Well, it's finally done! Here's the first in a long line of "Best Of" lists, and man, do these take a long time to write! Especially when you are as passionate about the subject matter as I am. Dive bars are the topic, and there are plenty to choose from in Dallas. Now, just what kind of bar do we consider to be a "dive?" Well, we think of dives as places that, for the most part, are comfortable and dimly lit (a great place to nurse a hangover), well used (tape on the bar stools, carpet remnants on the floor, and sometimes questionable restrooms), unpretentious (they don't really care if guests are coming in or not, and have never used an interior decorator), and that serve an inexpensive, good, stiff drink or a really cold beer. These are usually good places to chat with locals and often have regular barflies that can be real characters. Many of these establishments serve good bar food, often including a very tasty burger. There are a couple on our list that are almost too nice to be called "dives," but they are certainly funky enough to earn a mention. We'd love your input on this, as we know that there are plenty of small neighborhood clubs that we have overlooked, or simply just don't know about. Please fill us in!
7402 Greenville Ave. #320 (Upper Greenville at Pineland)
Dallas, TX 75231 Phone: 214-801-9797
Hours of operation: Still up in the air...
I have started this article with Sharky’s, because it’s our home bar. A while back some friends took the place over and did an extensive remodel, unfortunately, the cost of the rennovations was more than the new owners could handle, and after 27 years of continuous operation (the longest run of any bar on Greenvillle) Sharky's closed their doors. It's always been the kind of place "where everybody knows your name" and we have made some very good friends there. I've been going to Sharky's since 1986 and they've been one of the premiere dart bars in the Metroplex for decades. Last year some other friends and former patrons of "The Tank" (as we affectionately call it), Hiedi and Shane, puchased the place took on the momentous task of bringing the old girl up to code (daunting at best). They have done a great job just getting it back open and are putting in a full kitchen to boot! They expect to have the chef driven bar food menu available in early June. They currently have six dartboards, four pool tables, and several video games. They still pour a good strong drink and have 7-8 tap beers. Shane has been a drummer for various groups in and around Dallas for years, and is bringing in local original bands on the weekends. They're also trying some karaoke on Wednesday nights. Come by and see the "new" old place and have a beer and re-partonize a long-time staple of upper Greenville. "Norm!"
2624 Commerce St.
Dallas, TX 75226 Phone: 214-939-9900
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 11 am-2 am; Sun 12 pm-2 am
The graffiti capital of Dallas – you can write on damn near anything in here and they provide the markers! This honky-tonk/burger joint has been a staple in Deep Elum ever since I was a child. When I worked for the Stroh’s Brewery, back in the late 80s, "me an da guys" used to come here after work, for some cold suds and a big, greasy burger. There is a juke-box with a decidedly country flavor and a pool table. They have a full bar and a usually friendly staff, with live bands and a blues/bluegrass jam on the weekends. It’s authentic, laid-back, and broken in, and has developed a long-time, regular customer base. Shuffleboard and $1.50 draft beers only add to the charm of this dive.
Bent Tree Grill
18110 Midway Rd.
Dallas, TX 75287 Phone: 972-248-3559
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 11am-2am; Sat 5pm-2am; Sun 6pm-2am
I consider this one of the stranger bars in town, hence it’s charm and rating on this list. This was your parent’s bar. It tries to have an upscale feel, but just doesn’t quite make it. It has a very ambitious and somewhat pricey menu (steaks can run up to $25), but the regulars and the entertainment are what really push this place over the top. Carla Sherman and Skip Orlando trade off nights singing and playing instruments to programmed or pre-recorded soundtracks, as regular patrons flock around the piano bar. The place is like a septuagenarian meat market on the weekends. Look out young uns!
9661 Denton Dr.
Dallas, TX 75220 Phone: 214-350-3607
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 am-12 am; Sun 11 am-1 2am
Originally opened in 1946, Club Schmitz has been serving great, greasy burgers for longer than just about any joint in town and it's hardly changed in over 60 years. This cinder block building sits on Denton Drive, about 50 yards off of Harry Hines. The interior is covered with what looks to be the original wood paneling and old neon beer signs. Regulars usually enter from one of the side doors instead of the front and come here for a conversation and a cold beer. They usually take a stool at the bar. Weekday lunch time finds the place totally packed. Despite the neighborhood, which has seen better days, Club Schmitz is frequented by a good number of female customers. They have a pool table and shuffleboard and a juke box churns out the tunes. Several TVs usually have sports on as well and they have a couple of old video games. The prices are cheap and you can pretty much wear whatever you want.
777 S. Central Expy. Suite 2D
Richardson, TX 75080 Phone: 972-907-0777
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 11 am-2 am; Sun 12 pm-2 am
Just north of Spring Valley, on Central sits an unassuming one story office complex and in the back of it, is Club 777, a darts and pool club. They run both dart and Pool leagues out of here. This is a no frills dive with tons of regulars. They serve large draft beers and strong drinks for a good price. You can get a small pizza (frozen), but that's about the only food offering. Ceiling tiles are sold for either advertising, commemorating anniversaries, or remembering friends. They have several TVs and a juke box.
6524 E Northwest Hwy.
Dallas, TX 75231 Phone: 214-750-5833
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 am-2 am; Sun 12 pm-12 am
At NW Hwy. and Abrams, this honky-tonk used to be called the M & M Pouring Company and it's possibly the smokiest bar on the list. This is a good end-of-the-night club. You don't really have to worry about making an ass out of yourself, because someone else has usually beaten you to it. It's dimly lit, they have live country music on the weekends, line dancing, shuffle board, and they serve cheap, cold beer. The staff looks like holdovers from the previous decades of incarnations of the place and no matter what day of the week it is, many of the regulars have been there since 10:00 am.
Double Wide Bar
3510 Commerce St.
Dallas, TX 75226 Phone: 214-887-6510
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 5pm-2am; Sun 5 pm-12 am
A long time ago, this place was called Billy's Pub, but now it offers a thriving and hip scene with a nod to the mobile home, white trash lifestyle, complete with chipped plates as ashtrays, taxidermied animal heads on the walls, and tornado footage looping on one of the TVs. The two room dive does have a patio for outside drinking. One room contains the well rounded juke box and is also where DJs spin, in the evenings. The other room has a stage for local bands and a few traveling bands. The place is currently popular for as a spot for local musician's to hold their CD release parties, much like DaDa once was. The joint really gets hoppin' after 9:00 pm and they boast one of the widest selections of canned beer in the city, but while you're there, don't miss out on the signature drink, the "YooHoo YeeHaw," a white trash, white Russian made from Kahlua, vodka, and Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink. The other house specialties are the Hurritang, the Boone's Farm Martini, and the Twisted Tang. You can take a guess at the main ingredients.
3010 Gaston Ave.
Dallas, TX 75226 Phone: 214-828-9488
Hours of operation: Sun-Sat 11 am-2 am
The Elbow room sits just around the corner from Baylor Hospital, on Gaston. In the late 1980s, I used to work at the Stroh's Beer distributorship that was located across the street, where the condos are now. This was a dive back then but the Elbow Room's owners have breathed new life back into this little vintage building. Their menu is primarily Italian, with some very fine pizza which they deliver locally. The walls are always covered with art from local talent, they support live local music in the evenings, and they offer a five star juke box the rest of the time. There are dart boards and usually some good people watching to be had here. The service is iffy though; some nights are spot on and sometimes you're better off sitting at the bar, where they have some very nice bartenders as you can see from the photos. This is a great club to either start your evening or wind it down.
Hole in the Wall
11654 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75229 Phone: 972-247-2253
Kitchen Hours - Mon-Thurs 11 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat 11 am-12 am
If tidiness is you bag, stay clear of the Hole in the Wall. It is a dark, smokey den of burgers and blues bliss. You're more likely to find Harleys and pickups than cars in the parking lot, but the service is friendly, the music rocks (Friday and Saturday nights are somkin' and Hash Brown runs an open blues jam on most Wednesday nights), and the burgers are world class! The interior of the place reminds me of a redneck ski lodge, with a high pitched ceiling over the dance floor and Christmas lights strung up to accent the old beer neons. The stage is so small that occasionally a few of the musicians have to stand on the dance floor to play. The "back yard" is used during nice weather and has a much larger stage and horseshoe pits. They also have a pool table inside. The "Wall" has been open since I was a child and is a true Dallas experience.
9191 Forest Ln.
Dallas, TX 75243 Phone: 972-234-9064
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 12 pm-2 am; Sun 3 pm-2 am
If you've never been here, you might have a hard time finding the place. This neat little dive is tucked away in the strip mall, just east of Greenville, on the north side of Forest Lane, next to Momo's Italian restaurant. The lounge was brought to my attention a few years ago as a hideout for some local celebrities. If you ask the bartenders, they can regale you with stories of Don "Nelly" Nelson (the old Dallas Maverick's coach) and Owen Wilson playing poker or dominoes in the back of the club, for $100 a game. They both used to be regulars here and stop by from time to time, when they're in town. There are a couple of TVs which usually have news or sports on. They serve a cold beer, a stiff drink, and usually have live music on the weekends. King Me!
1807 Gould St.
Dallas, TX 75215 Phone: 214-428-1555
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 11 am-2 am; Sat and Sun 4 pm-2 am
Your buddy calls and says that he's having a party. They'll be cooking great burgers, serving up cold beer, and a band will be playing in the yard. He's set up some pic-nic tables, strung up some Christmas lights, stoked the chimineas, and a lot of people are bringing their dogs over. Sounds like fun! Wait... This isn't your friends place, it's Lee Harvey's! Sitting in the shadow of Southside, off of Lamar, the old stone house, with original wood paneling and what look to be some of the original beer neons stands out in the warehouse-laden neighborhood. Cop a squat at one of the tables in the yard and strike up a conversation with some like-minded strangers, while Bacon, the house cat who has his own Myspace page, comes up for a rub. There is rarely a cover charge unless a big name act like Billy Joe Shavers is playing, and they seem to have solved the problem with the old guy that lived across the street. He used to call the cops every time a band started playing. They serve one of the best burgers in Dallas and also have some world class onion rings. The menu is small, but it's all good. The last time I was there, I met one of the chefs who gave us a taste of the new smoked sausage quesadillas and they were rich and very flavorful. Lee Harvey's was voted the Best Bar in Dallas by Observer readers in 2006 and is definitely worth a trip to the other side of the tracks!
1839 N. Henderson Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206 Phone: 214-826-0505
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 4 pm-2 am; Sun 5 pm-10 pm
Louie's is a stand alone building on Henderson, just west of Ross. On enetering, you can tell that the place has been here for a while. The original pressed tin ceiling, old stone fireplace, and brick walls scream "I'm older than you are." A brick archway, behind the well stocked bar, leads back to the kitchen where they make one hell of a Caesar salad and cook a predominantly Italian menu, including some of the best thin crust pizza in town. Louie is a good Greek boy from Chicago and his brother is the chef. They hand-cut their own steaks and grind their own Italian sausage evey day. Louie's Mom lovingly hand-makes all of the pies (don't miss out on the coconut! It's truly awsome). One little quirk; they only accept cash or American Express! They do serve a strong albeit pricey drink, but don't carry any draft beer. There are a number of TVs that usually display college or pro sports, while the usual gang throw out comments, from the bar. Hand-drawn portraits, of regular customers, line the walls, giving the place a similar feel to the old Joe Miller's, on Lemon (where The Loon is now). If you're longing for the feel of one of the old Irish bars in Chicago or New York, this place is certainly worth a visit. There's another nice review of the place here... http://metroplexeats.blogspot.com/2007/05/louies.html
5415 Maple Ave. Suite 103
Dallas, TX 75235 Phone: 214-688-5515
Hours of operation: Mon-Sun 11 am-2 am
Sharon and her husband David (don't mess with him, he's an ex-pro wrestler!) have owned this place for a long time and have seen it through several fires, but still manage to keep the bar looking the same as it has since the '70s. They serve a mean burger and some tasty nachos. On Sundays they have live jazz from 3 pm to 6 pm, and with the $5 cover, they also set out a snack buffet. Four nights a week they have karaoke and you never know who's going to show up to sing. I've heard that from time to time Vinnie Paul and the Pantera gang will even drop by and belt out a few Carpenters tunes. The bar stools are usually filled with regulars and the beers are cold. Drop in and say hi!
5645 Yale Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75206 Phone: 214-368-9212
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 11 am-2 am; Sat-Sun 12 pm-2 am
This SMU hangout tends to get pretty rowdy during major sports events, but can be a lot of fun. The place boasts two big screens and about twenty other TVs, three foosball tables, four pool tables, several dart boards, three Golden Tee machines, and a jukebox. They do have a patio with ten tables, but on nice days, these tend to go very quickly. During happy hour (daily, 11am-7pm) pitchers of Miller Light, Bud Light, and Shiner Bock are only $5. The Cheese fries, tacos, and burgers are always good. Parking can be difficult on busy days.
One Nostalgia Place
6521 Abrams Rd.
Dallas, TX 75231 Phone: 214-348-8407
Hours of operation: Sun-Sat 9 am-2 am
Just a half a block from Skillman and Abrams, this mellow watering hole, that opens at 9 am (for those who like to get their drink on early), sports cold $1.50 mugs of draft beer and $6.00 pitchers from open to close. Longnecks are $2.25 during happy hour (9 am-3 pm). They have a big screen and 4 smaller TVs, shuffleboard, karaoke on Fridays, and even free wi-fi, so bring your laptop. The bartenders and waitresses are very cordial. A good place to start or end your evening, or day for that matter!
1613 Greenville Ave. (behind the used tire shop)
Dallas, TX 75206 Phone: 214-823-0418
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 10 am-2 am; Sun 10 am-12 am
On very lowest Greenville, behind a used tire store and across the street from the Goodwill, sits Ships Lounge. An unassuming entry with a small sign is all that marks this Bukowski-esqe sliver of a bar. There is a “No Cussing” sign above the old electrical tape repaired, padded-railed bar, and the “real” jukebox (one of the best in Dallas), pumps out R&B classics and old-timey country tunes. The place is tiny. In fact it’s so small that the bathrooms share a common sink. There is typically an older, local crowd here and they only take cash. They also only sell beer and wine, but you can bring in your own bottle and they do sell set-ups.
The Slip Inn
1806 McMillan Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206
Hours of Operation: Mon-Sat 7 am-2 am; Sun 12 pm-2 am
Don't blink or you'll miss it. The Slip Inn is so tiny... "How tiny is it?" It's so tiny that the front entrance is also the back door! Just kidding. But the place really is small. This laid back lounge actually doesn't care how you dress, has virtually no attitude, and serves up inexpensive drinks! Unfortunately, they don't serve any draft beer. Built on the side of the Save-Way convenience store, the little "L"-shaped lounge has a pool table, a juke box, and several nights a week they feature DJs that spin an interesting mix of hip-hop, trance, and pop. The age of the patrons ranges from 25 to 80. Weekend parking here can be somewhat dicey.
Time Out Tavern
5101 W Lovers Ln.
Dallas, TX 75209 Phone: 214-956-9552
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 11 am-2 am; Sun 12 pm-12 am
This little dive is located just a few blocks east of Love Field Airport, on Lovers Ln. We are big Dallas Stars Hockey fans, and started coming here a number of years ago after we’d heard a rumor that the Stars would show up here for beers, when their plane landed at the airport, after an away game. The décor has a garage/first college apartment feel, with wooden picnic benches for furniture, graffiti on the walls, old hockey skates and gloves hanging from the ceiling, and old sports ticket stubs thumb tacked to the wall. They have a Golden Tee game, a basketball game (like the ones at Dave and Buster’s), and an air hockey table. We have yet to see a Star there but evidence of their patronage is abundant.
Trade Winds Lounge
2843 W Davis St.
Dallas, TX 75211
Hours of operation:
Well, what can I say about the Trade Winds... It is a dive in the truest sense of the word. It has been an institution on Davis for almost 4 decades. This is my neighborhood hangout. The owners (very good friends I'm proud to say) Loretta and Dennis, are absolutely wonderful. Dennis worked at the club for 10 years before he bought the place and you can see Loretta's little homey touches all around the place, particularly in the ladies rest room. The crowd is very colorful and authentic to the area. Many of the regulars have been going to the "Winds" since they were old enough to drink. As it's in a dry area, membership is required. The drinks are inexpensive and on Friday and Saturday nights, David kicks out some of the best Karaoke in Dallas (he has over 250,000 songs to choose from!). There is a regulation size shuffleboard table, a pool table, a bar top video game, and an juke box with a good mix of tunes. It's evident that darts used to be a staple here, judging from the many awards on the walls. Dennis swears that the boards will be usable again, soon. Please stop in and say hi. Good times!
5320 Maple Ave.
Dallas, TX 75235
Hours of operation: Mon-Sun 4 pm-2 am
You generally know a bar is good, if tons of "industry" people hang out there. Such is the case with the Windmill Lounge on Maple. Back when Herrera's #1 moved into the old Eckerd's Drugs location, off of Old Denton Drive, this place used to be the short-order diner, The Dutch Kitchen #3. Thankfully, the new owners have retained the original kitschy windmill neon sculpture, on top of the building. The interior has been treated to a black, grey, and red makeover which it wears well. There are a couple of antique tables for larger groups and a cozy corner with love seats and Japanese paper lanterns. A classic pinball machine is also tucked away in a corner. They have a great juke box, a very friendly bar top video game, and serve up good drinks for a fair price. The staff is also very nice and accomodating. They do have a small menu with panini's and apps like cream cheese topped with Pick-a-Peppa sauce or jalapeno jelly! Good vibes here.
2110 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206 Phone: 214-823-5018
Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 7 am-2 am; Sun 12 pm-2 am
The "dive-y-est dive" on lower Greenvile, as one Yelp reviewer noted. This bar has been in business for nearly a quarter of a century, and with the hours that they keep, you're likely to find a friendly, but drunk and rowdy crowd as early as 8:00 am! You heard me right; you can start drinking here at 7:00 am. The patrons (some of whom look to be just a wee bit too young to be indulging in fermented beverages) are as friendly as the bar staff is. Lola, the owner occasionally drops in for a drink and some conversation. They offer inexpensive drinks, in fact $15 can get you three domestic beers and three well drinks. Can you say "cheap date"! Because the place is very small and narrow, with a bar running down the north side of the building, it feels very cozy and homey (if you were to live in a small dark bar with 40 loud, drunk friends). The stage is so small that three musicians are lucky to fit on it. The bar holds about 20 sober people or about 40 drunks, and they have a small pool table in the front. There is hardly ever a cover charge. Very eclectic.
So, that does it for now. I have included most of my favorite dives and look forward to hearing about yours. Happy drinking and slumming!