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when i want to go to a bar/lounge 9 times out of 10 i want to sip, and sup, someplace sawnk. oh, but that 10th time, i want to go to a old fashioned dive bar. good jukebox, faded vinyl booths, and crusty bartenders that usually call everyone champ or hon. my favorites, in no particular order...

the raven, 3100 block of mount pleasant street, mount pleasant - great jukebox with an eclectic range of rock'n'roll and old motown, and no credit cards accepted. has gotten a tad bit too popular for my tastes. packed on weekend nights.

tune-inn, 3rd and penn., capitol hill - this place is the perfect anti-dote to bars packed with hill staffers who can't seem to talk about anything but politics.

fox and hound, 17th and q (i think), dupont circle - you have to love a place that serves you a glass of vodka and a small bottle of tonic.

what are your favorites?

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Fox & Hounds was much better before they installed a TV in the main room, and their jukebox used to be one of the best, oh around 15 years ago. But yes, the full glass of booze and a small soda is a classic.

The late lamented Mr Eagans. Mr Eagans was for the professional drinker, the ones that started at 11am.

We were at the Raven last Thursday and it was indeed packed. It has absolutely no "decor" to speak of. I liked it.

The Quarryhouse in Silver Spring. Spent many long nights talking over pitchers of Bass ale, then walking up Georgia for a 2am breakfast at the Tastee Diner. Jukebox heavy on the classic rock and oldies.

Wonderland for drinking & jukebox, but don't bother with the food.

Oh my goodness, how could I forget the ultimate U of MD dive the Rendezvous Inn, otherwise known as the 'Vous. Always an inch of beer on the floor, and Violent Femmes on the turntable. Now known as the Cornerstone Bar & Grill and features microbrews. Good Lord.

Edited by Heather
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Good old Dan's in Adams Morgan. The first time I went there, it was with the guy who later became my BF (classy, right?). He lured me there under the pretense of watching the NBA Playoffs together. Of course, the night's game was on TNT, and Dan's doesn't have cable. We stayed and drank anyway. :P

Some friends of mine love Nanny O'Brien's in Cleveland Park, however I'm no fan. A dive bar, by definition, may reek of stale smoke, but for me this place is too much of a bad thing.

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for my first time here I will chime in.

Grogg and Tankard northern Georgetown, across from the Whole Foods...Awesome. My band played so many crappy gigs there in highschool, I remember half.

Townhouse...a mere few blocks from my lovely establishment, 17th and R st. Best Juke box in the city, more Smiths Joy Division and Cure than you could slit your wrists to.

These are my votes, but shy very far away from the food.

Cheers big ears!!!

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I dig a good dive, but yesterday was a bit much. I was walking down Pennsylvania Ave toward 8th St SE and saw that Thai Roma (wtf is that anyway?) joint with a bar called Conrad's attached to it. I've walked by a million times and had never been in, so I stopped in for a beer. Yikes, is that place a dump! Only two other people sitting at the bar-- some dude who was obviously off his ass (at 5:30pm), and some haggard looking old broad reading the paper and occasionally mentioning to the bartender that she hadn't had an orgasm since the Eisenhower administration.

The beer was pretty good though.

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I dig a good dive, but yesterday was a bit much. I was walking down Pennsylvania Ave toward 8th St SE and saw that Thai Roma (wtf is that anyway?) joint with a bar called Conrad's attached to it. I've walked by a million times and had never been in, so I stopped in for a beer. Yikes, is that place a dump! Only two other people sitting at the bar-- some dude who was obviously off his ass (at 5:30pm), and some haggard looking old broad reading the paper and occasionally mentioning to the bartender that she hadn't had an orgasm since the Eisenhower administration.

The beer was pretty good though.

Lightweight.

Try Nanny O'Brien's in Cleveland Park. A too-high yuppie component but, if it smells like a dive, it is a dive.

The Zoo Bar.

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...interesting subject. But, I'll bite:

1.) Dan's in Adams-Morgan - not really a favorite, but a helluva dive.

2.) VFW post on Capitol Hill (3rd and C or D, SE, right across from Folger Park) - a total dive I frequented while I lived on The Hill - every third beer seemed to be free.

3.) The Capitol Lounge - a quasi-dive - good bartenders, good conversations, and always a bevy of people watching to be had.

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Town House is my pick, I think. 17th Street beats 18th Street, and there's something sweet about the green hue to the place. But some of the dive regulars cancel it all out ( like a well known "Mark" who carries newspapers and talks too much ). :P

Edited by Meaghan
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The Zoo Bar.

Huh. We used to go to the Zoo Bar quite a lot in the mid-80's early 90's, and by the end of that time it got pretty yuppified. Has it changed back?

It has the distinction of being the only bar I've ever been thrown out of....well except for the long-defunct Chaplins (now a Mexican restaurant).

Townhouse is a good pick. What about the basement of the Childe Harold? It has a distinctly divey odor.

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Huh.  We used to go to the Zoo Bar quite a lot in the mid-80's early 90's, and by the end of that time it got pretty yuppified.  Has it changed back? 

It has the distinction of being the only bar I've ever been thrown out of....well except for the long-defunct Chaplins (now a Mexican restaurant).

Townhouse is a good pick.  What about the basement of the Childe Harold?  It has a distinctly divey odor.

The Zoo Bar would be a dive even if they were hosting debutante balls. If it smells like a dive (thus, St. Ex is no dive)...If you're too worried about the clientel, go in the afternoon, when the clientel is old retired guys lying about their youth.

Late and lamented: DC Space.

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I used to live in Adams Morgan and was a sucker for Chief Ike's. This was '98-00, before it started to get dj's. The bartender was an ex priest and very abusive to the patrons.

I also visited Millie and Al's a few times, but Asylum before it got popular was the definite goth/dive bar. I was friends with the owners until the broke up and sold out. Now even that place has a dj.

Dan's is a classic, though. Haven't thought about that place in years.

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there will never be another dive in washington to match ellen's irish bub, benbows, on connecticut at r street, which specialized in watered down pitchers of beer. my wife used to go here to dance with one-armed men, and visitors to town were politiely horrified when i brought them into this dark lair, decorated with hand-painted stars on the ceiling. i believe there was a "suicide" on the premises by a patron attempting to prove that his gun was not loaded. nicholas von hoffman was a regular and i remember seeing jodie powell at least once. i suppose this place has been mostly forgotten, but it was one of dupont circle's social centers in 1960s and 70s, when that area functioned more like a village and cantina d'italia near m was the best italian restaurant in your life.

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tune-inn, 3rd and penn., capitol hill - this place is the perfect anti-dote to bars packed with hill staffers who can't seem to talk about anything but politics. 

After a several year hiatus we went back to the Tune in a couple of weeks ago. It's still a dive...but the burgers and beer hit the spot at 2:00 am.

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I used to live in Adams Morgan and was a sucker for Chief Ike's. This was '98-00, before it started to get dj's. The bartender was an ex priest and very abusive to the patrons.

I also visited Millie and Al's a few times, but Asylum before it got popular was the definite goth/dive bar. I was friends with the owners until the broke up and sold out. Now even that place has a dj.

Dan's is a classic, though. Haven't thought about that place in years.

The DJ at Asylum plays death metal so I would not really call it a DJ bar. Still a dive bar with some of the best breakfast in Adams Morgan.

Stetson's remains a dive. Royal Place is a dive bar with entertainment.

In Alexandria the Bayou Room (under 219) was my high school dive bar. Not sure if its been spruced up.

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Childe Harold (downstairs) more by virtue of those who you will encounter there than any particular other characteristic. A former bartender affectionately refers to it as "Darwin's Waiting Room." BTW they have a hight tech juke box that has something like 140,000 tunes stored on its hard drive.

Also how 'bout Big Hunt, say it quickly and it sounds like something else.

spank2.gif

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Have to give a shout to the late great Joseph's on Wilson in Arlington. (Now a bright Irish bar-wannabe). Getting a 6 ounce glass with a bottle of Budweiser is a noble gesture that not many places support.

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Sitting near the roaring fireplace at Polly's Cafe (14th and U) for frosty $2 can PBRs is my choice for a dive bar on a wintry day. Polly's would be so much better if they had better food (i wish to order food from Nema Cafe and drink PBRs at Polly's). The only downfall here is that when you walk out of Polly's after a few drinks you will smell like burned wood.

For lonesome drinking, I echo Saint Ex (and now add Bar Pilar) although I would consider neither as a dive bar.

Edited by Jonu
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If you want all of the amusement of gin-separate-from-tonic without having to trek up to Adams Morgan, Stan's (around 14th and L, or Vermont and L, somewhere around there) is much like Dan's. But it's got the added dive-ishness of being in a basement.

And instead of bringing you the mini-bottle of gin and the bucket of ice and the glass, they bring you a glass with ice and liquor already in it, so full you have to sip some of the straight liquor off to fit the mixer in.

A friend of mine once ordered the Clams Casino there, which seemed to me one of the worst ideas in world history. I stuck with the liquids.

Jael

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there will never be another dive in washington to match ellen's irish bub, benbows, on connecticut at r street, which specialized in watered down pitchers of beer. my wife used to go here to dance with one-armed men, and visitors to town were politiely horrified when i brought them into this dark lair....

I was going to chime in with the Benbow, but you beat me to it. My all-time favorite neighborhood bar in the entire world. Speaking of one-armed men, there was a one-legged old black man named Gene who used to hang out there (this was in the early 70s), a very picturesque fellow who always claimed that he had just gotten out of jail, and that "at midnight I gon' shit on the bar". He would frequently break out into song, his standard being "Bessie, Bessie, Bessie, take them big funky legs offa me!" He was sometimes to be found at Food for Thought in the same era. Remember the phone booth at the Benbow? It must have been one of the last of its kind. Ellen herself, bless her, usually spent the entire day and evening behind the bar, getting further and further hammered.

The Dupont Circle neighborhood was never quite a neighborhood any more when the Benbow closed. I think I'm going to cry.

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The Zoo Bar would be a dive even if they were hosting debutante balls.  If it smells like a dive (thus, St. Ex is no dive)...If you're too worried about the clientel, go in the afternoon, when the clientel is old retired guys lying about their youth.
These days carpool interferes with afternoon sessions at dive bars but point taken.
Late and lamented: DC Space.
Are we counting music venues? Because the old 9:30 Club would absolutely be on the list.
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For lonesome drinking, I echo Saint Ex (and now add Bar Pilar) although I would consider neither as a dive bar.

Agreed, I was referring to that element of a Dive Bar that includes the patron, who is usually doing some serious lonesome drinking, and should that patron be me, then I choose St. Ex.

I put the "dive" in "dive bar."

:P

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This one is for travelers only. The Green Door in Park Hall, Maryland just 1.6 miles North of St. Mary's College Campus is a classic. Woodstove that burns drunks who lean on it, check. Townie and College student tensions on a daily basis, check. Cheap, cheap, cheap beer, check. 10oz Budweisers to go at 2am, check. Smallish pool table too close to the wall, so you have to shoot like Kramer and Mr. Costanza, check. 37.5% chance of catching an STD from the bathroom alone, check. Flip for Foster's, where a Fosters draft is 50 cents but if you call the quarter in the air correctly, its free, check. Thin walls easily breakable, check. Good sand/gravel combination in the parking lot for quality landings when "excused", check. Good memories(fuzzy), check.

Black rooster, not bad, but Fox and Hounds rates as the best in the DC limits, I always feel mungey when I leave. It is also a guarantee to find a current or former Equinox employee drinking there thursday-saturday

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In Alexandria the Bayou Room (under 219) was my high school dive bar.  Not sure if its been spruced up.

I can assure you it hasn't. When I lived in Alexandria I LOVED that place. It was a serious refuge from the tourists. Fun to watch fanny-packed groups walk in, mutter amongst themselves, and walk right out. The bartenders spun some good tunes, too.

I'll nominate the Common Share at 18th and U. The bay window in front adds too much natural light to the downstairs, but in every other respect it's a classic dive. A recent attempt to spruce the place up hasn't managed to scrub away the dive patina, and you no longer need to worry about getting scabies from the grubby couches that were removed from the upstairs. Bonus points for actually advertising themselves as a chicken 'n waffle joint.

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Uh-oh, dive bars. Well, who else is still pouring after a closing shift?

Last night I was chugging Coronas at the Irish Times watching our line cooks play pool. You want divey...I had to look around really hard for a good enough surface to rest my purse on (Laura Biagotti crock, thank you very much) because everything looked too skanky to even touch. But you know what, sometimes you just need to zone out and not worry too much about being ladylike, smart and charming.

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Speaking of Fox and Hounds, as much as I adore the place, can a REAL dive bar have a patio and waitstaff? :P

I still think that Dan's is the ultimate dive bar in the city. If you didn't know it was there you would assume it was a boarded up abandoned building that formerly housed some grubby bar with a hand-painted sign.

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Have to give a shout to the late great Joseph's on Wilson in Arlington.  (Now a bright Irish bar-wannabe).  Getting a 6 ounce glass with a bottle of Budweiser is a noble gesture that not many places support.

Joseph's was awesome. Everything in Arlington is turning into a crappy pseudo Irish pub.

At least there's still Jay's Saloon on 10th street.

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Joseph's was awesome.  Everything in Arlington is turning into a crappy pseudo Irish pub. 

At least there's still Jay's Saloon on 10th street.

And Dremo's, but it is not long for this world. I will shed a tear when that place closes down. It's not often you get a superb dive atmosphere ("Now with leaky roof and drip buckets!") AND a stellar selection of micros. ON TAP.

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Long time lurker, first time poster...

I'd definately second Tune Inn. Happy hour from 4-7 and half priced burgers from 7-10 Wednesday thru Saturday make this an excellent choice. Plus you gotta love their waitresses (just ask them about their grandkids and they'll love you for life).

Lindy's Red Lion is another classic in Foggy Bottom. An outdoor patio, relatively inexpensive drinks, a pretty good menu, and smarmy staff (plus a better jukebox than Tune Inn) make this a favorite.

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I know Dremo's was mentioned, but I gotta add the late, great Bardo Rodeo to the list. Sticky floors, wacked-out murals, bad food, crappy movies that you couldn't hear, Plymouth through the entrance...

So maybe the beers and the clientele were a little too yuppified for the place to truly be a dive (and it probably had pretensions of being a classy establishment), but it was damn close in my book.

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Does DC really have a great drinker's bar, with encyclopedic whisk(e)y and beer selection and halfway-reasonable prices? Something on the level of d.b.a. in New Orleans or New York (both of which are BYO food, which is illegal in DC, I believe)? (I particularly like the NOLA d.b.a., which is divey and quiet--with wireless--by day and one of the best live music joints in the city--with numerous "secret" concerts--by night).

Edited by jparrott
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both of which are BYO food, which is illegal in DC, I believe

I don't this is true, but it may be a licensing peculiarity that I'm not aware of. Aroma in Cleveland Park allows you to bring in your own food. I think the issue is that there are precious few "bars" in D.C. that don't have some minimum food receipts clause in their license. If a place is required to serve its own food it's highly unlikely that they would allow you to BYO.

Edited by TedE
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My vote goes to the [Laughing] Lizard Lounge on upper King St. in Alexandria. Just the walk up the creaky stairs to the bar satisfies the dive criteria, never mind the fun of stepping out of the "ladies room" to wash your hands in the sink that's out in the hallway... great jukebox and always someone interesting to talk to (or just watch)...Larry's a great bartender too.

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BYO food, which is illegal in DC, I believe

When I used to hang out at Bedrock Billiards more regularly, I would often bring a couple of empanadas over from Julia's. Nobody ever complained.

The Raven is still a great neighborhood dive bar, after work during the week. Along with the Townhouse Tavern, it's a favorite of mine. And I agree that the TT has the best jukebox in town.

One place that I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned yet, is the upstairs bar at The Dancing Crab, in Tenleytown. I believe it may be known as "The Malt Shop," according to the sign. Who knows. The place has a wonderfully crusty ambience, replete with walls covered in photos of patrons and half-recognizable semi-celebrities and politicians.

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My favorite local bar, Tunnicliffs Tavern across the street from Eastern Market, is definitely not a dive if you judge it by looks... but if you go in late on a Friday or Saturday night, it has all the other trappings of one -- salty, fun bartenders; a dedicated clientele of regulars; beer flowing freely and cheaply; classic rock on the radio, sports on the tube; and a super cheap late night menu. And it's hilarious that Cliff Wharton of Tenh Penh and Rich Gunter of Eve are both regulars at Tunnis. And a few other local people in the industry (I recall a long drunken conversation with the manager of Ceiba one night) For a place with such mediocre food, it sure does attract some interesting folks -- the Clintons partied their a few months ago! (it was a closed party, natch)

Friends have likened the place to a black hole... for some reason, it just keeps sucking you back in.

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This one is for travelers only.  The Green Door in Park Hall, Maryland just 1.6 miles North of St. Mary's College Campus is a classic.  Woodstove that burns drunks who lean on it, check.  Townie and College student tensions on a daily basis, check. Cheap, cheap, cheap beer, check. 10oz Budweisers to go at 2am, check. Smallish pool table too close to the wall, so you have to shoot like Kramer and Mr. Costanza, check.  37.5% chance of catching an STD from the bathroom alone, check. Flip for Foster's, where a Fosters draft is 50 cents but if you call the quarter in the air correctly, its free, check. Thin walls easily breakable, check.  Good sand/gravel combination in the parking lot for quality landings when "excused", check. Good memories(fuzzy), check.

How I miss this place. Regulars included big dogs, "Madonna Tony" (struck a pose with every pool shot line-up), that Jerry Garcia lookalike who was tortured and brainwashed by the CIA in his basement, Steve Caldwell...

And I don't think my tab was ever over $10- and that was a steep night that made you wonder if you'd ticked the bartender off.

www.greendoortavern.com

Our wedding afterparty was here. You should see my dress (day after).

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I think of the Saloon on U St. as my local, don't-care-what-I'm-wearing dive, but then again, I guess you can't be a dive if you have all those fancy, schmancy German beers. Still love the dark, dingy feel of the place...and the do-gooder owner. Oh, and the slick with butter grilled cheese (provolone with tomato for me).

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Three pages and no love for Stoney's? That's some good drunk food in decidedly modest surroundings.

It's spruced up now, and the drinks were never that cheap, but my work local used to be the odd little bar behind the German deli on the 1300 block of H St. Proper liter steins, an ancient, wheezing Swiss bartender (now sadly serving nectar and ambrosia somewhere up above), a morose Georgian (Caucasus, not cracker) guitarist doing Sinatra covers and our reprobate office IT manager drinking dinner and gambling online on his laptop at the bar. Once the whole "excess inventory" unpleasantness came to light, I almost felt bad about all the rounds he'd stood me...

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This one is for travelers only.  The Green Door in Park Hall, Maryland just 1.6 miles North of St. Mary's College Campus is a classic.  Woodstove that burns drunks who lean on it, check.  Townie and College student tensions on a daily basis, check. Cheap, cheap, cheap beer, check. 10oz Budweisers to go at 2am, check. Smallish pool table too close to the wall, so you have to shoot like Kramer and Mr. Costanza, check.  37.5% chance of catching an STD from the bathroom alone, check. Flip for Foster's, where a Fosters draft is 50 cents but if you call the quarter in the air correctly, its free, check. Thin walls easily breakable, check.  Good sand/gravel combination in the parking lot for quality landings when "excused", check. Good memories(fuzzy), check.

I too had many fun, yet blurry evenings at the Door. Rumor has it that up until the late 80s it had sawdust floors.

Even though I no longer live within stumbling distance, I will always have a special place in my heart (or possibly my liver) for the Raven.

There is also the Quarry House tavern in downtown Silver Spring, an interesting subterranean place underneath Bombay Gaylord. I haven't been in a while, but if it is still around, Mickey's Patio Bar on 8th St SE in Capitol Hill was a pretty divey place. I remember having to wait for the Bartender to finish her poker hand before getting served on more than one occasion.

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Just went to Millie and Al's in AM (again), and can vouch for its dive-iness. The pitchers were so cheap, and if you arrive before 8:30, you can totally snag the window seat, which is one of the best people-watching locales in Adams Morgan.

I'll also put my two cents in for Brickskeller on 22nd and P NW, Mr. Henry's on 6th and PA SE, and Trusty's (can a new bar be a dive? they serve brews in mason jars...) on 14th and PA SE. Should we be putting together a DR.com dive happy hour? We can call it the Belly Flop Hour, or maybe even just "The Bends."

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I'll also put my two cents in for Brickskeller on 22nd and P NW, Mr. Henry's on 6th and PA SE

I'm not sure Bricks qualifies as a dive - that was the place when I was an undergrad at GW that we went to when we DIDN'T want to go to a dive bar. Which, coincidentally enough, was Mr. Henry's, though it was the 21st and PA NW location, which I think is now the PEPCO building.

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