What Is A Dive Bar?

What is a Dive Bar

What is a Dive Bar?

Plenty of people profess to know what a dive bar is, but are sadly mistaken. They think every bar is a dive bar. Or that their beloved local spot is a dive, just because they hang out there with their friends every Saturday night drinking cheap beer. Many believe all sports bars are dive bars. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Ok, so how do we spot these elusive dive bars in the wild? Well, it’s kinda like pornography – you know it when you see it. However, if we are pressed for more details, here are some of our thoughts on the matter:

First and foremost, a dive bar has character. And lots of it! Quite possibly, too much for some.

Often found at the edge of town, down by the river, on the wrong side of the tracks or perhaps hidden in plain sight in certain neighborhoods.

Kitschy theme and/or name optional, but often awesome.

Usually seedy and it’s gotta be dark, somewhat sticky, smelly and has at least one vinyl seat repaired with duct tape.

You will not want to drink from the glassware without first verifying your food-borne illness immunizations are up to date.

Service usually surly but never scary.

Food is often an afterthought. Or a dare. Unless you are in Portland, and then it might well be downright amazing.

You’ve discovered a rare gem if they serve breakfast!

A visit to a good dive bar makes you feel like you are getting away with something (like sneaking away from work to disappear into a matinee in the middle of the afternoon; not that I have firsthand experience with that mind you …)

You feel safely anonymous but also known or maybe recognized as kin. There is no social strata in a good dive bar – we are all one. And perhaps what brings us together is our shared appreciation for the grittier side of life. Or at least the willingness to overcome our fear of it, not take ourselves too seriously and have fun!


KC Shomler Author of Falling Out of Love With My Career


What is a Dive Bar

Portland Dive Bars