Good Beer Hunting

Dive Bar Bingo

Should dive bars ever truly begin to go the way of the dodo, know that you can count on me to found and preside over the Dive Bar Conservation Association. Just like the National Parks Conservation Association, the DBCA would be “the independent, nonpartisan voice working to strengthen and protect America's favorite places.”

Of course, we’d be protecting dusty, dingy, sticky, metaphoric watering holes instead of breathtaking, jaw-dropping, pristine, actual watering holes. But hey, everybody’s gotta have a cause, right? (For what it’s worth, I’m also a member of the NPCA. They do great work and I love them very much. 🙏)

The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, Atlanta, GA

The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, Atlanta, GA

It may come as no surprise to you to learn that dives are my thing. I’ve opined about them here and there before. I have a stable of them I frequent around my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I seek them out when I travel. I have a running list of the best dives I’ve visited in cities all over the world. I collect dives in much the same way Midwestern mothers hoarded Precious Moments®‎ in the 1980s and '90s. The dives themselves are a little less creepy than the figurines.

But lately, there’s been an assault on dives. Or, at the very least, an encroachment on them. Which is why we need the DBCA. Whether it’s due to a lack of patronage, skyrocketing rent, regular old gentrification, or because these damn hipsters are opening up faux-dives which end up being more popular with their damn hipster friends than the actual bars they’re emulating, it's starting to feel like dive bars are death-marching down the path to extinction. And that’s a terrible thing.

[Editor's note: Kyle would kindly thank you to get off his lawn.]

To help combat this, I’ve started a collection of defining characteristics that make a bonafide dive bar. I’ve divided these attributes into five categories: Beverages, Interior, Nosh, Guidelines, and Overall. In my humble opinion, if you have at least one feature of each category present, you’ve found yourself in an honest-to-goodness dive. If you find yourself in a place where you can’t get a BINGO, it’s probably time to leave. Please use as is prudent.

  • No draft beer—bottles and cans only

  • The only liquor is well liquor

  • A limit to the number of ingredients for mixed drinks (bonus points if that number is two)

  • A refusal to make any drink, based solely on the bartender’s discretion, regardless of number of ingredients, subject to change at any time, even in the same day

  • A named drink that's unknown to, and unavailable in, the rest of the world

  • Dollar bill(s) above the bar, framed or unframed

  • “Artwork” featuring a naked human being

  • Out-of-season holiday decorations, likely left up year-round so as to be in-season from time to time

  • A non-TouchTunes jukebox (bonus points for the real-deal ones with the flipping album covers)

  • A memorial of some sort for a dearly departed “regular”

  • A white metal rack of potato chips from an indeterminate period of American history

  • At least one jar of pickled something-or-other (bonus points if it’s pig’s feet)

  • Free crock pot meal available at least one day of the week

  • Popcorn machine

  • Cigarette machine

  • Smoking is allowed (or ignored)

  • Gambling is allowed (or ignored)

  • 86 list is clearly posted and strictly adhered to (bonus points if it’s handwritten)

  • There are two happy hours (one before noon, one after noon)

  • There is a second (secret) entrance for regulars and/or nefarious behavior

  • Poor lighting

  • Less than three windows (bonus points if there are zero, or if existing windows are blacked out)

  • The dart board (or other parlor game) is the most well-lit part of the bar

  • Sticky floors

  • An aroma that could best be described as “stale”