You know the place…dark by day, Christmas decorations up year-round, juke box with odd selection of songs, maybe a pool table or pinball machine, the stench of smoke and booze, a strange crowd of people you most certainly would not bring home to mom, someone working behind the bar with a bad blonde dye job, few, if any, teeth and large breasts, and you are not all that sure that person is a woman? These are the bars of legends, of country songs and rock songs, of days gone by when you were in college, or maybe it is the local tavern/bar down the road/street you still go to every once in awhile, when you are in the mood?
Tell me about the dive bar you used to go to, or perhaps still do, and give me some insight as to why it was/is your favorite, and what made/makes it the perfect dive bar to kill a Tuesday early afternoon or a very late Saturday night?
Are you thinking about opening one or something? If so, you definitely want to have crayons and paper and then hang on the wall the pictures people draw. There’s a total dive restaurant (not bar) here like that and everyone loves it (I’m talking about Beth’s, Seattle people). Be even funner drunk.
Anyway, I like dive bars but I don’t really have a favorite. I’ll just go wherever I’m taken.
Several over the years. The most recent was the world famous Friendly Tap that had been featured on WWE shows and website. It changed hands a couple of years ago and is now a respectable place. In it’s heyday the doors would be locked at 1:00AM and we’d stay in and keep drinking and partying until nearly daylight. The great part was the crew of regulars and playing the dozens, and engaging in ever more lowbrow humor as the night wore on. Sadly as time wore on, we were all aging, members of the fairer sex stopped coming by, and eventually it became a bar tired old men. It’s a nice place now which I still frequent.
Yessiree, Bob. Howell’s Bar & Grill. Great burgers (that take a half hour to arrive at your table because there’s one guy working the grill, which is big enough to cook two burgers at a time), cheap beer (PBR on tap for a buck every night), ceiling fans that are made from wagon wheels, an old juke box, darts, and the widest variety of customers I’ve ever seen in a bar (college kids, hipsters, old men, cougars, middle-aged moms, couples, blacks, whites, professionals, blue collars). And it’s within walking distance from my house.
I’d provide a link, but no respectable dive bar has a damn website.
I do have a favorite but I’m not sure I want to name it at the moment.
Anyway, it is on the faaar northeast side of Chicago, nautically themed with a crowd so regular, you could set your watch to. They have karoake nights and ‘guest djs’ (more regulars) and frequently host potlucks. Some days in the summer, they get the grill going and give away the food (no vending license). I’m not really a regular but they are welcoming to everyone and it is a great place to have a Malört and a draft.
Actually, in my humble opinion, Lighthouse isn’t really a dive bar at all–it’s too nice for that. Every Rogers Parker knows that the Oasis is the diviest of the dive bars in Rogers Park. Well, Bruno & Tim’s is a close second.
I have one too. I tended bar there for almost 10 years part time. It’s the kind of place where:
[li]old men sit all day drinking draft beer and playing cribbage[/li][li]if you fuck with the old men playing cribbage you’re gonna be seriously sorry[/li][li]you can light a joint in the alley and no one gives a shit [/li][li]but you still can’t smoke cigs at the bar[/li][li]they don’t call the cops, they deal with their own (nothing nefarious, if you’re a dick and act up we don’t call the cops on you, you just can’t come back for a month)[/li][li]you can pick up your mail if your between places[/li][li]if you’re out of work and hang around someone will put your ass to work (in a legitimate, hard working sense - nothing illegal)[/li][li]your credit’s no good, but we’ll be happy to buy you one[/li][li]you’re no better or worse than anyone else no matter what you make[/li][/ul]
I really miss it. I moved out of Queens four or five years ago, to a “nicer” area, and I miss everything about my old neighborhood. Including, and especially, this place. I miss Vinny the bartender, Nick the Hammer, and everyone else there.
Oh jeez, more than I care to admit. I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis. Let’s see… there was a Bertie’s Cooler/Wilkes’ Cooler/The Cooler, a former meat locker converted into a bar. It was a little, squat cinder-block building. The meat hooks were left up as decoration. They had shuffleboard, though.
Then, there was The Living Room, an old house that had had the walls torn down to make a big open sapce, the owners apparently not understanding that some interior walls are structural. So, the roof sagged and the floors were canted like a funhouse so you stumbled around even before you started drinking. When you asked for a beer, the chain-smoking gal behind the counter would reach into a plastic cooler and pull out a can of beer. No taps, no food, nothing but canned beer in old picnic coolers.
They’re both gone now. The town has gone and gotten civilized since I’ve been away.
There are a couple that I recall. Both of them are gone now, so I don’t mind naming them.
The Belvedere. Officially, the “Belvedere Hotel,” but if it ever rented rooms, it happened long before I was ever there. The barroom’s walls were yellow–they may have been white once, but decades of tobacco smoke discoloured them. There was one draft beer tap, and you had to ask the barmaid what was on draft, as it seemed never to be the same from one day to the next. It wasn’t great, but it was in the small town near a buddy’s farm; and a couple of cold ones at the Belvedere after a summer’s day of hot farm work were most welcome.
Whitney’s. The bar was unfinished plywood, the pool table was warped, and the tables and chairs all came from 1950s kitchens. The jukebox contained both kinds of music: country and western. But if all you wanted was a couple of cold beers, priced at very little above cost, and served up by a smiling barman who was lousy with names and thus called everybody Buddy or Pal, then Whitney’s was a welcome sight.
In the day dive bars were a hobby of mine. They are interesting little microcosms of society complete with their own town drunks, police force, mayor, city council members, teachers, historians. I’ve drunk with lumberjacks in WA, with Natives in NE, with cowboys in TX and CO and don’t get me started on the bars in Sturgis where I’ve tipped a few with the Hell’s Angels.
But the one that comes to mind with some fondness is the Barbecue Inn in Tillicum, WA, near Ft. Lewis Army Base where my husband served from the late '60s to 1971. We were so dirt poor that we used to save up our pennies and when we had a hundred of them we’d take an old glass gallon jug and walk down there and Lucky, the bartender, would fill it with tap Oly.
Payday night there was live entertainment. We’d watch the hucksters come out of the woodwork and fleece the newbie soldiers. There was a doddering old soul who only came in for a day or two after payday. So old and shaky he could hardly walk. But I think there was a bit of a spring in his step as he walked out the door at closing time - a total master at the nearly lost art of nine-ball hustling.