The American dive bar is the bar in your neighborhood. It’s the historical refuge of those who want to escape the puritanical gaze and drink some sanity. It’s a place where you can find friends, comfort, or comrades who are in the same situation as you. The place where the whole of society gathers to pay a quiet tribute to alcohol. It’s beautiful. What makes an American dive bar a dive bar?
What Is A Dive Bar?
The dive bar was invented in America. We have pubs in Australia that are comfortable but lousy. You will find counter food and very little craft beer. Pubs in Australia are often large, with multiple rooms that cater to different needs. These buildings are usually grand, and they’re not afraid to use them. America has a puritanical past that has driven its bars underground. Dive bars are hidden in their surroundings and announce their existence by using small signs that turn into neon at night. This attracts barflies like moths. The entrances to more historic venues tend to be hidden to conceal the shame of people who come and go.
Locals in the truest sense
What makes a dive bar a dive bar? I came to LA’s Cozy Inn to think about this question. The first thing that should make a dive bar a dive is to represent the location. For example, dive bars located in New York or the suburbs of Milwaukee will be very different, but the Cozy Inn has a similar feel. You will notice the darkness of the dive bar. It is always midnight. In the dark, I stumble my way to the bar and find a place to sit. The Cozy is a concrete box with parking surrounding it. It’s like many dive bars around Los Angeles; the only light that enters the dark room comes from the open door.
Matt, a bartender from the northeast who I have yet to see wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates hat, tells me what makes Cozy Inn special. He explains that the Cozy Inn is a local dive bar. The only comparisons Matt can make are with the two other dive bars in the vicinity since anything outside this geographic location would not be a valid one. Matt says, “Around that corner, you’ve got Joxer Daleys. They have the draughts. If you want beer, you should go there.” Cinema Bar has a smoking area outside, and they sometimes play music. Here at the Cozy, we are known for pouring hard. Matt poured my drink for me and gave it to me at a rate of 80%. Jose Cuervo is both generous and terrifying. I come from a country where every milliliter is counted and measured. “That will be $6.50 and you should know that we tip in the United States,” says he.
A typical dive bar
A dive bar should not be a place where you feel rushed or hurried. It is a place where people of all statuses can come together and interact on an equal basis. You should never feel rushed in a dive bar. The Cozy opens at 6 am, and I’ve seen a few people drinking beer there since before 10 am. This is a conservative estimate, as it’s a dive bar. There are shuffleboard tables and pool tables on the ground floor, but there is not much seating, which is strange since the Cozy Inn’s name suggests a cozy inn. Dive Bars must have a photo of the owner on the wall. However, extra points can be awarded if the pictures are of people struggling to lift the heavy fish that were pulled out of the sea.
If you see mugs with names engraved on them, then you are in a dive. The trend in drinking establishments has been to include food on their menus, but a dive bar is likely to serve only a few American classics, which require a deep-fryer. Onion rings and chili dogs. French fries, Buffalo wings, French fry, French Fries, and Burgers. Expect to see a reasonable beer-and-shot combo and a jukebox. It’s rare to find a CD jukebox with heavy classic metal, but nowadays, it’s more common for the internet type. You can pay to have playlists requested from others pushed down at the Cozy. This is great if you want to drink a beer quickly and don’t want to hear born in the U.S.A. again.
What’s in a Name?
While we might name pubs in Australia to honor a place or a history, dive bars may take a more comical approach. Dew Drop Inn is one example. Other examples include He’s Not Here and The Stumble Inn. Many dives are named after the owner, such as Beefy’s Cabin or Dear John’s. Most dives will have a name that describes the atmosphere inside, such as Rock Bottom Lounge. Merrymaker, The Shelter, and The Liquor Box.
Moe’s Taven, the most famous dive bar in the world, is the first on my list of America’s Best Dive Bars.
Barney, Lenny, and Carl Simpson enjoyed many a night of drinking together. It isn’t easy to visit, unfortunately, because it is fictional. The following list is a great place to start your Americana adventure. If you need me, I’ll be here at The Cozy Inn, operating the bar until Matt says last drinks. Bottoms-up.
Next time you are in the States, try these dive bars.