Food & Drink

The Best Dive Bars in Las Vegas

Frankie's Tiki Room
Frankie's Tiki Room | wbeem/Flickr
Frankie's Tiki Room | wbeem/Flickr

You might not think that Las Vegas -- city of super clubs and strip clubs and bottle service literally everywhere -- would not have much in the way of dive bars. But Vegas has an underbelly, and it is chock full of glorious dive bars with cheap booze and a surly attitude. Once you get off the Strip, Vegas becomes a much different place.
 
In all honesty, most of what we consider to be locals’ bars would be deemed dives in any other city. Some are old for Vegas, some are new but old in spirit, and some are old concepts newly reborn. And while there are those who might argue over the definition of a “dive,” we feel that a true dive defies all explanation and is instead more a state of mind, one that might whisper “you have arrived” as soon as you walk in. And that’s exactly what all these Vegas bars do.

sand dollar lounge
Joe DeElemont

The Sand Dollar Lounge

Spring Mountain Rd. | Est. 1976 
What was once a storied old blues bar has been reborn as a new breed of dive after changing hands a few times. The Sand Dollar Lounge of today still echoes of its divey past, but with a craft cocktail and gourmet pizza spit-shining. The bar’s got some kind of live entertainment nightly, with an emphasis on blues, and is an excellent place to feel down and dirty while still enjoying a respectable cocktail because some of us are grown now.

starboard tack
Jacquelyn Trezzo

Starboard Tack 

East Sahara | Originally est. 1972
A famous old Vegas dive from the ’70s that was popular with folks like Tom Jones and Frank Sinatra, Starboard Tack was recently reborn as a hip, rum-centric bar that serves a menu of elevated Caribbean and Southeast Asian food. Much like the Sand Dollar, this is a new breed a dive bar, one that learned the lessons of all the venerable dive bars that came before it, playing up all of their strengths but with none of their weaknesses. The booths upholstered in a tropical leaf motif and large, stained glass murals would look just as much at home at your grandma's house or at a neighborhood garage sale.

The Mint Tavern

East Sahara | Est. 2017
This Las Vegas classic dates back to… well not that long, but its roots lie with the Mint Las Vegas casino and hotel on Fremont Street that operated from 1957-1988. Owner Jonathan Fine runs an assortment of bars all over town, but he's doing something a little different with the Mint. Located in a strip mall on East Sahara, the tavern has resurrected the old iconic neon sign and really plays up the retro theme. There’s live music, dancing, comedy, karaoke, and even monthly drawing classes with Dr. Sketchy. The identity may be new, but the spirit of the place -- right down to the wainscoting on the ceiling -- remains unaltered.

Saddle 'N' Spurs Saloon

North Jones | Est. 1984
Saddle 'N' Spurs bills itself as the “last remaining real honky tonk bar” in Las Vegas, and no one is arguing with that. Many of Vegas’ best dive bars come from a punk pedigree or a blues background, but honky tonk? Not so much. Saddle 'N' Spurs has free live entertainment almost nightly -- including dance lessons and karaoke -- as well as football parties every Sunday and Monday, and daily happy hour from 3-6pm. The bar also serves food out of its Chuck Wagon Kitchen. Even if you're just a little bit country, this place is a hoot.

The Tap House

West Charleston | Est. 1983
The Tap House is a sports bar -- more to the point, a Cleveland Browns bar -- and an Italian restaurant known for its wings and pizza served 24/7. The bar is adorned in stained-glass windows depicting Italian-American "scenes" hanging over a brick wall, neon Bud Light and Coors signs, and an actual drop ceilings. This is the kind of bar that is a dive not because it is a grimey punk bar or a throwback tiki tavern with new cocktails in an old space. This is just a dated old bar that isn’t trying to be anything otherwise, and that is exactly its charm.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Hard Hat Lounge

Off the Strip | Est. 1958
If you’re driving around on Industrial Road, you’re either looking for a strip club or the Hard Hat Lounge. It’s been around since the '50s but is now run by the former owners of the Bunkhouse Saloon. They’re drawing a loyal crowd with everything you can think of... including open-mic comedy, a Hawaiian night every other week, and food from the “Smokillicious” BBQ counter. There’s also a ton of bands who sometimes get to play in the parking lot on a stage that folds out from a modified black school bus. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Huntridge Tavern

Downtown | Est. 1962
The Huntridge attracts a diverse crowd that somehow unites, from young professionals just getting off work to old timers having a drink while waiting for their prescriptions at the pharmacy nextdoor. Late nights and weekends see the biker, punk rock, and rockabilly crowds as well as industry folks fresh off their shifts dealing with drunk tourists on Fremont Street. The Huntridge has been open 24/7 since the early ’60s and has only closed for one day since then due to some minor construction. The bar probably sells more Hamm’s beer than anyone else in Vegas, offering them for $1.50 each and going through an average of 40 cases a week.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

The Dive Bar

Off the Strip | Est. no one can be sure 
Kind of like In-N-Out Burger, Dive Bar has a name that says exactly what it is, without any pretense. It does, however, have a very interesting history. It used to be part of a pizza joint run by mobsters who needed to launder money (and later inspired the movie Casino). These days, Dive Bar is best known for serving tallboy PBRs and hosting all sorts of local and national bands, featuring everything from punk to country. Also, all money collected at the door goes to the musicians. And a quick heads-up, don’t ask if the Elvis lamp is for sale. It’s not.

Dino’s Lounge

Downtown | Est. 1962
Besides marking the virtual border between the Strip and Downtown, Dino’s has the long-earned reputation as the go-to spot for karaoke and one of the top bad-decision bars in Las Vegas (and that is saying a lot). Stop in Thursday through Saturday karaoke nights for some of the best free entertainment in Vegas, and watch the weirdness that unfolds as locals and tourists intermingle in a place where the booze is very, very cheap. Do sign up for karaoke, but please do us all a favor and pick out something a little more creative than “Viva Las Vegas” as your song of choice.

Rusty Spur Saloon

Southwest Valley | Est. 1969
Just off Dean Martin Drive, near Silverton Casino, you will find this tiny drinking spot in front of the Highland Inn motel. It’s so small, it has to share real estate with the office and check-in counter. If you still have trouble finding it, look for the silver unicorn statue with the Pabst Blue Ribbon logo on its rear. Rusty Spur is the perfect spot if all you want to do is drink and escape from the neon glow of Vegas.

Double Down Saloon

East of the Strip | Est. 1992
The Double Down is a punk bar, through and through. Certainly, it plays up its own grittiness to the point of gimmickry: “Ass Juice” shots served in mini toilet bowls, walls lined with old show flyers and NSFW art, graffiti-strewn bathrooms that will make you want to just hold it, $20 “puke insurance.” But it continues to make good on its own dive promise. Staying open despite the bro-tastic culture of nearby UNLV, Double Down remains one hell of a place to imbibe. Also, this bar was doing the bacon martini thing before fancier variations of it appeared in every craft cocktail bar in America during The Baconing of the early 2010s.

Hogs & Heifers

Downtown | Est. 2005
This place has a strict “no ties” policy, which means the biker dude checking IDs at the door will make sure you don’t step one foot inside if you look like you came straight from the office. You also might want to lose the loafers and pleated chinos.

The Dispensary
Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Dispensary Lounge

East of the Strip | Est. 1976
It may look like a furnished living room, but that’s part of the charm. The cozy spot has been around since the ’70s but only began featuring jazz acts in recent years -- attracting some of the best musicians in Vegas. Greats like Wynton Marsalis are even known to show up on random nights. And despite the name, the places doesn’t have anything to do with marijuana (as far as we know). Also, the half-pound steak burger is one of the best bar burgers in Vegas, hands down.

Stage Door
Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Stage Door Casino

Off the Strip | Est. 1976
This place used to be so proud of its valuable real estate, it would display the number of years left on its lease on the sign out front. Nowadays, it’s virtually connected to The LINQ and steps away from Bally’s and The Cromwell. It’s the quickest way to escape the glitz of the Strip and even has a convenience store attached to it. Now, this place doesn't look like much (actually it looks like a whole lot you might want to avoid), but inside it's got a few surprises, like $1 Michelob and what looks like the entire Game of Thrones scotch collection. Some might argue this stellar selection disqualifies it from true “dive” status but, come on, just look at the place.

Atomic Liquors

Atomic Liquors

Downtown | Est. 1945
First opened the year the atomic bomb was invented, Atomic Liquors is the oldest free-standing bar in Las Vegas and was a popular spot for those watching the nuclear blasts from the nearby test site from the bar’s roof. The Rat Pack hangout (it’s true!) has been restored over the years and features a vintage sign that’s still in use. While the bar's dive status has been called into question -- as it became a nationally known hotspot for craft beer enthusiasts made all the more popular after a visit from Anthony Bourdain -- it's true soul is still very much intact.

Four Kegs

West Valley | Est. 1977
This joint takes its role as a top sports bar seriously by sponsoring a handful of local soccer and softball teams. It’s also a great place to watch a game while enjoying some of the best bar food around, including a Sicilian-style pizza and the infamous stromboli, once featured on the Food Network.

Rob Kachelriess/Thrillist

Champagne’s Café

East of the Strip | Est. 1966
Champagne's is better known for beer and raucous karaoke than champagne, but it’s also one of the best places to throw a birthday party. Book a booth in advance and they’ll decorate it for you and bring out some cupcakes and a shot -- on the house. And if you need a shot of caffeine more than a shot of Beam, Champagne’s now serves coffee from the DTLV-based Vesta Coffee Roasters, and that is some serious coffee game.

Moon Doggie’s Bar

West Valley | Est. 1999
This bar is loyal to the Buffalo Bills, but is the perfect place to watch any NFL game while chugging down plenty of beer and grabbing a slice from the adjacent Naked City Pizza. Go ahead and try the notorious Guinea’s Pie -- a white-topped pizza that skips the red sauce and goes heavy on the meatballs, spinach, and ricotta. Carbo-load on the mega-spicy Suicide Fries while you’re at it.

Frankie's Tiki Room

Off the Strip | Est. 2008
One of the most iconic watering holes in Las Vegas has an earned reputation for cheap drinks, low lighting, and tropical island décor that includes wood carvings, palm trees, and kitschy artwork covering the walls. It’s a throwback to a design that was once a staple at the classic casinos on the Strip. Whatever your first drink is... make sure it’s made with rum.

Sign up here for our daily Vegas email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Rob Kachelriess is switching from coffee to Hamm's beer when he writes articles from now on. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.
Nicole Rupersburg knows her way around a good dive. Catch her at one of these fine establishments or on the 'gram at @eatsdrinksandleaves.