here), best enjoyed with a cocktail or chilled beer in the backyard.

21. Canyon Club | Williams, Arizona

Bar counter inside Canyon Club

Bar counter inside Canyon Club - Image by Twitter

While much of Route 66 is not still in use, some portions remain driveable, and visitors have the opportunity to explore landmarks along the route.

For self-professed barflies out there, a visit to the Canyon Club is necessary. Drive through Route 66 and see the Canyon Club: meet friendly people, enjoy an alcoholic beverage, play pool, or play shuffleboard.

22. White Horse Bar | Oakland, California

Bar counter view inside the White Horse Bar

Bar counter view inside the White Horse Bar - Image by White Horse Bar

White Horse opened in 1933 as the oldest gay and lesbian pub in the U.S. and still holds the title today. It's a local favorite for its lively atmosphere and strong drinks. The bartenders are quick and efficient, so you won't have to wait long for your next round.

If you're looking for the best dive bar rich in history, White Horse is the place for you. Grab a stool at the bar and raise a glass to the LGBTQ community.

23. The Flying Harpoon | Gulf Shores, Alabama

The view where the beautiful sunset can be seen

The view where the beautiful sunset can be seen - Image by The Flying Harpoon

The Flying Harpoon is a popular spot for Alabama Gulf Shores residents. Enjoy live music, homemade cajun food, and the perfect location to see the sunset. And of course, don't forget the ice-cold beer!

24. Spring Point Tavern | South Portland, Maine

Spring Point Tavern neon sign

Spring Point Tavern neon sign - Image by Eater Maine

Spring Point Tavern provides all the essentials for good drinking: entertainment, karaoke, trivia night, dancing, and a large outdoor patio. Jello shots and cheap alcoholic drinks are served close to the Southern Maine Community College.

25. Pete's Out in the Cold | New Orleans, Louisiana

View outside the bar

View outside the bar - Image by Scoundrel's Field Guide

Founded in 1931, Pete's Out in the Cold is a tiny uptown pub with an informal patio. The drinks are cheap, and the regulars are friendly, making it an excellent spot for an afternoon drink or a late-night hangout.

Get to know the local cat celebrity Foxy. Join and enjoy the bingo fun and play old music in the jukeboxes. It's a dive bar atmosphere at its finest!

26. Simon's Tavern | Chicago, Illinois

View outside Simon’s Tavern bar

View outside Simon’s Tavern bar - Image by Foursquare

Order your favorite drink and get a comfortable seat on the sofa next to an antique fireplace. This is the best place to enjoy a cold night in Chicago. The bar has been around since 1934, and it's easy to see why it's a favorite among locals.

Simon's Tavern offers many different drinks and if you're feeling adventurous, try their famous Glogg (a unique mulled wine concoction). Being a barfly is incomplete if you don't stop by this place when you're in the city.

27. Bentonville Dive | Bentonville, Arkansas

View outside Bentonville Dive bar

View outside Bentonville Dive bar - Image by Downtown Bentonville

Bentonville Dive is one of the best places to enjoy an excellent beer on tap. Get chilled drinks and great views on their outdoor patio, or cozy up in the indoor seating area. This dive bar is a favorite among locals.

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28. Carl's Place | Des Moines, Iowa

Stools, tables, and gaming machines inside dive bar

Stools, tables, and gaming machines inside dive bar - Image by Scooter's Bar Guide

After enjoying your entire day exploring Iowa, you can stop by at Carl's Place. Located within Sherman Hill, this local watering hole features cheap beer, a pool table, dart games, and live musicians. It's the best dive bar experience to cap off your day.

29. Captain Tony's Saloon | Key West, Florida

Captain Tony's Saloon shot from the inside

Captain Tony's Saloon shot from the inside - Image by Flickr

Don't let those bras that hang from the ceiling discourage you. Captain Tony’s (the original Sloppy Joe's) was really deeply buried in history thanks to visits by Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and Jimmy Buffet.

If you're looking for a place for a quick, cheap drink, this is your spot. There's actually a real human skeleton behind the bar, so you can drink with the dead if that's your thing.

30. Liar's Club | Chicago, Illinois

View outside Liar’s Club

View outside Liar’s Club - Image by Chicago Bar Project

If heavy metal music is your kind of thing, you need to check out Liar's Club in Chicago. This is dark and grotesque—everything a dive bar should be. The bartenders are inked and pierced, and they don't mess around. It's literally hell on Earth but with friendly and warm people, and of course, great drinks.

31. Rainbo Club | Chicago, Illinois

A glimpse of the interior inside Rainbo dive bar

A glimpse of the interior inside Rainbo dive bar - Image by TimeOut

One of the classic and best dive bars in America and has since become an institution in its own right, the Rainbo Club is a must-visit for any fan of dive bars. As usual, the drinks are cheap and strong, but the atmosphere really makes this place special, not to mention the hospitable and cheerful regulars.

If you're a writer who wants to use some inspiration or simply brokenhearted, this place will give you both in spades.

32. Kirby's Beer Store | Wichita, Kansas

Live band playing at Kirby’s

Live band playing at Kirby’s - Image by Kansas Tourism

Kirby's is the place to go. It's small, cramped, and always full of locals. No worries if Kirby's packed, as you can hang out on their large patio. There is ample parking space, which most dive bars in America don't have.

The beer selection is great, and the live band music is a sought-after eargasm experience. The bartenders are knowledgeable and can help you find the perfect drink to fit your mood.

33. Air Devil’s Inn | Louisville, Kentucky

Air Devil’s Inn signage

Air Devil’s Inn signage - Image by Louisville

Air Devil's Inn is famous for its iconic neon signs that depict a demon's head above. One of the oldest dive bars in Kentucky (the oldest in Louisville) was once a school before it was converted to a bar in 1934. Military pilots during World War II frequented the bar, and it still retains much of that atmosphere today.

Air Devils Inn is a great place to catch all sorts of live bands, and the bartenders are always happy to mix up.

34. Hec's Bar | Detroit, Michigan

Outside view of Hec’s Bar

Outside view of Hec’s Bar - Image by Detroit Free Press

One of the unique features of this bar is that it has a buzzer on it, so when you're outside and trying to get in, you have to wait for someone inside to hit the buzzer before the door unlocks. You'll never regret the experience once you're in, though. Just be patient if it's taking someone too long to buzz you in.

A classic dive bar in its own right, the Hec's Bar has been a family-run business since it was established in 1933, and because of this, it has a homey feel to it. The owner, Bob Van Maele, is a Detroit legend, and he's there most nights, so you can always chat with him about the city.

35. King Eddy Saloon | Los Angeles, California

An inside look at King Eddy

An inside look at King Eddy - Image by Eater

King Eddy Saloon has over 100 years of service to customers in Skid Row. It was opened in 1906 for drinks in the classy King Edward Hotel. During the Prohibition period, the business continued to operate as a speakeasy. 

In order to escape the prying eyes of the authority, it operated a piano store during the day. When night came, it became a bar where people could get cheap beer and enjoy live music. The place still has that ambiance today, and it is one of the most visited dive bars in America.

Conclusion

Dive bars have been the staple of American drinking culture for generations, and there’s no sign that’s going to change any time soon. In fact, with the craft beer explosion and ever-growing interest in cocktails, dive bars may be enjoying a resurgence. 

How you define a good dive bar is up to you, but the dive bars that made our list are great places to start. 

Did you enjoy reading this article? Let us know in the comments section! And if you know of a great dive bar that we missed, be sure to let us know!

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