Food & Drink

10 Reasons Why Dive Bars Are the Best Bars

Mark Yocca / Supercall

A fancy Martini from a fancy cocktail bar made by a fancy bartender is  wonderful. But if you ask us where we want to drink come 5 p.m. Thursday, we’ll tell you we’re already at our favorite local dive. There’s just something magical about a great dive—actually, there are 10 somethings magical. Here are 10 reasons why dive bars are the best bars:

The Drinks Are Cheap

We’re talking $5-including-a-generous-tip cheap. The drinks may not be made with obscure amaros or high-end whiskeys, but they’re cold and they’re strong.

The Regulars Are the Best

A dive bar is nothing without its cast of barflies. These barstool staples are like a family—one you wouldn’t necessarily be okay leaving your child with, but a family nonetheless, complete with their quirks and feuds and long, drawn-out stories about the good old days. Just try and find the same quality of customer at a sports bar.

The Bartenders Are Real...Like, Really Real

They’ve seen it all—and more. Work at a dive bar for more than a year and you’re essentially an accredited philosopher/therapist/bodyguard. Listen to their wise words, be forewarned by their stories and don’t be offended by the lack of a smile on their face. They don’t get paid to smile.

It’s Already a Mess So You Don’t Have to Be Afraid of Spilling

The wooden bar top is scratched, the floor is sticky and everything is basically being held together with duct tape. So if you dribble a little beer, it’s no skin off the bar’s back. You’re just adding to the decor.

The Walls and Bar Are Covered in Conversation Starters

If there’s ever a lull in conversation at a dive bar, all you have to do is look around you. There’s bound to be a strange photograph from the 1970s, an odd, personalized sign restricting customers’ behavior or a creepy toy peeking out from behind the bourbon. Point it out and, boom, the talk is flowing once more.

Buybacks Are Still a Thing

You buy two drinks, they’ll get you your third. It’s the unspoken rule of the buyback, and it’s better and more reliable than most other bars’ happy hours.

There’s No Judgement (For the Most Part)

You can hang out in a dive bar in your laundry day jammies or your best Saturday suit—no one cares and no one will judge. As long as you don’t attempt to order anything more complicated than a two-ingredient cocktail (save the Mai Tais and Mojitos for a different bar—one that actually has fresh lime juice and living plants), then you’re free to let your freak flag fly.

It’s Not Hard to Pick a Drink

Giant cocktail menus are wonderful things to dive into—we read them like novels, even when we’re just hanging out at home. But they can be stressful. Which drink should you start with? Should you try something new or stick with your standard spirit of choice? What exactly is “midnight elixir” and how well does it go with new, American-style gin? Things are much simpler at a dive bar, where there usually is no menu to begin with. Here’s your choice of orders: beer, whiskey or a beer and a shot of whiskey.

Dive Bars Have History

To be considered a real dive bar, the establishment in question has to have been around for at least a few years. Start digging into a dive bar and you’ll come up with artifacts of days gone by, like some sort of whiskey-fueled Indiana Jones.

They’re Unpredictable

You never know what a night at a dive bar will hold. You could spend a few quiet hours sipping a Highlife in near silence, or you could find yourself in a scene from Roadhouse. Anything’s possible at a dive—except for maybe a perfect Martini. For that, you’ll probably have to head to that cocktail bar we talked about earlier.