I love dive bars. I always have. It could be because the lighting is flattering. It could be because the drinks are cheap and unpretentious or it could be because of the sticky carpets and dated bathrooms. Though not usually those last two.
In the USA they know how to do dive bars really well. Dark and dank yet so very comfortable and fun. If you take filling and tasty bar food, cheap beer, huge pours of liquor and mix with no sense of the world outside or indeed the passing of time and those dimly lit rooms can lead to some heavy nights.
Now, I do not have any photos of dive bars. I didn’t realize I loved them so much and I didn’t realize I wanted to share my love with the blog. It is also a little passe to take your camera out or even a smart phone. Let me use some words to describe them.
The entrance is usually nondescript. The names can be something silly like Nu Nus or The Jackal Cage or it could be a reminder of the original publican – Hamilton’s or Joey’s. These names are sometimes in faded sign writing or maybe neon lights. Often a heavy bouncer stands by these darkened doorways, checking the ID of every patron and filtering out only the most abrasive of characters, and those without shoes (you definitely want shoes in a dive bar). Upon entering, even if coming in from the evening, your eyes slowly adjust to a dimly lit room. A classic U-shaped wooden bar often dominates the room and is circled by booths of aged vinyl seats. The carpet pattern, often unrecognizable, is definitely as old as the dust covered, top shelf liquor. Seats at the bar are the first to be filled, often by the same people who have been using them for the last decade. Dive bar staff are here to grab your drinks and take your money. No uniform, no fuss and definitely no Fuzzy Navels or Appletinis. You take a beer and a shot or you take a whiskey dry or vodka lemonade. You want a wine? This is what we have. Food? Grilled cheese, loaded fries or hot wings are common staples and do well enough to soak up the Long Island Iced Tea that your mate stitched you up with (it gets past the “no fancy drinks” rule as it just involves using every bottle that has clear liquid in it)
I think my favourite aspect of dive bars is the lack of reservations or preconceptions regarding patrons. You are judged on your actions alone. Suits and work boots drink side by side. Dive bars unite people and put no pressure on anyone to be anything other than a gracious guest. Essentially, don’t be dick and everything is good. Being in the dive bar is about sharing no-frills experiences with friends old and new. Telling a tall tale or hearing one. Talking about 80s rock on the juke box. Talking about sport or your latest passion project. Impromptu dance parties can break out at anytime on any part of the sticky carpet: one of the few places that the best MJ impression is fine next to the worst white guy shuffle. Anything goes and no one is ridiculed. Is there a better place to spend a night with friends?