Food & Drink

The 9 Best Dive Bars in Cleveland

Published On 01/25/2016 Published On 01/25/2016

Of course Cleveland is full of a diverse array of oh-so important bars vying to quench your thirst. However, for nights when you don’t feel like getting all dressed up in matching socks, our city’s dive bars have got you covered. These are the nine best in Cleveland:

Flickr/Frank Jones

Johnny’s Little Bar

 Downtown

March straight past Johnny’s Downtown and don’t even think about trying to catch a glimpse of the restaurant’s upscale Italian cuisine. We’re headed somewhere much different tonight, and it’s going to be GREAT. Tucked down the alley is Johnny’s Little Bar, an unpretentious dive offering a solid selection of beer, liquor, the odd glass of wine, and one of the best burgers in town.

Tina’s Nite Club

Detroit Shoreway

There are few things greater on this planet than booze-inspired karaoke, although it’s a shame when people with actual talent come and ruin it for the rest of us. Luckily, Tina’s sparse interior happily welcomes vocalists of any ability, for relaxed evenings filled with cheap beer, stiff drinks, and a whole lot of hugely entertaining “singing.”

Becky’s Bar & Grill

Downtown

Packed with a diverse crowd ranging from CSU students and staff, to PlayhouseSquare actors and city workers, this “Downtown neighborhood bar” is a welcoming watering hole that caters to most everyone. With a laid-back atmosphere, hearty late night food, TV sports, darts, and a jukebox, Becky’s has all the elements in place to be this area’s essential dive bar.

Hoopples

Tremont

Sitting at the outskirts of Tremont’s much fancier inner streets, Hooples can be easy to miss. But with friendly, Cleveland-born-and-raised bartenders, a nice selection of shots and brews, and an expansive patio, it’s a shame if you do. Plus, the view of Cleveland’s skyline (it's called 'humble') from Hoopples is one of the best you’ll find anywhere in town.

The Duck Island Club

The Duck Island Club

Tremont

Not only is this former speakeasy one of the best dive bars in Cleveland, it’s one of the best dive bars in America. Duck Island may look like an unassuming house from the outside, but step inside and find a small, intimate bar with a nice selection of booze, from basic beer to craft brews and thoughtful cocktails. A warm, welcoming staff makes anyone who walks through the door -- newbie or regular -- feel right at home.  

Flickr/Edsel Little

The Euclid Tavern

University Circle

As one of Cleveland's most beloved live music venues, there were more than a few broken hearts each time The Euclid Tavern closed its doors (which happened several times over in the 2000s). Luckily, the whizzes behind Gordon Square’s Happy Dog took over the space in 2013. Reopening one year later as The Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, this spot is looking a lot less divey these days, yet remains a solid location for cold beer, live music, and now hot dogs!  

Flickr/The Zenda Agenda

Barking Spider Tavern

University Circle

As the (arguable) cultural epicenter of Cleveland, University Circle isn’t looking too shabby these days either. Though after extensive renovations to the area it’s nice to see some of the best places remain the same, Barking Spider among them. With nightly concerts and a loyal crowd of regulars, this longstanding tavern proves that some things are better left unchanged.

Moriarty’s Pub

Downtown

Come 5pm, Downtown workers flock to this local pub for nothing more than cheap drinks served by a grizzled, friendly bartender. In the absence of contemporary pub mainstays such as food, games, and flat screen TVs, Moriarty’s does one thing, and does it well: quenching their customers’ thirst for very little money.

Flickr/stu_spivack

ABC the Tavern

Ohio City

Nestled among a long line of crowded Ohio City hotspots, the dark, divey atmosphere inside ABC makes for a nice change when you simply want to kick back with a cool brew and some reliable pub grub. A second location in University Circle means both Eastsiders and Westsiders can find refuge from these neighborhoods’ vast weekend crowds.  

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Beth Phillips is a Cleveland-area writer who is (clearly) having a hard time understanding this “Dry January” trend. You can follow her on Twitter @CraveableCLE

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1. Johnny's Little Bar 614 Frankfort Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Warehouse District)

Located in the Warehouse District, Johnny's Little Bar features all the accoutrements of a beloved neighborhood dive: wooden high-top tables worn around the edges, exposed brick, neon lights with familiar beer logos, cheap drinks, and jukebox melodies. The kitchen has a leg up on your typical pub, boasting one of the better burgers in Cleveland -- a half-pound burger on a griddled bun, with house-fried chips, your choice of cheese, and all the usual fixings (pro tip: don't forget the onion rings).

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2. Tina's Nite Club 5400 Herman Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102 (Detroit Shoreway)

What kind of karaoke dive is housed in a nondescript brick building surrounded by chainlink fences and overgrown weeds? One of the best in Detroit. Tina’s Nite Club didn’t get it’s reputation because of refined cocktails or continental decor, it got it because it’s dirty, fun and, well, a little weird. The garage-like atmosphere does away with any pretension, freeing up a loose clientele to really sing what’s in their hearts. Have a jello shot, drink a well vodka and see who can sing those 80s rock ballads the loudest.

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3. Becky's 1762 E 18th St, Cleveland, OH 44114 (Downtown)

Packed with a diverse crowd ranging from CSU students and staff to Playhouse Square actors and city workers, this “downtown neighborhood bar” is a welcoming watering hole that caters to most everyone. With a laid-back atmosphere, hearty late night food, TV sports, darts and a jukebox, Becky’s has all the elements in place to be this area’s essential dive bar.

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4. Hoopples River Bed Cafe 1930 Columbus Rd, Cleveland, OH 44113

This is one of our favorite dive bars in Cleveland, complete with an outdoor patio and a great beer selection.

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5. The Duck Island Club 2102 Freeman Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113

The Duck Island Club, located between Ohio City and Tremont, offers a casual, dive experience in the first floor of a house that was rumored to have operated as a prohibition-era speakeasy. You can stick to beer and shot combos, but the bartenders know how to make complex cocktails when asked. A small lounge space offers a quieter alternative to the main bar area (which can get dance-y at times), while the back patio has an tree dressed in stringed lights that is perfect for sitting under.

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6. Happy Dog @ Euclid Tavern 11625 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106 (University Circle)

As one of Cleveland's most beloved live music venues, there were more than a few broken hearts each time The Euclid Tavern closed its doors (which happened several times over in the 2000s). Luckily, the whizzes behind Gordon Square’s Happy Dog took over the space in 2013. Reopening one year later as The Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, this spot is looking a lot less divey these days, yet remains a solid location for cold beer, live music and now, hot dogs!

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7. Barking Spider Tavern 11310 Juniper Road, Cleveland, OH 44106

This is the best place in the city for great drinks and awesome live music.

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8. Moriarty's Pub 1912 E 6th St, Cleveland, OH 44114 (Downtown)

Come 5:00, downtown workers flock to this local pub for nothing more than cheap drinks served by a grizzled, friendly bartender. In the absence of contemporary pub mainstays such as food, games, and flat screen TV’s, Moriarty’s does one thing and does it well: quenching their customers’ thirst for very little money.

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9. ABC the Tavern 1872 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

We are in love with this Cleveland dive bar because of their delicious cold brew and pub food.

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