The term "dive bar" can evoke a distasteful reaction in people who don't appreciate them. Maybe they don't understand the subtleties. A proper dive bar is a highly evolved piece of art, offering a delicate mix of the quirky and the depressing. Whether you're looking to drink away your troubles or just want to sip a nightcap in a place with character, these 10 bars will always set you right.
10. The Chat Room Pub
The Chat Room has been a staple of West Magnolia in Fort Worth for years. It has exactly what you want out of a dive bar: affordable drinks, friendly staff and no pretenses. But make no mistake, this bar is not bland. Its loyal clientele and frequent, eclectic rosters of live music give The Chat Room a culture all its own. If you live outside of Fort Worth, it's definitely worth hoofing it there to pay this understated gem a visit. Andrew Hawkins
This jukebox bar is a retro and color-lit hipster hideaway for those in cheerful exile from the mainstream. You may find some of the coolest musicians in Dallas in a jam session on the patio. It's also one of the friendliest places in Dallas; lonely souls who stand around awkwardly checking their Instagram feed for the fifth time will likely receive a sincere invitation to join a group. Go ahead and try the bar's pizza — it's deliciously greasy. Eva Raggio
Double Wide and its self-described "lil' sis," Single Wide, haul the white-trash bar out of the boonies and drop it into Dallas. The two distill the more endearing elements of rural shotgun bars — oddball characters and cheap drinks — to create an atmosphere that's as much cartoon as drinking establishment. Although each bar has several craft beers on tap, don't expect to be pampered by aged, hibiscus-infused fare. These places specialize in domestics and kitschy mixed drinks (one is made with Yoohoo) in an entertaining setting that make you instantly happy you walked in the door. Their lively bingo and karaoke nights further sweeten the deal. AH
In 2013, Esquire named the Windmill Lounge one of the best bars in America, and it damn near ruined it for those of us who enjoyed having a quiet, well-made drink amongst others in the know. Of course, with time being a flat circle and all that, the fever for the place has died down, and now the clientele is a mixture of longtime regulars and Dallas hipsterati. It's still a place to settle down to drink in a dimly lit corner and enjoy the jukebox, lists be damned. Jaime-Paul Falcon
Putting a bar in a strip mall in North Dallas may sound like a recipe for a great dive, but Velvet Elvis is a true hole-in-the-wall. For one, there are no beers on tap; it's all bottles and cans. Sometimes they have live music or karaoke on a stage, or rather, on the floor. It's pretty dark inside, even for a dive, but they have pool tables and there's a back patio for smokers. The glass they fill may make you do a double take because it looks like a glass a child would sip milk out of. But the bartenders must either have heavy hands or weak arms because these drinks are strong. Jeremy Hallock
3720 Walnut Hill Lane, facebook.com/pages/Velvet-Elvis-Dallas
5. 1912 Club
Unless you’ve traveled down Hemphill Street for a show at 1919, Happy Haus or the Where House, 1912 Club is probably off your radar. Even then, you might have seen a vagrant or two clinging to the bar’s front stoop and decided to move along. Too bad; inside is a dilapidated relic of Fort Worth’s late-’70s, party-hard past. The cash-only bar is blue-collar to the core and it’s a great place to practice your Spanish, especially by offering to buy a regular a tequila shot or a can of Colt .45 — both of which are a mere $2. On weekends, punk and other underground bands take the stage in front of mirrored walls and under the glimmer of a disco ball, making 1912 Club double as the hot new music venue du jour. Steve Steward
I'll be damned if Dallas doesn't have the weirdest fascination with the fact that a president got a bullet to the dome here. But, here we are, with Lee Harvey's, which isn't confirmed to have been named after Mr. Oswald, but coincidences are for The X-Files. It's a fine bar, and not a patsy. The dive's got a full food menu, cheap drinks and a big patio. The hype about the onion rings is more than well-earned and that grease is scientifically proven to curb the eventual hangover. H. Drew Blackburn
The best thing about dive bars is you never have to worry about anyone passing judgment. Never will you feel more comfortable in your own skin than at The Goat. While the patrons and staff look a little sketch, hardly anything ever goes wrong here. Everyone is just around to have a good time. With one long bar wrapped around the left side, a pool table and just enough room for a stage and dance floor, this blues joint keeps it cozy. If you start to feel a little cramped, you can always chill out on the back patio. There you'll be greeted by a giant fading Betty Boop in a martini glass wall mural (if you can call it that) and likely some existential conversation with a loaded regular Goat-goer. And since it opens at 7 a.m. most days of the week, how can you ever be lonely? Anita Riot
If cheap drinks and weeknight karaoke are your stitch, Crossroads Bar in Denton makes for an essential dive bar experience. Their odd (but completely convenient) location is nestled to the north of the downtown square and within walking distance of Texas Woman’s University. Crossroads Bar resides in a shopping center that caters to a copy printer, a recording studio and a Latin cafe, ensuring a truly unique mish-mash of an experience. The opportunity for people-watching will leave you breathless. If not that, one too many shots of tequila after belting out that Selena Gomez song you can't get out of your head certainly will. Either way, Crossroads Bar continuously proves to be a great time. Sara Button
No amount of cleaning, fumigation or bans on smoking could ever make the inside of Lakewood Landing not smell like an ashtray, and that's really all you need to know about why it's such a winning dive bar. There are many more points in its favor, of course, including the finely aged wood paneling, the grungy, torn up booths and the dim lighting, not to mention the Lord-knows-what's-happened-here couch and the honest-to-goodness jukebox that doesn't have an Internet connection. So take a seat on the warped benches of the patio and lose a few (dozen) nights the old-fashioned way: with cheap beer and well whiskey. Jeff Gage
5818 Live Oak St., lakewood-landing.com
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