No matter where you live in the country, from the biggest coastal towns to a small town in Wyoming, we believe everyone can appreciate an unglamorous drinking atmosphere with cheap booze and quirky wall decor — so we sought out the best dive bars.
These places aren’t necessarily the filthiest or the roughest, but they offer some very, very important things: cold beer, friendly folks and a getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can walk in happy or with a big ol’ frown on your face, slouch on a stool and drink Bud Light from the bottle without anyone asking questions. They’re the best dive bars in every state.
To find the best dive bar in every state, we looked at Yelp reviews and ratings from local publications. Of course we also checked in with locals who know and love these dusty, loveable, come-as-you-are watering holes.
The Nick in Birmingham, Alabama, has been around for more than 30 years, and a fair share of iconic bands have played here. Black Flag, Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers played this dive bar before they hit it big. Pass on through and maybe you’ll catch the next big thing.
The Salty Dawg Saloon isn’t just the best dive bar in Homer or the best dive bar in Alaska. It’s one of the best bars in America, period. The Salty Dawg was one of the first cabins built in the town and has served as a post office, a railroad station, a grocery store and a coal mining office. The cash-only watering hole features friendly staff, strong drinks and walls that are covered in autographed dollar bills.
With no windows, ripped chairs and walls covered in graffiti, The Buffet in Tucson, Arizona, is a true dive bar — but that’s what makes it great. Well, that and the stiff Maker’s Mark cocktails. This place opens at 6 a.m. (except on Monday), so if you need an adult beverage before the sun rises, you know where to find it.
For decades, bikers, punkers and indie rockers have been congregating at Zeitgeist in San Francisco. Though the clientele has classed up a bit over the years, the bartenders are still crusty, the food is still greasy and there are an astonishing 64 beers on tap, including some of the best beers in America. Don’t leave without trying one of Zeitgeist’s legendary Bloody Marys.
Two happy hours a day? Say no more. The Ace-Hi Tavern in Golden, Colorado, caters to the third shifters by opening up at 7 a.m. and running a special drinks menu, which is truly in the dive bar spirit. This place has been around for over 130 years, with 60 years under this moniker, and was once a brothel, meeting house, theater and restaurant.
If you’re a beer drinker, 1984 is the bar for you. Grab a cold one and play Skee-Ball or pinball. This dimly lit dive bar has more than 20 classic arcade games (hello, Ms. Pac Man!) and 13 beers on tap, plus live music, karaoke, trivia and an extensive board game collection. We especially love its motto, “1984: where introverts come to be extroverts.”
Mac’s Club Deuce/Yelp
Mac's Club Deuce is the antidote you need to counteract the trendiness of Miami Beach, Florida. With a legendary two-for-one happy hour that runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., this bar is grimy and old school. Don’t let the clientele scare you off; folks here are as friendly as they come. Bring plenty of cash, though. This bar doesn’t take tabs, and you may be there for a while. Mac’s doesn’t close until 5 a.m. seven days a week.
The Highlander in Atlanta, Georgia, is a 21-and-up rock ‘n’ roll dive famous for its spicy jerk chili, which was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” It’s a bargain too — just $5 per cup or $7 per bowl. If you’re not feeling the heat, try the pasta-wrapped fried mozzarella sticks ($9). Beyond Food Network-approved food, you can get a beer here until 2:30 a.m. every day except Sunday, when the bar closes at midnight. The Highlander has outdoor patio seating, live music once per month and a full game room with pool tables, air hockey, pinball and video games.
Smith’s Union Bar is the oldest bar in Hawaii and the diviest. Patrons sing their sloppiest karaoke (it’s just $1 a song) while sipping on Bloody Marys during happy hour. This bar is also beloved for its history. It was the watering hole of soldiers stationed on the USS Arizona, which was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Little Dutch Garden in Boise is a true local’s bar. It’s small, cash only and serves exclusively beer and wine. Honestly, it doesn’t even look like a bar from the outside and it’s often mistaken for someone’s garage. If you come here for a cold beer, a game of corn hole or horseshoes and the company of some kindly Idahoans by a roaring backyard fire, you’ll feel right at home.
Richard’s Bar in Chicago is a dusty cash-only dive with neon signs and vintage decor featuring photos of real and fictional mobsters. You can buy cigarettes from behind the bar, the drinks are cheap and the jukebox is old school. Most of the bartenders are no younger than 70, but the diverse clientele spans decades.
At the Deadwood Tavern in Iowa City, you’ll find townies and university students drinking Bud Light in harmony. It’s not fancy. It’s not cool. It’s cash only. But it has good domestic beers, darts, a pool table and pinball machines. Count yourself lucky if you stop by when Sally is working. Rumor has it she makes one of the best Bloody Marys in the game.
Kirby’s Beer Store is a pint-sized Kansas institution. It’s been around since 1972 and the walls prove it with layers upon layers of band posters, event flyers and stickers. The beer is cheap and there’s almost always live music on weekends. There’s never a cover charge, but it is suggested that you make a small donation.
Better known as Mag Bar, Magnolia Bar in Louisville, Kentucky, offers all the essentials: arcade games, darts, a jukebox and inexpensive drinks. With graffitied bathrooms and a pole on the dance floor, this is the place for wild nights you’ll never remember and never forget.
Bubba's Sulky Lounge in Portland, Maine, has antiques seemingly everywhere — hanging from the ceilings, sitting on the bar and bolted to the walls. During the day, you’ll find a good crowd of locals sipping stiff drinks. At night, the dance floor lights up and ‘80s music pumps through the speakers for a party that is not to be missed.
Mount Royal Tavern in Baltimore is lush with good company and heavy pours. As an important bonus, the bathrooms are clean. Come here for strong drinks and cheap beer in this dark, dusty haunt and make sure you take in the hand-painted ceiling — a replica of the Sistine Chapel.
There are absolutely no frills at Boston dive The Tam. You can get a Narragansett for $3, and it simply does not get any better than that. The Tam can get packed at times, but its laid-back vibes never cease. A pretty good pizzeria called New York Pizza is right next door to satisfy drunken munchies when you leave.
Abick's Bar claims to be Detroit’s oldest continually family-operated bar, and the tin ceiling and years’ worth of signs show its age. The drinks are cheap and the jukebox is always rocking. If you’re lucky, you may meet the bar’s four-legged mascot: the owner’s adorable mastiff named Shadow.
With cocktails strong enough to take the enamel off your teeth and cheap pitchers of beer, Palmer’s Bar in Minneapolis opens at 8 a.m. on weekdays. Palmer’s has been called “a church for down and outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities.”
A St. Louis staple since 1954, The Hideaway truly feels like a bar from another time. You may or may not find patrons smoking right outside the front door, but the beer is affordable (Natty Light and Miller High Life are just $2), the staff is incredibly friendly, the decor is nostalgic and there are several TVs for your viewing pleasure.
With a bar that runs down the entire space, a pool table and a small-town vibe, even out-of-towners will feel welcome at Charlie's Bar in Missoula, Montana. In the back, you’ll find Dinosaur Café, which serves up some of the finest Cajun and Creole food you’ll ever try.
Omaha, Nebraska, has its fair share of dive bars, but Homy Inn is the best. The walls are lined with old-school memorabilia, like Elvis posters and vintage baseball cards. Most distinctively, Homy Inn has four types of Champagne on tap (sweet, dry, strawberry and peach). But don’t think that means this place is pretentious; the bubbly is super cheap ($3.75 per glass or $20 per pitcher on Mondays) and is poured by some of the friendliest bartenders you’ll ever meet. This place even serves Jell-O shots.
Get away from the glitz of the Las Vegas strip and grab a drink at the Double Down Saloon, where the motto is “shut up and drink.” Specialties of the house include a bacon martini and a nuclear-green, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drink with a questionable name. You may not want to know what’s in the green concoction, but at $5, how can you say no?
McGarvey’s in Manchester, New Hampshire, actually has some of the finest bar food in New Hampshire. Whether you’re chowing down on their chicken wings or beer-boiled pastrami, you’ll be more than satisfied. The beer is cheap and plentiful too, with eight seasonal selections on tap. If that isn’t enough to get you in the door, this dive has karaoke every single night.
Situated where routes 3 and 46 meet in Little Falls, New Jersey, Great Notch Inn is a true roadside dive bar. Walk inside this neon-lit cabin bar and you’ll find friendly locals sipping on cheap drinks and cold beer. There’s never a cover charge, and there’s live music almost every night.
It’s rumored that Rudy’s Bar & Grill was first a speakeasy frequented by Al Capone, and it claims to have acquired one of the first liquor licenses in New York when prohibition ended. All kinds of people come to Rudy’s, but the biggest celebrity of them all is the iconic pig mascot at the front door. He’s been stolen twice, but he’s bolted down for good now.
He's Not Here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has been called the perfect college dive bar, and we can see why. If you went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or are just a Tarheels fan, then you have probably had the legendary 33-ounce Blue Cup. There’s no hard liquor here, but if you aren’t into beer, you can go for Champagne, seltzer or cider. If you want to drink with your pooch, you’re in luck — the outdoor seating area is dog-friendly.
Opened in 1936, the Empire Tavern was one of the first bars to open in Fargo, North Dakota after prohibition ended. The bar keeps its old-school spirit intact with a working-class client base, stiff drinks and bartenders who are the epitome of friendly.
“Why not?” an illuminating sign outside of Columbus’ Dick’s Den asks. And, yeah, why not walk into this bar, which isn’t too far from Ohio State’s campus. Everyone fits in here, and there’s live bluegrass and jazz music on most nights. There aren’t many frills to this bar, but that’s just how we like our dives.
King Nitpick I./Yelp
Located on historic Route 66 in Yukon, Grady’s 66 Pub has everything you want in a dive bar and not much else. The 16-ounce bottles of Bud Light are cheap and said to be the coldest in town, the dart boards are well-used and there’s live music on many nights. Catch some tunes, drink some brews and have the time of your life.
McGlinchey's Bar & Grill in Philadelphia is dark and dingy, and the smell of cigarette smoke from years past still lingers in the air. And that’s only the beginning of what makes this joint a spectacular dive bar. You can get hot dogs and beer on the cheap while you sit among Philly’s most colorful characters.
With a laid-back ambiance and dog-friendly atmosphere, Nick-A-Nees is a charming dive bar in the middle of Providence, Rhode Island. On many nights, you’ll find a local band playing some tunes, a good selection of draft beers and communal tables that help strangers to become friends throughout the course of an evening.
Guests describe this retro bar as charming, funky, kitschy and eclectic. At Southern Belly BBQ in Columbia, South Carolina, you can get a free Budweiser just by checking in on Yelp. Use it to wash down the Django sandwich, which features smoked pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, Applewood bacon, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, jalapeños and spicy tomato sauce between two fat slices of Texas Toast. There is one universal complaint here though, and it’s that the bathroom often lacks soap and paper towels. Maybe just bring some hand sanitizer.
Ice House, formerly known as the Pure Ice Company, is unique to this list because the owners encourage patrons to smash their empty beer bottles against a brick wall beneath the loading dock. No, seriously. There are so many broken beer bottles at this place. Oddly enough, the bar, located in Yankton, South Dakota, also has a carhop service, meaning guests can legally booze from the comfort of their vehicles. With that being said, please don’t drink and drive. Take a taxi home.
Cheers To You is a true locals bar in Salt Lake City, Utah. The staff may be a little stodgy, but that can be a thing at dive bars. Get past that, and you’ll find good, inexpensive beer on tap, sports on the TV and pool tables that beg for you to play a game or two.
The Other Place is the perfect spot for a cold beer during the dog days of summer, when the garage door at the front of the bar opens up for optimal people watching. This grungy Burlington, Vermont, dive bar is the perfect place for locals and broke college students to coexist over the weekly shot special and a game of pool.
J David H./Yelp
Ballard Smoke Shop/Yelp
Ballard Smoke Shop is a Seattle institution that’s half restaurant, half lounge. According to its website, the cast of “Deadliest Catch” is often spotted throwing back pints. Locals and out-of-towners flock here for all-day diner-style breakfast that’ll cure even the nastiest of hangovers and drinks stiff enough to put hair on your chest but not burn a hole in your wallet.
“No idiots. No bombs. No shooters. No specials. No politics. Relax. Drink. Be cool. Behave.” are the rules at The Pug. If you want to get away from the hoity-toity parts of D.C., take refuge here — just, seriously, don’t ask for an Irish Car Bomb. In addition to a pork rinds vending machine, you’ll also find a laid-back staff and reasonable prices — two true rarities in this town.
Not all dive bars serve steak on the weekends, but not all dives are Doug’s Topside Tavern in South Charleston, West Virginia. At this hidden gem, friendly regulars and the Doug will greet you with some true Southern hospitality and a bottle of cold beer. Don’t sleep on the rib-eye, baked potato and Texas toast.
There’s a lot of cheap beer in Wisconsin, but the cheap pitchers at the Silver Dollar Tavern in Madison are hard to beat. You’ll find all your classic dive tropes here: shuffleboard, pool, ATMs, dart boards, a jukebox and poker machines. It’s a great laid-back respite from your everyday life.
Buckhorn is on the Register of National Historic Places, and a must-see watering hole in Laramie, Wyoming. Inside, the walls are covered with taxidermied wild animals and there’s a bullet hole in the mirror behind the bar. Roll the dice for a free drink, shoot pool or head to a different floor (there are three) for different themed music. Just be warned: It can get a little wild here. And now that you’ve finished your American tour of dive bars, class up your drinking (a bit) with the country’s best bars, period.
More from The Daily Meal