Updated on July 5, 2024

We love brewery taprooms. Give us a well-lit space, a bank of stainless steel taps, and a food truck, and we’re happy campers. However, sometimes nothing beats bellying up to a scuffed wooden bar, ordering a boilermaker, and putting back a shot and a can of Hamm’s or Genesee Cream Ale under the decades-old glow of Christmas lights and neon Coors signs. And where can you have this incredible experience? At any one of the country’s best dive bars.

We revere dive bars. Local lore (and cigarette smoke) drip from the walls. The ripped vinyl booths and bar stools reek of spilled beer and nostalgia, and the selections on the jukeboxes approach holiness.

These off-the-radar neighborhood joints are the places we go when we can’t stomach another milkshake IPA or Cold IPA. Don’t get us wrong—we still love those beers, but they have their time and place. Since National Dive Bar Day on July 7th celebrates our nation’s most iconic hideaways, we wanted to show some love to these twenty-four memorable saloons.

We started this epic list almost three years ago, sending out a Slack asking our colleagues: What are your favorite dive bars? The responses came in swiftly and immediately. And they were all different! We enjoyed the debate so much that we’ve made it a point every year to ask this all-important question again, especially to new folks on the team.

As a result, we’ve built up a pretty stellar rolling list of our favorites. But we can only go so far in our lived experiences. We want to hear from you! Drop us a line at [email protected] and tell us your favorite dive bar and why we should add it to the list. Who knows, maybe we’ll see your favorite spot on this list next year!

While we may differ and bicker about which dive bar is truly the best in the country, we can all agree that a few key characteristics make a great one.

What Makes A Great Dive Bar?

kellys bar & lounge
Photography courtesy of Flickr

The characteristics of a great dive bar can be up to interpretation. But in general, if you asked us to make a list of attributes, we’d write something like:

– Cheap drinks
– Seasoned bar—i.e. scuffed, unpolished, or nicked
– Paint jobs dating back several decades
– Ripped bar stools and/or vinyl booths
– Dartboard or other bar games
– Chatty, mostly local clientele
– Low lighting, Christmas lights, neon signs
– Grimy bathrooms with incredible, outrageous writing and graffiti on the walls

Of course, the beauty of a dive bar is in the eye of the beer holder.

From a steak sandwich-slinging, acid trip-esque joint in Buffalo to a haunted subterranean bar in Wilmington, from a tiny pub defying gentrification in Oakland to a retro tiki-themed waterfront lounge in Minneapolis, and everywhere in between, here are the Hop Culture and Next Glass team’s top picks for the best dive bars across America.

Hop Culture’s Picks for the 24 Best Dive Bars in America: 2024 New Additions

Editor’s Note: We placed the new entrants to this list at the top; older ones will follow in alphabetical order.

Pearl Street Pub & Cellar

Boulder, CO

pearl street pub & cellar dive bar
Photography courtesy of Chad K | Untappd

“Don’t let the photos from upstairs fool you,” says Next Glass Events Director Kathryn Porter Drapeau. “Nor the floor and walls, which are all wobbly brick. Rumor has it there are tons of underground tunnels running under Pearl Street Pub in Boulder.”

This dive bar has some history.

According to Porter Drapeau, a massive flood hit downtown at one point, leaving a trail of dirt and silt and causing the second floors of many buildings to become the first.

For instance, this gem, where you can now find everything you need in a dive bar: cheap bar food and beer, games, good music, familiar faces, and a little bit of quirky history.

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The Running Shop and Hops

Morgan Hill, CA

running shop and hops dive bar
Photography courtesy of Logan Jackson | Untappd

Perhaps not the “diviest” bar on this list, The Running Shops and Hops is Next Glass Content Writer Giovanni Albanese Jr.’s first choice when he thinks about “cool bars” to hit up around him.

“The beer selection is on point. Plus, they have some hundred-plus beers on tap,” he says. “But it still gives you that low-key, chill, nondescript vibe.”

Walk under the roll-up garage door, and you’ll find a tasteful yet unfurnished bar with long, high tables for drinking beers with folks and a long list of beers written out in chalk.

This may not have the “classic” feel of a dive bar, but The Running Shop and Hops beer bar has become a go-to spot for those around the southern parts of Silicon Valley. It is worth a visit, especially because it has none of that tech-bro pretentiousness.

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Sundown Saloon

Boulder, CO

sundown saloon dive bar
Photography courtesy of Emiliano Aguilar | Untappd

Otherwise known as the “Sundowner” or the “Scumdowner,” Porter Drapeau told me with a laugh, the Sundown Saloon is somewhat of a local legend.

Porter Drapeau points out that the downstairs basement bar on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder is “so divey, they don’t even have their own website.”

For over thirty years, this dive bar has liquored up locals with PBR, whiskey, and tequila galore while giving them a place to show their bar game skill, whether pool, darts, shuffleboard, or foosball.

“Back when smoking first became illegal in town, they built a smoking room. You could barely see in there, let alone breathe!” says Porter Drapeau. “Ten seconds inside, and you’d have to wash your clothes when you got home.”

Can you really ask for more in a dive bar? At Sundown Saloon, that’s a rhetorical question.

The Cortland

Bay Shore, NY

Next Glass Senior Graphic Designer and New Yorker Derek Campos loves The Cortland, which he says you can only find by a small neon sign above the door that says simply “BAR.”

“It’s a very skinny little spot that used to have a deep sea, maritime-like vibe and feature only local beers,” says Campos. “But since a recent renovation just before the pandemic to a modern 1970s, look, they now focus a bit more on cocktails.” Even with the interesting rebrand, Campos says this is an excellent spot with those local dive bar vibes worthy of a place on our list.

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The Dirty Shame

Tampa, FL

the dirty shame dive bar
Photography courtesy of Brian Lamparski | Untappd

Hop Culture and Untappd Social Media Manager Magic Muncie calls The Dirty Shame “the quintessential dive bar.” Located in Ybor City, a neighborhood of Tampa, FL, The Dirty Shame “has a legit craft beer selection on draft as well as a sweet on-site can/bottle selection,” says Muncie. “Oh, and there’s pool tables. That’s all I need to keep me entertained.”

With the tagline “Pub on the edge,” The Dirty Shame plainly states on its site, “We have many beers: on tap, in bottles and cans. Come drink them.”

You don’t need to tell us twice.

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San Francisco, CA

toronado dive bar
Photography courtesy of Amy Tobin | Untappd

“I gotta throw out Toronado,” says Muncie, who joined the team over the summer last year. “On any given day, it has one of the best beer selections in the entire country.”

Toronado has been a staple in San Francisco since opening in August 1987.

Started by owner David Keene (aka “Big Daddy”), Toronado gets its name from Keene’s favorite Oldsmobile car.

Keene fell in love with Belgian beer after drinking Chimay, opening a beer bar initially to serve his Belgian favorites.

Walking into the Haight-Ashbury pub, you’ll notice a shelf lined with Duvel bottles and magnums.

But Keene quickly expanded way beyond Belgian beers.

Today, Toronado has become renowned for its Barleywine festival, which started with four barleywines on draft and expanded to sixty-two different ones during its thirtieth celebration last November. The festival’s motto, “Legitimizing drinking before noon since 1993,” pretty much says it all.

When you’re at Toronado, rules are meant to be broken. Punk music plays loudly, and the crowd might get a little rowdy, but that’s what a good dive bar is all about, right?

It just so happens that this one, whose name holds weight up and down the West Coast, also has one of the most killer tap lists with over fifty-six beers on tap, three on cask, sixty-four bottles, and thirty-five cans (the last time we checked in mid-June).

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Hop Culture’s Picks for the 24 Best Dive Bars in America: The Ultimate Running List

Abe’s on Lincoln

Savannah, GA

best dive bars abe's on lincoln
Photography courtesy of Abe’s on Lincoln

Forget about writing your phone number or your next big idea on a napkin. At Abe’s on Lincoln on Lincoln Street in Savannah’s National Historic District, napkin after napkin with hand-drawn Abraham Lincoln illustrations tattoo the bar’s wooden beams and centuries-old ceiling. We’re talking depictions of Honest Abe as a zombie, riding a bike, and even as SpongeBob Squarepants. If you want to add your masterpiece to the walls of this off-the-radar pub dedicated to America’s sixteenth president, order a drink and ask the bartender for a set of napkins and pens.

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Bar 11

Pittsburgh, PA

bar11 dive bar
Photography courtesy of Shelby S | Yelp

Pennsylvania is a state littered with dive bars. Bar 11 will be one of many Keystone State taverns on our list. Must be something in the water.

Perhaps sometimes referred to as “Pittsburgh’s Original Party Bar,” although this remains unconfirmed, this tiny bar, just a few blocks away from finer establishments, ticks all the dive bar boxes.

Little toys/trinkets in your drinks ✅
Name tags available with glow-in-the-dark markers ✅
Summer solstice rain parties where it’s suggested you dress to get wet ✅

You get the idea.

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Delux Cafe

Boston, MA

delux cafe dive bar
Photography courtesy of Jared Kuzia | Boston Magazine

A dive bar that has stood against time and gentrification, Delux Cafe has defied all odds in the South End neighborhood of Boston. As chain restaurants and bougie dining groups moved in, driving up rents and the price of eating and drinking, South End’s small businesses started being driven out. But not Delux Cafe. Located at 100 Chandler Street, the dive bar has remained for over five decades as a place to grab a cheap can of ‘Gansett. While the hole-in-the-wall has changed hands and names a few times during its historic run, it’s always been a place for locals to bathe in the glow of Christmas lights, revel at the collection of album covers on the wall, and enjoy a cheap pint or two.

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Donn’s Depot

Austin, TX

donn's depot
Photography courtesy of Do512

In the words of Next Glass Director, Strategic Business Development, John Gross, who heralds Donn’s Depot as his favorite dive bar in Austin:

Austin’s dive bar culture runs deep by way of honky tonks. There are no better old neon signs in the country than the inner sanctum of the Lone Star State capital. There’s been such a boom of manufactured “cool” and faux “quirky” spots that painfully strain to play into Austin’s namesake “weird” tapestry, but Donn’s Depot is authentic and has been for over fifty years.

Donn’s Depot is a powerhouse of two-stepping and fun-having—unpretentious good times through and through. The playing field of early 20s youths and mid-‘90s old-heads is level at Donns. Boot scooters of all ages can be found sipping Lone Star longnecks, Austin Beerworks’ Pearl-Snap, and Pinthouse Electric Jellyfish.

Don’t know how to dance? Donn’s offers free two-step lessons every Wednesday!

Freewheeling slackers, cosmic cowboys, and everyone in between are welcome with a warm smile from longtime employees at the bar. Why would anyone leave a sweet job at Donn’s?

The building is an actual old train station, for crying out loud. The architecture is a lovely, defiant middle finger to the twenty-story condo buildings popping up all around it. The skyline continues to change, but the namesake proprietor’s band “Donn and the Station Masters” steadfastly plays multiple times a week. When the Station Masters get to swingin’, the dancefloor and the woman’s restroom in the train caboose shake in the best ways.

Did I see a possum once in the popcorn machine? Yes.

Have I been back a hundred times since then? Yes.

Never change Donn’s.

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Harry’s Banana Farm

Lake Worth, FL

harrys banana farm best dive bar lake worth
Photography courtesy of Harry’s Banana Farm

Dive bars are like [insert fingerprint or snowflake cliche here]—each is different. And there’s always one thing that makes your personal favorite the best place to drink in the country. For seven decades at Harry’s Banana Farm, it’s been the outdoor sign. Oh, and the giant yellow, weathered banana placed precariously above the green awning out front. Popular refrains reflect the times, most recently expressing general manager Lou De Stout’s frustrations around COVID-19 with slogans like, “We’ve been closed so long our men’s room smells nice again,” and “So it’s ok to sell liquor if it comes with a side of fries?” Shoot down Dixie Highway to Harry’s Banana Farm for a chuckle and a beer or two with a shot.

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Heinhold’s: First and Last Chance Saloon

Oakland, CA

heinhold's first and lasst chance saloon
Photography courtesy of Wikipedia

Another true symbol of a dive bar is the good ol’ effects of Mother Nature and Father Time. Heinhold’s: First and Last Chance Saloon seems to be a benefit of both, literally still standing as a beacon of the past amidst a rush of construction and modernization on the Oakland waterfront.

This tiny bar is so old (over a century) that it literally leans to the side and still has troughs on the ground next to the bar for lazy, inebriated sailors. They describe themselves as being “a(n) (il)literary landmark” with a “tastefully abrasive atmosphere.”

So, you’re in the right place if you’re okay forgoing white-glove service for nitty gritty drinking. This is just a dive bar full of history with a great spot to sit on the patio, sip on a beer, look out over the water, and people watch.

Although you probably won’t see any drunk sailors today, watching hipster Millennials rollerblading down the waterfront will still be hilarious.

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Jack’s Bar

Pittsburgh, PA

jack's dive bar
Photography courtesy of Blair Y | Yelp

We can’t one hundred percent confirm this, but Next Glass Director of B2B Marketing Tyler Kairys, who picked this spot, thinks the slogan for this dive bar may have once been something along the lines of, “Everyone winds up at Jack’s.”

It seems pretty fitting for a dive bar, so we will go with it.

Fun fact: Jack’s opens promptly at 7 a.m. every day of the week except Sunday (when it opens at 9 a.m.) and doesn’t close until 2 a.m.

Sounds like the party never stops at this Pittsburgh watering hole. This is the kind of place where you walk inside, and your shoes squelch and stick a bit…and you’re not sure why.

This is the kind of place you can see a mile away at night, thanks to its blazing namesake neon sign.

And this is the kind of place you can just go, get a cheap beer, and have a great time. Until two in the morning. Or at 7 a.m., if that’s your thing.

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Kelly’s Bar & Lounge

Pittsburgh, PA

kelly's bar and lounge
Photography courtesy of Hal B. Klein | Pittsburgh Magazine

Ask Hop Culture Founder Kenny Gould to name his favorite dive bar in Pittsburgh, and he’ll say Kelly’s. This dive bar is a Pittsburgh classic with all the tell-tale signs of a local watering hole: folks that have been drinking there for thirty-plus years, a neon sign that looks great at night and like junk in the light of day, and things written in permanent marker on the bathroom stalls. For a couple of bucks, you can walk across the checkered floor, snuggle into one of the ripped vinyl black and white booths, and order fried pickles (a favorite here) with an I.C. Light or Yuengling. And don’t forget a Leona’s Ice Cream Sandwich, another local favorite.

Bonus Points: Check out Gooski’s on Polish Hill, another team favorite.

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Kingfish Pub & Cafe

Oakland, CA

kingfish pub
Photography courtesy of Kingfish Pub & Cafe

Have you ever read The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton? It’s a story told from the perspective of a small house built on a little, idyllic hill in the country. As the years pass, the house constantly worries as the big lights of the far-off city draw closer. Eventually, a road is built in front of the house. And all hell breaks loose. Gas stations, apartments, and eventually railroads encroach on this tiny piece of paradise.

Kingfish would be the little house in this story.

However, unlike the book, this story has a happy ending. As more and more modern apartment complexes threatened to destroy Kingfish, the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board stepped in, literally putting the Kingfish onto a trailer and moving it down the street. Today, Kingfish survives as a low-ceilinged, shuffleboard-slinging ode to Oakland’s past. It’s a tiny bar that looks up at the high and mighty condos around it and laughs in their faces, saying, I’ve been here for years, and I’ll be here for many more years to come. You can’t steal my tiny piece of paradise.

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Lone Wolf

Bushwick, NY

lone wolf best dive bar brooklyn
Photography courtesy of Lone Wolf

When Hop Culture Senior Content Editor Grace Weitz and her wife packed up their Volkswagen Tiguan and moved from Chicago to New York City in 2016, they ended up in a tiny apartment in Bushwick near the Kosciusko stop on the J train. One block away was the Lone Wolf. For the longest time, they thought the bar was closed. It just looked that way.

Eventually, they ventured into the wolf’s den, finding all the trappings of a great dive bar: pool table, lingering scent of smoke (even though smoking inside is illegal in New York City), DJ spinning on the stage, and a tiny patio crammed into the backyard between apartment buildings.

Plus, they were immediately treated to a ”happy meal”—aka a $5 or $6 beer/shot special. They never looked back.

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Lula’s A Pub

Wilmington, NC

lula's a pub best dive bar
Photography courtesy of Hunter Ingram/StarNews

A beloved subterranean bar in Wilmington, Lula’s is adored for being a super casual place to drink, even though it’s rumored to be haunted.

Or, it could just be the bar’s cave-like atmosphere—you must walk through a dark hallway just to get to the underground bar. Regardless, the history makes Lula’s unique. From the ballast stones used in the original general store building to its paranormal tendencies, the intimate pub with intimate quirks has withstood the test of time.

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RJ’s Pub and Grill

Philipsburg, PA

rj's pub & grill dive bar
Photography courtesy of Paul R. | Yelp

This is your classic old-school, small-town bar but with a twist. You’ll find surprises such as the excellent bar food menu and a surprisingly robust craft beer list here. They even occasionally host tap takeovers from cool local craft breweries. But make no mistake, this is a dive bar through and through. From the wood paneling to the Pittsburgh Steelers tin tackers and the plastic picnic baskets, this hole-in-the-wall uses to serve food, RJ’s has dive bar written all over it.

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Saltwater Hippie Beach Bar

Madeira Beach, FL

saltwater hippie beach bar
Photography courtesy of @saltwaterhippiebeachbar

A place where summer never ends sounds like a place we want to be. The Saltwater Hippie just oozes beach bum paradise. Inside, you’ll find high-top tables with black bar stools and various dollar bills taped to the ceiling. There might even be a parrot or rooster or two that casually squawks or walks into the bar. This tropical hidden gem is where you’ll probably find grains of sand on the floor and the constant aroma of suntan lotion welcoming you to drink your next Corona.

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Santa’s Pub

Nashville, TN

santa's pub
Photography courtesy of Santa’s Pub

Some of what we love so much about dive bars is the kitsch—places that take something so esoteric or nostalgic and make it into their own schtick.

That’s precisely the vibe at Santa’s Pub in Nashville, TN.

Serving up cold beer and karaoke for ten years, Santa’s Pub features twinkling lights and an appropriately painted red and green deck.

Apparently, there is also a roaming Santa, who, if he hears you curse, will ask you to pay a fine.

If that isn’t a dive bar at its finest, we don’t know what is.

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Shooting Star Saloon

Huntsville, UT

shooting star saloon dive bar
Photography courtesy of Shooting Star Saloon

Initially built in 1850 as this fledgling town’s mercantile, Shooting Star Saloon became a bar in 1879. And never looked back. Operating as a bar for 143 years, Shooting Star Saloon oozes with the history of the Wild Wild West. After all, they claim to be the oldest continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi. If those walls could talk, right?

They might whisper to you about the husband and wife duo who owned the bar and were arrested for illegally selling beer.

Or they might tell you about the $3 beers and $5 Star burgers.

Perhaps Next Glass’ Graphic Designer Jake Hill says it best: “If you’re looking for a salad, you won’t find one here.”

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The 5 Point Cafe

Seattle, WA

the 5 point cafe
Photography courtesy of The Five Point Cafe

A bar with history! That’s one of the hallmarks of a true dive bar. The 5 Point Cafe has about as much history as plates of 11-oz chicken fried steak, omelets, and short stacks they sling daily. That’s a lot, considering they stay open twenty-four hours.

You can read all about it here, but some that stood out to us:

  • The bar survived Prohibition
  • The bar survived World War II
  • Dick Smith, son of the original owners C. Preston and Frances Smith, installed a periscope in the men’s room that looked out at the Space Needle
  • In the 1990s, the bar became a favored hangout for famous and not-so-famous musicians
  • Today, it’s one of the longest-run family eateries in Seattle
  • And one of the oldest bars

If that’s not enough to make you want to hang out here, we’re not sure what is.

Former Next Glass Director of Consumer Products Alyssa Rhodes says, “The 5 Point is actually kind of sentimental to some of us older Seattle folks. It’s been around forever and served breakfast super late until early morning, so it’s a popular after-hours spot.”

Enough said.

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The Commodore

Brooklyn, NY

the commodore dive bar
Photography courtesy of The Commodore

You might not have guessed that you’d find a quality dive bar in one of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods. Although it’s located in Williamsburg and still pretty new in dive bar years, The Commodore ticks a lot of those dingy bar boxes. Grimy bathrooms? Yup. Pulp Fiction or The Shining playing on the TV? Probably, or a film along those lines. Cheap beer? Definitely. Booths get packed early in the evening with Millennials looking for a bottle of High Life and a shot of Jim Beam rye or the ubiquitous Commodore cocktail, a frozen pina colada with Amaretto float. And on every table (and we mean every table), you’ll most likely find a plate of fried chicken or a fried chicken sandwich. Here, you’ll coat your stomach in grease and your Vans in grime, which is how you know you’ve had a great night out.

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The Old Pink

Buffalo, NY

the old pink dive bar
Photography courtesy of Derek Gee/News File Photo | The Buffalo News

Called The Pink by locals, this bar is hard to miss. The black and purple house with green painted flames shooting out of the ground could’ve been a hideout for all of Disney’s villains (Maleficent, anyone?) before becoming one of the country’s most renowned dive bars. In fact, four years ago, The National Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with Seagram’s 7 Whiskey to highlight some of the nation’s most historic watering holes. Guess who made the list? The Pink!

Inside, you’ll find graffitied walls, an almost entirely scuffed bar, and hundreds of stickers touting things like “Fight Prime Time… Read A Book” and “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Oh, and of course, a string of Christmas lights. Walk across the checkerboard tiles, and you’ll be treated to the slight pull of an eternally sticky floor.

But you won’t care because, at 2 a.m., as you stumble in to order the famous steak sandwich (a 12-oz center-cut steak with provolone, peppers, and grilled onions on a Costanzo roll), you won’t notice. You’ll be beyond happy to order a PBR, stuff your face, and go home happy after a night out.

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