Food & Drink

How to Behave in a Dive Bar

Dive Bar Rules
Mark Yocca/Supercall

The neighborhood dive bar is a haven from both the world and the pristine elegance of a classic cocktail joint. But just because there is nary a coaster in sight and the glassware is styrofoam doesn’t mean you can act like a damn fool. When you step over a dive’s threshold and into a world of grizzled bartenders, duct-tape repairs and bathrooms out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you also enter into an unspoken code of ethics by which you agree to abide. Everyone else is on the same page. Are you?

Dive Bar Patrons Must:

Pay only in cash. Stash your plastic and don’t even think about asking about Apple Pay. Stick to cash and tip on every drink.

Never play Top 40 on the jukebox. Taylor and Justin are only going to cause you problems. Johnny Cash is always a good bet. Oh and you know who else? Johnny Cash.

Do not dance on the bar, unless invited to do so by the bartender. No one wants to see your boot-scoot boogie. But if the bartender pulls you up, something has almost certainly gone terribly wrong, but it’s too late to fix it. Guess you better start hot steppin’.

Don’t ask for a menu. If there is a menu, it’s on the wall.

Don’t ask about any mystery liquids on the bar, the floor or otherwise. You’re not going to like the answer, so don’t ask the question.

If you’re brave enough to order a pickled egg, finish it. You asked for this. Enjoy it. Fight the urge to gag. Remember, the bartender made those himself—back in 1985. They’re heirlooms!

Respect the bar dog. No, your dog isn’t welcome. But Bone Cruncher? He’s family.

Order either beer, straight whiskey or two-ingredient drinks. For more details, look to our handy guide for exactly what to order and what not to order at a dive bar.

Limit your group to six people, tops. This isn’t your private party space. Respect the regulars and keep your group to the size of a booth.

Don’t speak to the regulars unless they speak to you first. Quiet Larry doesn’t care to hear about your day at work. But Snarlin’ Joe? He’s got some great snake facts he’d love to share with you.

Don’t smile too much. This ain’t TGI Fridays.

Don’t complain about the smell. In fact, don’t complain about anything. It will not improve the situation and the bartender will spit in your drink. Get used to it or get out.

Don’t talk politics. We get it, you were captain of the debate team. Treat this place like you would the family dinner table. Politics is best prosecuted elsewhere.

Don’t straighten any pictures or signs. They’re supposed to look like that.

Turn off your phone. Not silent, off. Put that parasitic hunk of plastic and silicon into your pocket and be fully in the real world for an hour. Hell, make it four. Besides, even if the light was bright enough to take a picture, there’s nothing worth posting on Instagram around here—except for maybe Snuggles, Snarlin’ Joe’s pet snake.