Dive Bars: The Best Place To Find Cheap Drinks And Good Times

Dive Bars: The Best Place To Find Cheap Drinks And Good Times

Photo inside a local dive bar

Have you ever wondered what defines a dive bar or why people love them so much?

A dive bar is a type of bar that is often seen as a shabby and disreputable establishment. But don't be discouraged, as the definition has evolved from being a disreputable place to a more inviting and general term for a bar that is simple and unpretentious.

Today, a dive bar is a great place to drink an inexpensive bottle of beer and an excellent place to meet interesting people.

So what is a dive bar, and why should you visit one? Keep reading to find out!

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Why Is It Called a Dive Bar?

Pint Glass on Bar Top - New York City Dive Bar

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "dive bar " as "a disreputable or low-class bar or pub." In the late-1800s, the term "dive" was first used in an article from the New York Herald and was used to refer to disreputable places in basements into which one would "dive below" to drink and socialize with friends.

However, dive bars are now revered by many people who want to find an authentic place to go for fun.

These days, the definition of a dive bar is a little more subjective. Generally speaking, though, it is a place that isn't as concerned with appearances and tends to attract a more down-and-out crowd.

A dive bar can be anything from a hole-in-the-wall joint to an old-school tavern. These bars may have a dingy feel to them, but that’s what makes them appealing for many people.

Is a Dive Bar Just a Pub?

Dark pub and dive bar

While the terms "dive bar" and "pub" are often used interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two. Pubs are typically more upmarket than dive bars, with prices to match. They also tend to serve food in addition to drinks. 

On the other hand, Dive bars focus purely on providing cheap drinks and a relaxed atmosphere. They don't usually serve food, and they're not usually what you would call "trendy" or " chic." In fact, many dive bars have a bit of an "old school" feel to them.

So if you see an unglamorous bar with a cheap drinks menu, chances are you're in a dive bar! And there's nothing wrong with that. Many people believe that dive bars are the best places to drink.

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The Essence of a True Dive Bar

Drinking beer at night

A true dive bar conjures up images of dark corners, sticky floors, and cheap liquors: a secret spot that is the drinking den for shady, thirsty souls. 

However, what makes a dive bar truly great is its atmosphere. It is a place where you can forget your troubles and relax with a cold beer in hand. Although dive bars don't serve craft beer or specialty cocktails, they make up for it with character.

Dive bars will put your social skills to the ultimate test if you're new to the place. You must be able to hold your own in a conversation with anyone and everyone.

So, what is the appeal of a dive bar, and why do people keep coming back to this intriguing watering hole despite the risks involved?

For many, it is the feeling of being part of a community. In fact, dive bars are friendly neighborhood bars where local residents gather to catch up on the latest news. It is a place where you can meet new people or simply hang out with old friends.

Dive Bar Regulars: They're Locals in the Truest Sense

We would not go so far as to say that dive bars reflect the soul of a city, but we would say that they come pretty close. This is because dive bars serve a diverse clientele that is reflective of the local neighborhood. For instance, you will not find a dive bar in Manhattan's financial district or Beverly Hills.

Dive bars are usually found in working-class neighborhoods, and they serve as a meeting place for locals to drink beer, socialize, and let off some steam after a long day or week of work. If you want to get to know the real people of a city, try visiting its dive bars because that is where you will find them.

What Makes a Good Dive Bar?

Grayscale photo of a man playing pool in a dive bar

A few key things make a dive bar the best dive bar. First and foremost, it's important to note that dive bars are not for everyone. They can be smoky, dirty, and generally unpleasant places. However, they lack charm and make up for in character. If you're looking for a unique neighborhood bar experience, a dive bar is definitely the place to go.

Dive bars are usually pretty run-down. This can be seen in the bar decor, which is often old and chipped, or in the furniture, which is often mismatched. This is part of the ambiance and what makes these bars so unique.

To most dive bars, the grand entrance takes the appearance of an old, beat-up refrigerator that is usually illuminated by its neon sign. Once you open it and walk in, you're likely to find the regulars congregating in the back corner. A true dive bar doesn't have much seating space at all, so it's best to order your drink and head out to the jukebox or pool table.

One distinct characteristic of an authentic dive bar is that they are usually pretty small. This gives them an intimate feeling, which only adds to the charm. And because they’re small, they tend to be pretty crowded, which only adds to the fun.

Smoking is often allowed in dive bars, making them pretty smoky. And since these places are usually pretty dirty, it's not uncommon for there to be a sticky floor, worn-out floor mats, used plastics cups everywhere, and some other unsavory sights. Again, this is what contributes to the dive bar atmosphere and charm on top of the limited ashtrays (you’re lucky if your table has one!).

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What Do You Wear to a Drive Bar?

There’s no dress code at dive bars. You can show up in whatever you feel comfortable in, whether that’s a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or a dress.

Of course, if you want to get into the spirit of things, you can always go for a more “divey” look. This might include clothes like cutoff shorts, tightfitting garments, or anything that makes you look a little rough around the edges.

What is a Dive Bar FAQ

1. What is the difference between a dive bar and a regular bar?

The term "dive bar" has come to mean many things. To some, it's a place that's not fancy or high-end, while others see it as a place where mayhem may lurk. But at its core, a dive bar is simply a place where everyone is welcome, no matter what they're wearing or how much money they have in their pocket.

In most cases, dive bars are smaller establishments with limited menus and fewer amenities than your average bar. So you'll find them serving up cold beers and simple cocktail recipes instead. And because they're not trying to attract the upscale crowd, dive bars typically have lower prices than your average bar.

2. What exactly is a dive bar?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but in general, a dive bar is a place where you can go to drink cheap beer and cocktails. It's usually not the nicest place in town, but the experience you get while drinking beers and talking to the locals is what makes it fun.

It's safe to say that if you feel like an outsider when you walk through the door, it's probably a dive bar. The clientele and atmosphere are usually more rough-around-the-edges than what you'd find at your average bar, and the decor is likely to be sparse or downright shabby. But that's all part of the charm.


Dive bars are a unique and vital part of American drinking culture. They provide a place for people to gather and socialize, relax, and have some fun. While they may not be the most glamorous places around, dive bars offer a sense of community that is hard to find elsewhere. 

If you’re looking for a good time and don’t mind spending a little bit less money, then a dive bar is definitely the place for you.

Have you ever been to a dive bar? Share with us your favorite dive bar experience in the comments below, and tell us what makes it so great!

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  • If you need to read this article to understand what a dive bar is we can never be friends



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