Welcome to Chef's Choice, where culinary whizzes school you on everything from their favorite dive bars to donut shops.
There is no better place to drink on Earth than a dive bar. Whether you go because of the cheap drinks, the company of regulars, or the fact that you look better in dim lighting, it doesn't matter. The best dive bars welcome one and all, as long as you're fine with not drinking anything too fancy. If the cocktail has more than two ingredients, you need to go elsewhere.
Chefs often gravitate to dive bars to blow off steam after a long shift -- especially because these types of establishments are often open when they get off work late at night. We asked chefs all across the USA where they go to kick back with a cheap brew. Here are their favorite watering holes.
"I live in Boulder, where I also went to college, and my go-to dive reminds me of those good old days. The Sundown Saloon is not a secret, quiet place, but I have a lot of fun memories of late night shenanigans there. I've been going to that bar since they allowed smoking inside and you couldn't see the bar through the smoke from the front door 20ft away. Oh, the memories... " -- Hosea Rosenberg, Blackbelly Market (Boulder, CO)
"This is one of the first bars I ever went to in Los Angeles. It's been around for 50 years and still has a great crowd and local bands. The Irish punk band Flogging Molly used to be the house band. Fun story, my mother was once kicked out on St. Patrick's Day." -- Kris Morningstar, Terrine (Los Angeles, CA)
“From the days of my first paid job in Soho in 2002 to today, the Spring Lounge is still my favorite dive bar in NYC. It's that place that's always open, has at least a couple familiar faces, cheap drinks, and that dive bar smell we can all relate to. The people in there are always the most diverse (and tipsy), leading to some great people watching and interesting conversations.” -- Michael Ferraro, Delicatessen (New York, NY)
"MK's is a great old-school neighborhood joint where you can sit at the bar and drink a frosted 30oz schooner of beer and chow down on crispy dogs. The hot dogs have been slit with cheese in the middle, wrapped in a tortilla, deep fried, and served with mustard. It's a great spot to head over to after work to kick back with the guys in the kitchen!" -- Steve McHugh, Cured (San Antonio, TX)
“The Sand Dollar is down and dirty (in a good way). It’s raw but organic, there’s live music, and it’s the kind of place where a guy with a harmonica might show up and jump on stage to play with the band -- no pretenses and no frills. I love it.” -- Rick Moonen, RM Seafood (Las Vegas, NV)
“I love The Anderson. Not only is it in my neighborhood, but it’s low stress -- something that's hard to find in Miami. Great cocktails and good food, too.” -- John Kunkel, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (Miami, FL)
"I lived in San Diego for a few years and this place kept me sane. Your only choices were old-school hardcore or thrash metal on the jukebox and warm or cold Fernet. My girlfriend once tried to order a cocktail and they almost threw her out. A great dive bar doesn't care about what you want." -- Jason Roberts, Rue (Portland, OR)
"Roberts' Bar is great mix of Tulane students and neighborhood people without the typical college bar vibe. It has an old, distressed bar with an awesome captains wheel on display, cheap PBR, and video poker machines. And it's just few blocks from my house!" -- Slade Rushing, Brennan's (New Orleans, LA)
“Toe Bang is like Cheers but Korean. So, Norm is a little-old Korean lady, and beer nuts are replaced with hot and spicy blood sausage and bubbling cauldrons of ramen and cheese. Soju rains from the sky!” -- Chris Oh, Hanjip (Culver City, CA)
"It’s where our staff heads after a long night of buttering chicken. Nice table top hockey game, karaoke, burlesque nights, comedy nights, and music all neatly packaged in the darkest, scruffiest bar around. Bonus for having cheap drinks and bartenders who just seem to really understand you.” -- Josh Kulp, Honey Butter Fried Chicken (Chicago, IL)
“Not only does this spot have affordable (and tasty!) bar snacks, it’s a neighborhood staple that's been around for a long time. It’s got that old-school hangout vibe -- you never really know who you’ll see on any given night.” -- Troy Guard, Mister Tuna (Denver, CO)
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