The 19 Best Dive Bars In America
With help from readers like you, and an industrial-size tub of hand sanitizer, we scoured the nation for the sleaziest, seediest, stickiest places to drink. Stumble along with us, wont you?
Photographed for Maxim by Kat Robinson| Licensed to Alpha Media Group 201
What do you get when you combine Christmas, a mobile home, and a whole bunch of booze? Usually a triple homicide, but in this case, you get Santa’s Pub. Owned by a guy resembling what St. Nick would look like had he done a dime in the clink, this trailer turned watering hole, with its assortment of creepy Christmas decorations, is nothing short of pure alcohol-inspired magic. With $2 beers, an old pool table, and karaoke every single night, Santa’s Pub should earn a spot on the list of places to visit the next time you and your buddies feel like waking up with a gift-wrapped hangover under the tree.
One-star Yelp review: “I’ve never been to a place where you can get kicked out because you’re not drinking fast enough and some low-life karaoke attendant blacklists you for loitering.”
Phil’s New York Deli & Tavern
Phil’s claims to have an “authentic New York atmosphere,” which is true, we suppose, if they’re basing it on the fact that it’s dirty, old, and overcrowded. While the sandwiches don’t hold a candle to those you get in the Big Apple, the nightly drink specials (including $3 well drinks on Fridays and $2.50 Bud Lights on Saturdays) are a New York City bum’s dream come true.
One-star Yelp review: “Looks and feels as greasy and grimy as it smells.”
The Big Hunt
If you miss the beer-stained floors from your college frat house, welcome home. This Dupont Circle dive lives up to its name with big-game décor and a meat-markety scene of millennials on the prowl. Come on Tuesdays for 15¢ wings and $2.50 PBRs. There’s also a rooftop patio for those who want to jump after tanking at Monday night trivia.
One-star Yelp review: “I would not shed a tear if a meteor turned that awful excuse for a bar into a smoldering crater.”
‘Reel M’ Inn Tavern
Neon signs on the walls keep this windowless bar just bright enough to see the $2 PBR tallboy before you—and just dark enough to hide the excessive built-up oil on its single fryer.
One-star Yelp review: “I saw a crackhead lady nearly getting it on with a patron on the pool table.”
Matt’s Bar & Grill
Built in 1954, Matt’s is considered a “landmark,” which is what polite Midwesterners call decrepit old bars that look like your grandma’s basement. Between the wood-paneled walls, locals sit on cracked vinyl barstools and down Grain Belt Premiums after biting into a Jucy Lucy, the bar’s signature misspelled burger—molten American cheese crimped between two beef patties.
One-star Yelp review: “I was not warned about the Jucy Lucy’s explosive nature, and burned myself. They were lucky I didn’t pull a McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit.”
It’s unclear why, 500 miles from the sea, dolphins cover the walls, but during winter, this aquatic-themed shithole feels like paradise. Provided paradise is where townies head-bang to live music.
One-star Yelp review: “The regulars at this place give outsiders the stank eye.”
[pagebreak]Ray’s Happy B-day Bar
This bar owes its name to the original owner’s habit of greeting customers with “Happy birthday!” If it really is your B-day, first drink’s on the house.
One-star Yelp review: “I was only in the place for five minutes, and I smelled like a dirty ashtray for the rest of the night.”
St. Pauli Bar
To fit in with the rest of the German regulars at this shadowy Chicago dive, order yourself a Spaten and a shot of schnapps. Repeat until last call at 4 a.m. By morning you’ll feel like death, but at least you won’t remember hitting on one of the leathery old beer maids.
One-star Yelp review: “This is the place old female bartenders go to die, like an elephant graveyard.”
Los Angeles, CA
This Santa Monica bar plays host to the best and the worst of Tinseltown: Hipsters, talent agents, middle-aged women, and aspiring starlets take turns on the light-up karaoke stage. Drinks are standard, but you’ll appreciate the free self-serve popcorn machine located unapologetically next to one of the filthiest bathrooms in L.A.
One-star Yelp review: “Wouldn’t be as bad if the odor of vomit didn’t permeate the entire place.”
New York, NY
Retired boxing trainer Jimmy Glenn owns this Midtown hole-in-the-wall, and it shows: Fight posters and photos of pugilists are plastered on the walls like a T.G.I. Friday’s that’ll give you a black eye. Despite the bar’s proximity to Times Square, it’s free of tourists, thanks to the deft verbal punches delivered by the surly waitstaff.
One-star Yelp review: “This little old Russian lady came to our table and was a total bitch. She reminded me of the evil gypsy lady from Drag Me to Hell!”
Eastlake Zoo Tavern
At this zoo, watch out for pool sharks—especially weekdays 3 p.m.–6 p.m., when billiards is free and discounted beers are downed like fresh chum. But no matter the time or day, pitchers of Rolling Rock are always nine bucks and you’re welcome to play other barroom games, like pinball and Ping-Pong. If you can make it through the night without getting beat up, you win.
One-star Yelp review: “Went there to play shuffleboard and was told by a nasty hipster female to ‘Beat it, bitch!’ She then resumed her game. This zoo is truly full of animals.”
Mac’s Club Deuce
This simple South Beach club is open 22 hours a day, half of which is a two-for-one happy hour (from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.). That leaves you two hours a day to spend with your family. If you’re into crap like that.
One-star Yelp review: “I’d appreciate it if the patrons had the courtesy to use coke in the stall and not by the sink.”
Decorated to resemble what rednecks imagine when they hear the word “Hawaii,” this tiki-themed dive is a popular destination for thirsty Phoenicians who just want to get lei’d.
One-star Yelp review: “I felt like I needed a shower and a tall glass of Airborne after I left.”
Named for its former owner Whitey McGrail, who was gunned down in the pub in 1985, this Southie dive is where hard-drinking degenerates bring their problems— and bartenders’ heavy-handed pours help them forget ’em.
One-star Yelp review: “I’ve been to crackhouses where I’ve felt safer.”
[pagebreak]Magnolia Bar & Grill
Proving its resiliency, Mag Bar reopened less than 24 hours after an SUV crashed through the front door. But it’s hard to tell what was wrecked, because everything looks like it was pulled from the trash.
One-star Yelp review: “Looks more like a condemned property than a bar.”
Don’t step foot in this janky-looking corner bar without protection. By which we mean, beta-blockers. Your heart will need ’em if you’re there for “Bacon Night.” Once a month owner John Reusing designs a new pork-belly-themed menu and goes through 150 pounds of meat. Pair the grease bombs with a pint of the double-smoked porter or an apple-bacon martini for an added eff-you to your cardiologist.
One-star Yelp review: “There is seating at the bar and some tables. The people lucky enough to get tables had a great view of everyone’s rear in their face while trying to eat.”
New Orleans, LA
Whether the music-loving locals are extra friendly because they’re hopped up on cheap beer, live R&B bands, or free red beans and rice, don’t be surprised if one of the old-timers provides valuable life advice after you confess your depressing existence to him.
One-star Yelp review: “If you took Cheers, Bud Light, and the road crew of Lynyrd Skynyrd, you would have BJ’s.”
Las Vegas, NV
Far from the glitz of the Strip, there’s a piece of old Vegas nestled between two strip malls. Inside, the red velvet wallpaper is faded from smoke and time, and well drinks still run $3 a pop. Jackpot!
One-star Yelp review: “Spazzing bartender started a shouting match with friends.”
Since this seedy basement bar opened in 1965, not much has changed—including the strippers. Geriatric nude ladies shimmy on stage; veteran dancer Blondie crushes empty beer cans with her boobs. Your grandma’s rack isn’t nearly as impressive.
One-star Yelp review: “I had to give this old lady $1 to stop showing me her junk.”
Photographed for Maxim by Jennifer Rocholl | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013
Photos by Radio | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2013