Drinking and Diving

So many dive bars, so little time. Photo Courtesy: Angie Garrett
So many dive bars, so little time. Photo Courtesy: Angie Garrett

The Top 10 Dive Bars in Dallas

By Amber LaFrance

Do you like getting wasted where no one will notice? Do you yearn to spend Saturday night in a tee shirt and jeans? Are you willing to take a chance on late night bar food?

I, for one, absolutely love dive bars. As soon as my behind touches the duct-tape-ridden booth, a sense of nostalgia flows over me. When the jukebox starts playing “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” I’m sold. Guys, girls dig dive bars too. Why? We don’t have to try so damn hard. Sometimes I just want to channel Madonna and dance like I just don’t care.

What makes dive bars so endearing?
• As soon as you step in the place, it’s midnight no matter what time it is.
• Bartenders pour the stiffest drinks at the cheapest prices in town.
• You can act like a fool and no one will care, or remember the next day.
• Places like these foster new and random friendships.
• The food, though sometimes iffy, is dirt cheap.
• The bar “regulars” have the most awesome stories, because the ages in these joints range from 21-61.

Once you visit these 10 places, you’ll never forget them. Dark, a little crusty and cheap, dive bars are the perfect alternative for a city full of Sfuzzi’s.

Adair’s Saloon – Deep Ellum
This probably is the closest I’ll get to going to a full-on country dancing bar. It’s definitely a dive, in the heart of Deep Ellum, with great drink prices. Live bands play here most nights and I always end up two-stepping before the night is through. Pick up a Sharpie from one of the tables and sign the bar, the wall, or the person sitting next to you. Lastly, try the burger. You’ll thank me later.

Black Swan Saloon – Deep Ellum
Five words, pecan and vanilla-infused whiskey. Enough said. They infuse vodkas too and it’s the teeniest bar hidden away in Deep Ellum. There isn’t even a sign outside.

Cock & Bull Neighborhood Pub – Lakewood
A friendly establishment, this gastropub has a seriously laid back atmosphere and delicious grub. I came here to drink, but ended up taking a chance on the food and it was fantastic. The Bull Burger was tasty and full of beefy, bacon, mushroom and avocado cheesy goodness.

Cosmos – Lakewood
This unique spot has the most awesome vintage decor. Full of groovy lamps, colorful furniture and even a faux fireplace, Cosmos is a great place to just hang out and have a drink. There’s the largest VHS collection ever, I swear, and sci-fi movies from the 80’s constantly are playing. It’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s rarely crowded and full of cool people and great tunes.

The Goat – Lakewood
This was the first place I ever sang karaoke at and now, well I’m hooked. The bar is partially held together with duct tape, but I don’t mind. The drinks are strong and the Sunday night karaoke is…legendary. Once I mustered up the courage to belt out Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” and realized I’d made a room full of fans, I vowed I would always return to this loveable little spot. It’s full of good vibes.

The Grapevine – Oak Lawn
Quite possibly my most favorite dive bar, this is the only place I’ve ever been where you can play basketball with a guy in high heels while drinking. Did I mention they have crawfish boils on Sundays, a diverse crowd and Everclear Bellinis? Post up at one of the outdoor (or rooftop) patio tables and make some new friends.

Lee Harvey’s – South Dallas
Channel your inner hipster at this neighborhood favorite that’s been around for nearly 50 years. Pabst Blue Ribbon seems to be the drink of choice here, where Dallas in-the-knows come to cozy up with a beer (and their dog) on the patio. My favorite memory at Lee Harvey’s? Chillin’ in a vinyl booth against the wood paneling, getting lost in The Rich Girls’  rendition of “Maneater.” The burgers are heaven.

Magic Time Machine – Addison
As you’re reading this, I know you’re feeling confused. After a friend told me his incredible tales of singing karaoke at this “haunted” bar, I had to try it out. I’ve spent countless nights downing $2 you-call-its here, while singing everything from the Talking Heads to Lion King. My favorite moment? A 50-year-old man dedicating the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” to me on my birthday and singing it on one knee.

Ships Lounge – Lower Greenville
No joke, this place has a “no cussing” policy. Put on something slightly fancy, maybe a polyester suit, and enjoy the year-round Christmas lights. Only beer and wine is served, so make sure you bring your own liquor and buy your mixers at the bar. Post up at one of the open pool tables and enjoy what I like to call “Margaritaville Christmas.”

The Slip Inn – Lower Greenville
What happens at The Slip Inn, stays at The Slip Inn. No cover, no dress code and red lighting to boot. Don’t be scared,  once you’re inside grab a strong drink from the bar and shake what your mama gave you. Hey, you may not know who you’re dancing with because it’s so dark in there, but who said to “never trust a big butt and a smile.” They play the best mix of old school hip-hop I’ve ever heard.

Have a favorite dive bar you think I should check out? Tweet me @AmberLaFrance and give me the scoop. Enjoy the scenery, make some new friends and don’t be afraid of a place that’s a little grimy.