Though they typically appeal to the cash-strapped college crowd, a great dive bar can be enjoyed at any age. Charleston has a surprising selection of bare-bones bars that boast the minimalistic (if any) décor and snarky bartenders that make a true dive bar. If cheap beer and a gritty vibe are your idea of a fun time, check out these “Chucktown” favorites.
Big John’s Tavern: Named ‘Charleston’s best dive since 1955,’ Big John’s is still Chucktown’s landmark dive bar. Conveniently located near many hotels and nightlife spots in central Charleston, Big John’s has become a hot college pre-game spot. Nightly specials include live music, pool tournaments, and $2 vodka night, as well as $5 pitchers during happy hour.
A.C.’s Bar & Grill: After a renovation two years ago, it may be a bit less greasy and grungy, but A.C.’s seems to have maintained its dive-y charm with pool tables and vintage beer signs. In addition to a mock “champagne” list full of beers, their $2.25 beer of the month special draws in the more hipster crowd (by Charleston standards) for those who don’t have the cash to support their passion for craft brews. The best part is, when you wake up with a wicked hangover from a crazy Saturday night at A.C.’s, you can go back in the morning for Sunday brunch.
Upper Deck Tavern: This tough-to-find spot fulfills all criteria for a dive bar—inconspicuously located (it’s even too cool for a sign), dirt-cheap beer, and a small space situated above Gilroy’s Pizza. Upper Deck draws a diverse crowd—so if you’re not in college and still visit dive bars because you like to and not because you have to, you can get your drink on (and maybe a round of Monopoly) with some people your own age here. The Karaoke and Beer Bingo nights are especially popular.
Burn’s Alley: Despite being another hard to find joint, Burn’s Alley has gained popularity as the spot to watch college basketball or enjoy some live music on a Friday or Saturday night. You can also play pinball and skeeball while sipping your $1 off beer during happy hour. The bartenders are fun and friendly, just don’t show them your fake ID—they will take it and hang it on the wall.
Charleston Beer Works: Although they usually charge a cover to get in, the selection of 35 beers on tap are worth it—just ask the fraternity and sorority crowd, who can be found clad in boating shoes with collars popped. If the big screen TV and arcade game selection aren’t enough to entice you to Charleston Beer Works, maybe the phenomenal burger, topped with homemade green tomato pickles, is enough to get you there.