Dive Bars: Grab a Drink at Your Neighborhood Watering Hole

By: Toni Cunningham | February 7, 2014
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Let’s play a word association game! What sorts of images do the words “dive bar” conjure up? It seems that there isn’t a universally accepted definition as to what a dive bar really is. Some people consider it a place the size of a tin can where you can get cheap drinks, while others think it’s a hipster-laden watering hole with plenty of PBR.

According to the oh-so-accurate and reputable urbandictionary.com, a dive bar is “a well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele. The term can describe anything from a comfortable-but-basic neighborhood pub to the nastiest swill-slinging hole.”

Hopefully everyone is (at least somewhat) content with that definition and we can proceed. If you’ve got a problem, get in line. Anyways, in case you hadn’t noticed, Metro Detroit (and the downtown area especially) is full of dive bars. And just to clarify, the usage of the word “dive bar” is being used as a positive connotation—because if you ask me, I’d rather be surrounded by cheap booze and friendly folk than $10 martinis and frat boys.

2 Way Inn, 17897 Mount Elliott St., Detroit, is considered a “fine dive” bar, similar to fine dining. What does that mean exactly? Basically, it’s a great place to grab a cheap drink and kick it with friendly company, without the dingy griminess of some stereotypical hole in the walls.

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While the drinks are always reasonably priced, they’re even cheaper on Thursdays. $2 Thursdays feature several specials, including bowls of chili or soup, bottled PBR, Strohs and Blatz, as well as cans of Black Label and shots of Fireball and Jezy Blackberry Brandy for just $2 each.

Corktown Tavern, 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit, is a 21 and up venue only, with different specials every day of the week. Mondays feature a special guest DJ and $2 High Lifes, well drinks and 16-oz. Genesee Ales.

Whether you’re looking for a “Dudesday,” Ladies Night Out, or a punk night, Corktown Tavern has you covered with specials on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. On those particular evenings, you’ll find several drink specials like $2 PBRs, $3 well drinks and $2 High Lifes.

Small’s, 10339 Conant St., Hamtramck, is separated into two sections. The front is where you’ll find the bar and jukebox, while the live band setup is in the back room. There’s live music more often than not at Small’s, and you can enjoy an ice-cold 24-oz. tall boy can for just $3.

Ye Olde Tap Room, 14915 Charlevoix St., Detroit, has been around for over 100 years and has over 285 beers to choose from, as well as 24 varieties of single malt scotch. Anything that has the phrase “ye olde” in the title has got to make a list of dive bars, right?

The beer selection ranges from local to international ones, and since the bar is housed in a building that’s been around since the 1900s, you’re hanging out at a local historical landmark.

Stonehouse Bar, 19803 Ralston St., Highland Park, is located inside of an old Victorian house and is referred to simply as “the House” by cool dive bar-y people who are in the know.

Dive bars are all about the ambiance and atmosphere (and, okay, cheap liquor), but the House definitely fits that bill.

The Old Miami, 3930 Cass Ave., Detroit, is a popular Detroit dive, one with comfy couches and cozy lounge chairs instead of the typical bar stool. It’s owned and operated by a Vietnam veteran, and the entire place is decorated to the nines.

There’s also a pinball machine, if all of that didn’t sell you.

Gusoline Alley, 309 S. Center St. Royal Oak, has cheap beer and a jukebox, so really what else do you need?

Should you be putting together your own pub crawl of Metro Detroit dive bars, consider hitting up one of the following as well:

  • The Bronx Bar, 4476 2nd Ave., Detroit
  • Harpos, 14238 Harper Ave., Detroit
  • Texas Bar & Grill, 14619 Kercheval Ave., Detroit
  • 3rd Street Bar, 4626 3rd St., Detroit

While you’re out enjoying some of Metro Detroit’s best dive bars, remember to drink responsibly.