Skip to main content

9 classic U.S. dive bars

By Nora O'Donnell, for CNN
July 9, 2013 -- Updated 1751 GMT (0151 HKT)
The neon lights outside scream Miami. The black-tiled floors inside scream, "We haven't been waxed since 1926!" These characteristics seem to be celeb bait: Keith Richards and Cameron Diaz have been spotted here. The neon lights outside scream Miami. The black-tiled floors inside scream, "We haven't been waxed since 1926!" These characteristics seem to be celeb bait: Keith Richards and Cameron Diaz have been spotted here.
HIDE CAPTION
Mac's Club Deuce, Miami Beach
Jimmy's Corner, New York
Frolic Room, Los Angeles
Pinkie Master's Lounge, Savannah
Zeitgeist, San Francisco
Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon, Austin
Earnestine & Hazel's, Memphis
Ms. Mae's, New Orleans
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon offers winnings if their chicken leaves something special on your lucky bingo number
  • Enjoy an outdoor barbecue overlooking Portland at Skyline Tavern, but bring your own meat
  • Occasional celebrity spotting happens at Mac's Club Deuce, Miami Beach's "all day happy hour" bar

(CNN) -- What makes a classic dive bar?

Is it the sticky floors or the peanut shells?

The killer juke box?

The heady aroma of stale beer and the haze of a million cigarettes? (In some states, anyway.)

These are all things that are worth debating, and we welcome you to disagree with the picks below.

The definition we decided on includes decades of history and everything from octogenarian bartenders and surly bouncers to pooping chickens and giggling ghosts.

Most of all, these are neighborhood standbys, the places you go because you know what you're going to get, and more importantly, what you're not going to get.

Like website marketing or a Facebook site, which is why you won't see a lot of links below.

Dirty fun guide to Wanchai, Hong Kong bars

Everyone has a different level of tolerance when it comes to dives.

But if genuine character is what you seek, then these nine neighborhood joints won't disappoint.

Jimmy\'s Corner, New York: Great selection on the jukebox, too.
Jimmy's Corner, New York: Great selection on the jukebox, too.

Jimmy's Corner, New York

Years before the Disneyfication of Times Square, owner and former boxer Jimmy Glenn was slinging $4 beers and swapping fighting tales at this New York institution.

He still does today, in his 80s.

The jukebox is a time warp, too: Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole reign supreme. Listen long enough and you'll become a regular.

Jimmy's Corner, 140 W. 44th St., New York; + 1 212 221 9510; open daily 10 a.m.-4 a.m.

100 margarita! America's most expensive cocktails

Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon, Austin, Texas

Nothing says Texas like a live country band and a game of Chicken S--- Bingo.

Every Sunday proprietor Ginny Kalmbach plops a chicken down on a plywood bingo board. If the bird poops on your number, you win the money in the pot -- plenty for a healthy round of $2 Lone Stars.

The scene might appear a little rough, but the patrons are affable and accustomed to following Ginny's posted rules: "No Cussin', No Fussin', No Hasslin', No Wrasslin'!"

Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon, 5434 Burnet Road, Austin, Texas; + 1 512 458 1813; Tuesday 5 p.m.-midnight, Wednesday-Saturday 5 p.m.-1 a.m., Sunday 2-8 p.m.

Zeitgeist, San Francisco

It's hipsters and yuppies versus bike messengers and Harley bros at this San Francisco beer haven with more than 40 brews on tap.

The bloody Mary is praised as the best in the city, if you can manage to grab the attention of an ornery and well-inked bartender.

Didn't get what you ordered? Do not under any circumstances complain. Just drink it and like it.

The outdoor beer garden with picnic tables makes all that gruffness worth it. Although the garden's infamous portable toilets have been replaced with real restrooms, the Zeitgeist still maintains plenty of gritty charm.

Zeitgeist, 199 Valencia St., San Francisco; + 1 415 255 7505; open daily 9 a.m.-2 a.m.

Business travelers guide to surviving a Korean drinking session

Ms. Mae\'s, New Orleans. If you can\'t see your buddies in this picture, it\'s time to go.
Ms. Mae's, New Orleans. If you can't see your buddies in this picture, it's time to go.

Ms. Mae's, New Orleans

Ms. Mae (Florence Bingham) passed away in 2012, but her spirit endures at this smoke-filled, 24-hour bar where the well drinks are a whopping $2 ($3 for doubles).

Where else in New Orleans (or the United States) can you keep two people entertained all night for less than $20?

Curious characters abound, but the bartenders are fast and (mostly) friendly, assuming you don't cause a major ruckus. If you do, there's a police station across the street.

Ms. Mae's, 4336 Magazine St., New Orleans; + 1 504 218 8035; open daily

America's new sandwich heroes

Rose's Lounge, Chicago

Corner bars are ubiquitous in Chicago. The regulars at each spot argue that their neighborhood dive is the best in town.

But not every corner bar feels like drinking in your grandmother's basement.

Rose, who's been running the joint since the late 1970s, can usually be found sitting next to a cluster of ancient tchotchkes under a string of drooping, colored lights.

None of the decades-old furniture matches, the jukebox selection is limited and the Old Style is two bucks.

Rose's Lounge, 2656 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago; + 1 773 327 4000; open daily 2 p.m.-2 a.m.

Earnestine & Hazel's, Memphis

Don't mind the haunted jukebox that plays whatever it wants, whenever it wants or the two ghosts who like to wander the hallway.

The friendly apparitions are just Earnestine and Hazel, two sisters who ran this former dry goods store and brothel a million years ago.

Upstairs you can explore the dimly lit old brothel -- remnants include a rusty refrigerator, discarded pinball machine and clawfoot tub.

Keep heading down the hall and you'll find Nate, an elderly gentleman who serves cheap drinks and shares plenty of local history.

Downstairs you can order a famous "soul burger."

Earnestine & Hazel's, 531 S. Main St., Memphis; + 1 901 523 9754; Monday-Friday and Sunday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-3 a.m.

Best free bar snacks in the U.S.

Frolic Room, Los Angeles: Everything\'s classic here.
Frolic Room, Los Angeles: Everything's classic here.

Frolic Room, Los Angeles

LA Weekly crowned the Frolic Room the city's best dive in 2012, and few would argue with the bar's legendary status.

Charles Bukowski, the prolific poet and novelist whose favorite subject was the City of Angels, drank here often. His portrait hangs above the cash register.

Bartenders donning suits add a touch of class to the place, but not enough to disqualify the Frolic Room as a true Hollywood dive. The embedded grime dates to the 1930s.

Frolic Room, 6245 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, + 1 323 462 5890; open daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Mac's Club Deuce, Miami Beach

Not many bars boast a happy hour from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., but the Deuce is one of them, where drinks are two for one for 11 hours.

The neon lights outside scream Miami, the black-tiled floors inside scream, "We haven't been waxed since 1926!" and these characteristics appear to be celebrity bait: Keith Richards and Cameron Diaz have been spotted here.

Kate Moss was reportedly once denied entry at the door. No one gets special treatment.

Mac's Club Deuce, 222 14th St., Miami Beach; + 1 305 531 6200; open daily 8 a.m.-5 a.m.

America's best small town comebacks

Pinkie Master's Lounge, Savannah

Legend has it that Jimmy Carter, a friend of Pinkie's, stood on the bar and announced his run for the presidency here, and this haunt still draws politicians, as well as art students and aged regulars.

Faded rebel flags and political memorabilia adorn the walls and the stiff gin cocktails and cold PBR tall boys are as cheap as ever, $3.50 and $2 respectively. There's also free Tabasco popcorn.

Pinkie Master's Lounge, 318 Drayton St., Savannah; + 1 912 238 0447; Monday-Saturday 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 0149 GMT (0949 HKT)
Luxury Action will turn your travel scripts into reality and film them. As long as you're willing to travel to this country ...
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0913 GMT (1713 HKT)
As entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles draws some of the best comic talent on the planet. Here's where to see it live.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0342 GMT (1142 HKT)
Not many people choose flights based on the quality of an airline's catering -- but those who do should check out Saveur's Culinary Travel Awards.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
On the island of rice, curry, tropical fruit and fresh seafood, eating is an honor to the taste buds.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
Sparsely populated (by humans at least), this East Africa country offers so much more than just Mt. Kilimanjaro.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Berlin's Tegel airport
It's crowded and outdated, but Berlin's hexagon-shaped Tegel air hub has won a place in the city's heart.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 0847 GMT (1647 HKT)
Amsterdam Museum of Bags and Purses
Shrine to a dead cat and a homage to fromage among Dutch capital's eccentric exhibitions.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0603 GMT (1403 HKT)
The OLAF scooter/luggage
Slovenian Kickstarter project encourages travelers to hop on their suitcase and cruise through terminals to connecting gates.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
The guidebook asked staff, contributors and authors for well-known and lesser-known recommendations.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
An airport in Asia has stolen the crown from Manila's Ninoy Aquino, voted 'world's worst' three years in a row.
ADVERTISEMENT