Dallas's Most Authentic Dive Bars

Pull up a stool, order some cheap whiskey and don’t forget to duck when the beer bottles fly

"I've seen a few fights [at dives], but I've seen a lot more at high-end nightclubs. Even at Dragonfly [at Hotel ZaZa]—there were a lot more fights there than working at a dive bar."

He names Ships, whose management will kick you out for loud cussing, as an example of a perfectly safe dive bar.

Julie Webb, who co-owns Waxahachie's Webb Gallery, is something of a dive-bar connoisseur. In her travels, she searches for dives rather than hipster bars. But she doesn't glamorize dirty, rundown bars, she says, figuring that a staff that bothers to pick up litter and replace burned-out bulbs is more likely to run a friendly place. She also appreciates the funky aesthetics that small-business owners come up with when working without a large budget. "You want it to look somewhat make-do and folky," she says.

Inviting as the bar-top cushion at Ships Lounge may be, don’t get caught napping.
Sara Kerens
Inviting as the bar-top cushion at Ships Lounge may be, don’t get caught napping.
Club Schmitz’s game room has shuffleboard, pool, and dining tables and booths. Believe it or not, the photos were taken recently
Sara Kerens
Club Schmitz’s game room has shuffleboard, pool, and dining tables and booths. Believe it or not, the photos were taken recently

Location Info

Map

Tradewinds Social Club

2843 W. Davis St.
Dallas, TX 75211-3679

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Cockrell Hill

The Grapevine Bar

3902 Maple Ave.
Dallas, TX 75219

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn

Ships Lounge

1613 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Club Schmitz

9661 Denton Drive
Dallas, TX 75220

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Northwest Dallas

Lakewood Landing

5818 Live Oak St.
Dallas, TX 75214

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Copper Spur Saloon

6524 E. NW Highway
Dallas, TX 75231

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Northeast Dallas

Winedale Tavern

2110 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: East Dallas & Lakewood

Cooper's Restaurant and Club

2424 S. Cockrell Hill Road
Dallas, TX 75211-8102

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Cockrell Hill

New O'Malley's Club

2720 S. Zang Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75224

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Oak Cliff & South Dallas

Starlight Lounge

4319 Main St.
Dallas, TX 75226

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum

Details


Web extra: Check out our slide show for more photos from 10 Dallas dives.

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But local country singer Tommy Irwin, who's played in his share of dives, believes a dive bar requires no maintenance—only a down-to-earth feel. "It seems like it's been there for years, but it's always got the coldest beer and good friends," he growls between puffs on a Marlboro at The Grapevine. "But it could also be a redneck bar you don't want to have any part of."

Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's famous "I know it when I see it" definition of pornography could easily extend to dive bars. There may be no single physical characteristic that determines dive status, but two things that ensure a bar's not a dive are high prices and high-maintenance people. If your clientele consists entirely of Polo-clad, manicured 25-year-old Parkies, you're not a dive. Got that, Time Out Tavern? Likewise, even if you attract an eclectic crowd, the presence of $4.50 draft beer makes it hard to classify a neighborhood sports bar like Lakewood's First and Ten as a dive.

If agreeing on a concrete definition of the term "dive bar" is impossible, classifying dives is a bit more manageable. There are dives in Dallas for every barfly, whether male or female, old or young, straight or gay, drinking alone or in a pack. Dallas is an equal opportunity dive-bar city, and all that separates you from one is the will to dive.

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Gay, Straight orWhatever Dive

The Grapevine

3902 Maple Ave.

214-522-8466

Not even Greg Louganis in his prime combined "gay" and "dive" as seamlessly as The Grapevine does now. With a Web site that actually brags about its mismatched chairs and glassware, the place veers perilously close to the pitfall of pre-fabrication. But thanks to the cheap drinks and genuinely screwball clientele, the bar manages to carve out its own niche in the realm of authentic dives in its own flamboyant way. There's even the touch of danger that can get the adrenaline pumping, at least momentarily, if an incident on a recent visit is any indication:

A young woman pushes her way past a group waiting outside the two unisex bathrooms. "Ooh, I'd love to cut that bitch," remarks a longhaired, burly 30-something man.

As his remark registers, others nearby turn to cock an eyebrow or affix him with an accusing glare, as if to ask, "Did you really just say that?" Sensing the stares, he expounds: "Her hair! I'd love to cut her hair. It's so long! She could use a good cut."

Anywhere else, such an addendum would have sounded like cowardly backpedaling. But he'd already been overheard talking about his passion for hairstyling, so it was believable—though a bit odd.

Or take, for example, the pink-railed, black-felt pool table. It's so damn pretty I wasn't sure whether I wanted to shoot some stick or set up an hors d'oeuvres tray. Yet paired with the stained-glass table light above it, the thing would seem tacky anywhere else. But in this bar, whose design motif of decorative skulls and plastic beads is about as subtle as a Bourbon Street whorehouse, the pool table fits right in.

And then there's the basketball half-court on the asphalt patio outside. Local straight bars could certainly take a cue from The Grapevine on that one: Who wouldn't want to have a few brews and then engage in a game of three-on-three? That said, the "No Physical Play Allowed" sign has probably drawn a few laughs.

As far as dives go, The Grapevine is probably right up there with the Landing as a borderline dive. For that matter, its gayness is arguable as well, as it has won Dallas Voice awards for "Best Straight Bar," because the place welcomes one and all—though I have yet to go on a night when heteros were the majority. Whether it's gay, straight or just not sure, The Grapevine sticks out in the Dallas dive bar scene. And, perhaps unlike the Adam's apple on the girl you're chatting up at the bar, that's a good thing.

Who's it for? People who are open-minded socially—and open-minded about what constitutes a dive.

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Dive Where Even Your Grandparents Might Get Kicked Out

Ships Lounge

1613 Greenville Ave.

214-823-0418

Ships Lounge—located in the transitional area between the nightclubs of Lower Greenville and the funky mix of working-class and creative types south of Ross Avenue—may be one of the most widely recognized dives in Dallas. Location is everything, after all. Yet even with diverse crowds drawn from surrounding neighborhoods, the only whiff of danger it offers is the possibility of performing CPR on one of its aging regulars.

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