It could be the dim lighting, the dated décor or the crop of gruff regulars who rolled in at 8am. Or maybe it’s the charming way your shoes stick to the floor. Or how, upon asking for an old fashioned, you’re handed an ice cold can of PBR. Whatever the reason, the dive bar is a magical place, and America is full of good ones. So to ensure your time is spent enjoying yourself and not asking Siri for suggestions, we’ve put 10 of our favorites right here in no particular order. Go, wear whatever the hell you want, drink something domestic, make some new friends and think twice about bringing a date.
Chart Room, New Orleans: This late-night oasis is just two blocks from Bourbon Street but feels a world away. There are no 40-ounce frozen daiquiris here. Just cheap cold beers, a good jukebox and some video poker to wile away the time between refills. After changing owners last year, the bar has managed to retain its appeal, which includes friendly bartenders, tattered leather bar stools and big doors that open to the streets.
Holland Bar, NYC: This Hell’s Kitchen institution is a small, cramped, friendly spot to grab a drink before work, at your lunch hour or at quitting time. The only seats are at the bar, so that’s where you’ll find old regulars glued to their bar stools all day, every day, like they’re stuck in time or waiting for a telephone call that never comes. Engage those regulars, and you’ll hear decades' worth of good stories.
Tattooed Mom, Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love sports plenty of worthwhile dives that demand your attention. One such dive is Tattooed Mom, a spectacularly named spot that’s covered in graffiti. Upstairs you’ll find bumper cars turned into booths, of course. There are a couple of pools tables, surprisingly solid food and plenty to drink, so it’s impossible to get bored here.
The Little Longhorn Saloon, Austin: Austin’s famous honky tonk is a casual place to relax, listen to live music, eat a few hot dogs, drink Lone Star beers and place your bets on Chicken Shit Bingo. That is both a real thing and a game in which you bet on a chicken’s ability to defecate within assigned squares. Only in Texas.
Jumbo’s Clown Room, Los Angeles: Open since 1970, Jumbo’s is home to some of the most talented pole dancers in town. But this is no ordinary strip club—the partly clad dancers perform burlesque and dance to their favorite hits on the jukebox. Meanwhile, you’re free to hang out at the small bar, gather around the red stage and sip on some of the famously strong drinks.
Mt. Royal Tavern, Baltimore: Inside this old-school watering hole, you’re more likely to have a religious experience whilst sipping your drink. Look up and you’ll find a replica of the Sistine Chapel painted above, which led to this bar’s affectionate nickname, the “Dirt Church.” And of course, you’ve got the bar itself, with its no-frills vibe, easygoing clientele and shot-and-a-beer sensibilities. Just how Michelangelo would’ve liked it.
The Tam, Boston: Here, they can’t be bothered with superfluous details like investing in bathroom doors. Instead, the well-worn bar focuses on what’s important: supplying its mix of longtime regulars and Emerson students with cheap beer, cheap Jameson and a place to hide out from the cold. Or, possibly, the law.
Old Town Ale House, Chicago: One of Chicago’s (and therefore, the country’s) most legendary bars, Old Town Ale House is an ode to poetry, literature, art and no-nonsense drinking. Pull up a barstool, sip on an Old Style and take in the ambiance, which includes a collection of now-famous politically themed nudes painted by proprietor Bruce Elliot.
Mac’s Club Deuce, Miami: Miami’s oldest bar is a loveably divey refuge from the shenanigans of South Beach. It’s a simple, laid-back place to invest your funds wisely in happy hour beers, whiskey shots, a good jukebox and a couple turns on the pool table. Oh, and that happy hour: It starts at 8am.
Raven Grill, Washington, DC: This cash-only “grill” doesn’t serve food (unless bags of chips count), and the neon “cocktails” sign out front is also misleading. Because here you’re drinking beer, shots and simple mixed drinks. But this popular local haunt is blessed with a worn wooden bar, tiny booths, loyal regulars and just the right amount of graffiti on the walls.