It is that time of year again. The northern winds are starting to blow and the days get darker and colder. Unless you are drinking under a bridge or participating in Occupy Wall Street drinking outdoors will soon be a distant memory. As pigskins get snapped and leaf blowers get revved we find ourselves looking for alehouses and taverns to take refuse in.
If you are like me the prospect of spending the afternoon in an $8 per beer bar is out of the question. I also need a bar where I can shout out a f-bomb when Brandon Marshall drops his 50th pass this season and not get kicked out. Luckily there are phenomenal dive bars across the nation that cater to clientele like me. Today we are going to list the top 10 of them.
We received tons of email and suggestions after posting last year’s list. There were also a ton of great suggestion from Drew Curtis’ FARK.com community. The biggest suggest from the Farkers was for me to use spell check. We aggregated this research with our alcohol-fueled wanderlust and have come up with the 2011 list.
Today I share with you my findings, there are a few bars from last year’s list that continue their rein. There are also some new dives for you to take notice of. These are not the faux dives that are popping up across the country. These are the barrooms of your fathers and grandfathers. I give you what is left of Americana – These are the Top Ten Dive Bars in America.
1.) Cantab Lounge
738 Massachusetts Ave
I am almost embarrassed I left The Cantab Lounge of last year’s list. I have played at the Cantab multiple times over the past 25 years and a good time was always had. The Cantab has two floors of entertainment. Downstairs rock and blues acts play, upstairs is the domain of Little Joe Cook and the Thrillers. Thrillers guitarist Candy has taken the reins of running the Wednesday and Sunday open mike nights. It still has the funk and feel it has had for the past 30 years. Expect to see anything ranging from local Berklee College of Music students to escaped mental patients on the Cantab stage. This place has VFW quality drinks and great beers at killer prices.
Bonus: Bring your axe and you can sit in with the band.
2.) 21 Club
8 Turk Street
San Francisco, CA
This dive was suggested by a Farker, the more I heard about this bar the lower my jaw dropped. 21 Clud is in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco. The Tenderloin is a no-joke section of San Fran. If you are not street savy I would suggest you read about the 21 club and not visit it. The locals affectionately call the Tenderloin “Wine Country” this is in reference to the hordes of winos that roam the neighborhood. At the time of the posting of this column domestic beers at Club 21 are $3.25 per bottle. I couldn’t get much more information due to the language barrier between myself and the gentleman answering the phone.
Bonus: They will let you pay for your first drink with your AA chip
3.) Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge
Tootsie’s once again makes our top ten list. With that in mind most of the bars on Broadway in Nashville could be included here. What makes Tootsies special is the history of the bar. The whos-who of country, blues and rock music have graced the tiny stage in this dive. Adding to the charm The tiny two urinal men’s room actually has a white shirted bow tie wearing bathroom attendant. How is that for southern kitsch?
Bonus: You could see a major act sit in with the band. I missed Kid Rock doing a set by a half hour.
4.) Blue Moon
712 NE 45th St
This bar first opened in the 1930’s and still has some of that throw back vibe to it. The nice thing about the Blue Moon is it is proof you don’t have to drink bad beer at a dive bar. The taps of the Blue Moon have the best suds the Northwest have to offer at reasonable prices. For those of you unadventurous drinkers the typical American adjunct lagers are also available. Located down the street from U of W this bar has some colorful characters mixed into it’s eclectic crowd. Expect to see hippies, hipsters and freaks sprinkled into the crowd rich with U of W students.
Bonus: Live rock on Friday and Saturday.
5.) Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E Passyunk Ave
One of the great things about this list is it gives us a chance to check in with our good friends at Ray’s. Not only is Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar still serving up cold cheap ones they now have an ATM and a new website. Ray still opens promptly at 7 in the morning; If you find yourself in Philly needing a drink at 7 A.M. Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar is the place to be. And for those of you in need of a spitoon there is a trough spittoon that runs the length of the bar.
Bonus: Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar is close enough to Pat’s & Geno’s to get a cheesesteak back to your barstool before it gets cold.
6.) Lee Harvey’s
1807 Gould St,
At the suggestion of Farkers I hit this bar last time I was in Dallas for business. A good dive bar should give you the feeling as if you are drinking in someone’s basement bar. Lee Harvey’s does that and goes the extra mile. This bar has a spacious backyard patio filled with picnic tables for your drinking pleasure. There are a couple of big pluses to this place. Location, locaion, location. Lee Harvey’s is located between Rt. 30 and Rt. 45 and is also a short walk from the Cedar Station DART stop. Not only does this dive have cheap drinks but it also has great food. Try one of their half pound burgers with your beer.
Bonus: There’s a Ms. Pacman, a Galaga and a pool tablet
7.) The Paradise Lounge
119 W Main St
There is one way to tell you are truly in a dive bar. When the door opens everyone in the bar looks to see who is coming in, it doesn’t matter if there are 3 people sitting in the bar or 50. The Paradise is one of those places. Located on a block of the most diverse bars you have ever seen The Paradise Lounge is the every-man’s bar of the set. The bar is dark with a smattering of broken TVs in the back to watch the game on. The Paradise Lounge has an open concept kitchen behind the bar that is clean but not too inviting. I watched a parade of the fattiest burgers, fries and cheese drenched sandwiches leave the kitchen. Some would argue that is dive food, I would argue that is suicide.
Bonus: For those of you into it they have cheap greasy eats.
8.) The Northside Tavern
1058 Howell Mill Rd NW
Northside Tavern returns to our list. Great blues, cheap beers and great people watching, can you ask for anything else? The Northside Tavern looks like the set of every bad-ass bar in those bad action movies from the 80’s. The whole time you are in there you feel like Jean-Claude Van Damme or Brian Bosworth will walk in wearing a leather duster and bust up the place. The place has a fun but surreal vibe going on. At some point in the night you will ask yourself “did I just see that”? Without a doubt this is a great bar for people watching. If you dont see a freakshow in the Northside, the freakshow must be you.
Bonus: Live music 7 nights a week.
9.) Magnolia Bar & Grill
1398 S 2nd St
Yes back to the Mag Bar. This is one of the most commented on bars from last year’s list. we got emails and stories about the place that could fill volumes. This bar has a very earthy clientele. If you are looking for clean restrooms, courteous service and succulent food this place has none. This is a gin mill through and through. The Mag bar is where the locals co to drink a lot cheap booze for short money. Do not go there expecting to be impressed. One of the interesting things we were told about the Mag Bar is – not all of the women in The Mag were born women.
Bonus: “Grill” is just the bar’s name they serve no food. The bartenders keep delivery menus behind the bar.
10.) Gusoline Alley
09 S Center St
Royal Oak, MI
Gusoline Alley has a Myspace page that hasn’t been updated in a few years. That is the major marketing push behind the beer drenched gem of Detroit. This is one of Detroit’s most popular biker bars so don’t be surprised when you walk into a wall of leather. Cheap beers and a great jukebox are the only draws of this motorcity malt hall.
Bonus: Nice selection of Midwest microbrews on tap.
That is a wrap for this year. If these place are local to you or on your travel agendas hit them up. If not let us know about your favorite local spots. I am always looking for new places to check out hit me with your suggestions. Who knows your favorite spot may hit next year’s list.