Dive bars, while once relegated to a class of bar that only seedy characters visit because everyone knows their name (and drink order), are now a thing in Dallas. The cheap yet strong drinks, somewhat rude bartenders, and ripped barstools give you the feeling of knowing about a secret treasure. Don’t kid yourself, everyone knows about them … you just may be the only one brave enough to try ‘em out!
Everyone knows the usual suspects, but here’s to hoping that this little list opens your eyes to another questionable watering hole in our fair city.
1. The Loon (Uptown)
A Dallas bastion that will soon be moving to make way for a CVS (ugh … progress) is known for its drinks with a doozy of a pour and as the location that the Dallas Mavericks celebrated after the World Championship. The owner and his cronies can be spotted there almost daily. Try the steak. (No, really.)
2. Lee Harvey's (The Cedars/South Dallas)
Aside from its unsavory name, this bar in The Cedars boasts outdoor (and limited indoor) seating, large wood-burning heaters*, great food/drink specials, a very dog-friendly environment, and occasional live music.
*Expect to smell like a campfire when you leave … even after a shower.
3. The Double Wide (Deep Ellum)
Talk about truth in advertising, this bar is actually a double wide trailer (with some more recent expansions) that offers “Mama’s Mixes” like the Yoohoo Yeehaw, Hurritang, and Boone’s Farm Martini that would make your back country cousins feel right at home. Also offered: great live music and tacky décor.
4. The Goat (Lakewood)
The self-titled “neighborhood blues bar” offers daily live music and karaoke weekly, great drink specials, and pool.
5. Cosmo's Bar & Lounge (Lakewood)
A constantly-festively-decorated retro bar, don’t expect too many bells and whistles (other than their “award-winning” jukebox).
6. The Dallasite (East Dallas)
Shuffleboard, darts, and Golden Tee, OH MY! This old-school Dallas joint offers a host of activities meant to be enjoyed while sipping a cold beer (which they also have).
7. The Grapevine (Cedar Springs)
Love people watching? Then this shoebox-sized bar is your place. Visit this dive for cheap day-drinking on their gigantic patio and round of pool.
8. Ships Lounge
Cash only? Must be good. Beer only? Who do you think you are depriving me of my whiskey!? Oh, I can bring my own? Ok, cool.
9. Windmill Lounge
$2 wells on Sundays and Pac-Man aren’t the only thing this dive bar offers (like therapy). Visit Charlie at the bar for a great story or to act out Frank Sinatra’s “One More for the Road” and feed the jukebox (classics only, please).
10. Single Wide (Lowest Greenville)
Little brother of the Double Wide, expect much of the same … just less of it.
11. Elbow Room (Deep Ellum)
I personally hate this place due to an awful experience, but I’ve been told they have delicious pizza and play good music. Whatever.
12. The Tradewinds Social Club
Don’t go here looking for anything fancy, because even if you order it, you won’t get it. Stick to vodka-and-somethings (which will be sssstrong) or beer. Don’t disturb the locals.
Cranky waitresses and a cash-only policy won’t keep me out of this legendary pizza joint.
14. Adair's (Deep Ellum)
You want some live music, you say? Pull up a barstool and listen to some of the best undiscovered country bands in the city. Don’t forget your Sharpie to tag a table.
15. Lakewood Landing (Lakewood)
This dimly-lit bar offers great food (get the burger) and strong drinks. Make sure you take a friend and some hand sanitizer.
16. Milo Butterfingers (SMU/Midtown)
Cheese fries, Big Buck Hunter and pool, and a stiff (and cheap) mixed drink are the offerings of this old haunt. Stay away any night that there is an SMU football game … unless you’re into that sort of thing.
17. Arcade Bar (Lakewood)
With $2 wells on Mondays and freshly-popped popcorn nightly, stop in for a few drinks with a buddy and test his knowledge with their Trivial Pursuit cards.
18. Amsterdam Bar (Exposition Park)
Visit after a long day at the State Fair for a cold (and cheap) draft beer or on Mondays for live jazz … and don’t forget your bike.
19. Green Elephant (SMU/Midtown)
Avoid it on Thursday nights like the plague! Other nights, it’s nearly empty and reeks like a frat house, but is worth a visit.
20. Muddy Waters (Far East Dallas)
Named after a legendary jazz singer, Muddy Waters offers a wide range of live music, from live DJs to blues. Make sure you’re armed with plenty of quarters for the nights that there isn’t live music for both the jukebox and the pool table. (Great drink specials, too!)
21. July Alley (Deep Ellum)
This one is a doozy. It’s been shut down and brought back to life, and has some of the most ghastly garish decor of any bar on this list. Note: it’s the perfect place to give yourself an extra hour or two to think about the tattoo you’re about to get at Elm Street Tattoos.
22. Dyer Street Bar (SMU/Midtown)
SMU students and WAKA Kickball players know this bar well, but just on Thursday nights. Again, avoid it if possible!
23. Velvet Elvis* (Marsh and Walnut Hill)
Yes, I’m including a bar in the middle of residential Dallas. Don’t miss the live hair music cover bands, board games, ridiculous drink options, and cougar hunting.
24. Time Out Tavern (Park Cities)
Tucked into an unsuspecting cubby beside Neighborhood Services, Time Out Tavern offers strong drinks, Big Buck Hunter, and grumpy bartenders (don’t ask them ANY questions).
25. Meridian Room (Exposition Park)
One of my very favorite places in Dallas, skip it on Wednesdays (for ½ price food) because it gets too crowded. Instead, opt for brunch on Sundays and enjoy the best bloody marys in Dallas!
Runner-up: Truck Yard
Not old or disgusting, this 2013 alfresco creation from the dudes behind Twisted Root features a treehouse (really), their own “trash can punch” slushie, and rotating food trucks.