What does 'Dive Bar' mean to you?
To us, it's a low-key spot where you're probably already friendly with the bartenders. The drinks are always reasonably priced, and there are absolutely zero traces of pretentiousness. Yes, there are plenty of places where a smug 'mixologist' will craft you a painstakingly individualized, Proper Cocktail. But sometimes, it's like, "Just give me a beer, dude."
For those nights, your neighborhood Dive Bar is the cherished, go-to option. It doesn't necessarily have to be grimy, but it certainly shouldn't be spotless. It doesn't need to be pitch black in there, but low lighting is preferable. It's fine if some music is playing, but the closer to silence is golden. Next time you're in the neighborhood of bars like Giddy Up's, The 04 Lounge, Crown and Anchor Pub, Barfly's, or Carousel Lounge, order yourself up a nice vodka / Waterloo Sparkling Water combo and take in the vibe.
Here's a list of our favorite places around town that exemplify dive bar vibes.
517 E 6th St
Casino El Camino is best known for their elaborate Bloody Marys and gargantuan burgers, but you don't need to be in the mood for either of those mainstays to enjoy an afternoon or night spent there. Situated in the gray area where Sixth Street starts becoming less wild and more subdued, Casino El Camino is removed from the ruckus but not totally isolated—a perfect spot for a dive bar. The walls are decorated with seedy B-movie posters, vintage tiki heads, and various relics of 50s grease, providing the bar with a Creature From the Black Lagoon vibe that is undeniably cool. Like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie, Casino El Camino is a perfect spot to escape the noise of Sixth St., kick back with an ice-cold brew, and plot your next move.
3808 S Congress Ave
When you look up 'Dive Bar' in the dictionary... You won't find anything. But if you DID, you might see a photo of The 04 Lounge. This dimly lit-yet-friendly space offers cheap beers, pool tables, and plenty of patio seating. Get there a bit earlier if playing pool is your jam, because these tables get claimed early.
2001 E Cesar Chavez St
Drinks is the type of place where you can comfortably saddle up for a beer (or three or four) while you plot the course of the rest of your evening. Oftentimes, the plan turns out to be just staying at Drinks for the remainder of the night. The drinks are on the cheap side, the bartenders are genial, and there are pool tables to keep you occupied. Plus, they're almost always cooking up great themed nights like maudlin parties celebrating Morrissey's birthday, for example. Whether you're looking for a cool spot to hang out with friends and shoot some pool or a secluded nook to chug away your work-related stress, Drinks will always be eager to help you accomplish those goals. The best part? There's a dedicated VIP section entitled The Asshole Section.
12010 Manchaca Rd
You know you're in for a good old Texas dive bar time when the establishment in question is an expression famously used by cowboys. Giddy Ups more than lives up to its honky-tonk namesake with shuffleboard, live music, and mixed drinks. Step on in, order yourself a nice tall glass of whatever you're having, and enjoy one of Austin's only saloon type dive bars.
photo via facebook / Shangri La
1016 E 6th St
Perched in the midst of much East Sixth goodness, Shangri-La offers one of the more relaxed and dive-y vibes on the street. While its neighbor Ah Sing Den might be more Instagram-worthy, Shangri-La’s got plenty of perks, and much more affordable seasonal drink specials. The bar’s pair of pool tables, spacious back patio, Cajun food truck, and jukebox all contribute to its chill atmosphere and make it a great place to start or end any night.
510 S Congress Ave
Surreptitiously located at the bottom of a parking garage on S. Congress, Ego's is a dimly lit nook filled with storied patrons and knowing bartenders. A celebrated karaoke bar, Ego's provides customers with solid entertainment, lots of laughs, and the opportunity to belt out "Born to Run" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" alongside other inebriated singers. Featuring an unpretentious beer selection and an assortment of simple but effective cocktails, the bar is unfussy and genial, a home away from home. Ego's is seedy and sequestered but always friendly and fun. Warm up your vocal cords, head to S. Congress, grab a pint, and let it rip up on the karaoke stage.
100 E North Loop #B
The outdoor area behind Workhorse Bar feels like your uncle’s backyard - if your uncle was a little cooler and all of his friends had dogs. This North Loop hangout is a great place to get unassumingly tipsy on a Thursday night, especially if you don’t mind cramming yourself onto a picnic table bench with three other people. Order the parmesan fries - and if none of the many beers on tap float your fancy, the margs are pretty tasty as well.
photo via yelp
1704 E 5th St
Yellow Jacket Social Club’s clientele includes everyone from bikers to college kids, and all are welcome at this laid-back spot. A large outdoor area invites both humans and pups to sit and stay a while. This bar also offers damn good brunch on weekends - the pork belly on hash cake is worth raving about.
2911 San Jacinto Blvd
Opened way back in 1987, Crown & Anchor is a classic neighborhood pub located in Hyde Park that's been keeping college kids drunk and satiated for years now. With over 30 taps, 100 bottles/cans, darts, and pool, and an incredible menu that offers classic, no B.S. pub food (burgers, cheese fries, sandwiches, etc.), Crown & Anchor is a without a doubt an Austin dive bar staple. Sometimes we all need something classic, easy-going, and unpretentious, a place where everybody knows your name. If you're looking for a pub to become a regular at, Crown & Anchor is a damn fine place to be.
2039 Airport Blvd
The location isn't much to look at from the road, but this bar is a seriously cool hideout with bluesy vibes. Once you find your way to Skylark Lounge, you’ll encounter a nice blend of moody lighting, full bar service, and low key live music.
5420 Airport Blvd
Barfly's is an intimate North Austin dive that is treasured for its cheap drinks, friendly staff, and an impressively robust jukebox. In between trying your luck at foosball, pool, & relaxing on their patio, take some time to play one of their many album choices. Just watch your step on their super steep stairs on the way out!
Photo Credit: MattCoxMusic
1110 E. 52nd St
If you've never been to Carousel Lounge, cancel whatever plans you have tonight and be sure to go. What makes Carousel Lounge such a special dive bar? How about the fact that it's circus-themed? Or that it features an actual carousel? That they book all manner of strange and awesome music? It's weird without trying to be weird? Take your pick, friend. This spot has the added bonus (if you come prepared) of being BYOL - Bring Your Own Liquor. Mixers and beers are available, but you'll have to bring the harder stuff with you.
photo via airbnb / BT2
6607 N I35
Bout Time II (or BT2, for short) is the gay bar for everyone. It’s got a dance floor for groovin’, a patio for chillin’, and even free volleyball. Drag bingo is a can’t-miss. The bathrooms may not be pristine, but that’s kind of part of the whole “dive bar” thing, isn’t it? No matter what you’re into, Bout Time II is a judgment-free place to spend a guaranteed-good night.
photo via yelp
1703 Guadalupe St
What kind of dive bar has the phrase DIVE BAR in their name? Hear us out. Despite its location between UT campus and downtown, Dive Bar is magically never overcrowded- so come cozy up at the bar inside or step out onto their back patio. Dive Bar has a truly impressive cocktail menu and $3 drafts on Thursdays!
MORE GREAT DIVE BARS:
1502 W Ben White Blvd
1412 E 6th St
2420 S 1st St
2538 Guadalupe St
1618 1/2 E 6th St
Got a favorite local dive you like to hide away in? We're interested. [email protected]