Ten Favorite Dive Bars in Greater Phoenix
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
In the mood for a little slumming? Any of the dank dives populating metro Phoenix are sure to do the trick, each of which offer cheap booze, cheap thrills, and memorable drinking experiences aplenty.
While many of our favorite local dives have fallen by the wayside (such as Neuman's, Pete's Newsroom, Six East, or Mecca Lounge) over the years, plenty of other beer and booze joints dot the Valley landscape and feature all the hallmarks of a classic dive experience: Furnishings held together with duct tape, copious stains of a questionable nature, and various pickled foodstuffs lurking about in jars.
Here's our list of some of the best places to get a little bit of the lowlife in your nightlife.
Eager for an early start to your daydrinking? The doors at this McDowell Road alehouse open exactly at 6 a.m. every morning. Happy hour prices start promptly at 9 a.m. and is typically attended by hard drinkers eager for their morning brew, whether its of the malt-and-hops variety (domestic bottles are offered for $2.50) or something a caffeinated nature (cups of coffee go for 50 cents). Like most dives, microwaved snacks and dirt-cheap cigarettes are for sale, its resident barflies are both unusual-looking and eager to chat, and the atmosphere here is relaxed, as illustrated by occasional patron who stops by wearing pajamas.
9. Mother's Bar & Grill
Perched among the dusty lots and industrial warehouses of West Buckeye Road, Mother's is a ramshackle saloon devoid of frills but filled with character. Shuffle across the stained plywood and concrete floor and belly up to the wooden bar where many a regular has carved their name. A mere four brews are on tap, illustrated dollar bills decorate the ceiling, the smoking patio is a mess of rusty beer cans and cigarette buts, and probably the fanciest mixed drink served are the homemade Cheladas poured into gigantic plastic cups. The bartenders dispense plenty of sass to go along with your drink, but refrain from mouthing off. Just like your own mama, the staff at Mother's don't take no guff and aren't afraid of 86'ing troublemakers.
8. Tallyho Cocktail Lounge
A unique throwback tucked away in a North Scottsdale strip mall, the Tallyho is filled with Olde English decor and an old school aura. Hard drinkers gather amid wrought iron furnishings and get a chaser of kitsch to go with their cocktails. As light streams through stained glass windows and statuettes of monarchs gaze down from high atop their shelves, patrons tie one on at the oval-shaped bar or grab a seat at any of the red vinyl booths to get a snootfull. Owner Lois Richards has persistently kept things the same at the Tallyho pretty much since it opened in 1969, whether it's the tacky look or the ultra-cheap prices (including $3.50 well drinks and $3 brews).
Daydrinkers, blue-collar types, retirees and the neighborhood crowd are always welcome inside this CenPho favorite. Daylight, on the other hand, is not. Every single window at Pomeroy's has been covered with strategically placed two-by-fours, creating a darkened sanctuary for those eager to escape the sun's rays, down dirt-cheap domestics, or dig into some deep-fried eats. The ambient glow of numerous neon signs and TVs provides more than enough light to see, however, and allows just enough obscurity for the colorful cross-section of regulars to get a little privacy at its numerous wooden booths, not to mention the chance to carve their names into the tabletops (much to the chagrin of Pomeroy's proprietors).
6. Royale Lounge
Travel along 16th Street and you're guaranteed to pass any number of divey joints, including places like Rips, CJ's Talley's, and Harvey's Wineburger. None of 'em, however, are as infamous this dank drinkery. The buzzing neon sign above the front door spells out what this joint is all about: Cocktails. It's been that way since the Royale opened more than 60 years ago, as generations of boozehounds have ambled across the stained and well-worn carpet for snifter or two of hooch at the bar, which is covered with duct tape. And chances are likely their glasses were refilled by longtime bartender Lil, who's worked the place for more than three decades. Despite her grandmotherly appearance, the septugenarian drink-slinger packs plenty of sass and might call you "son" as she pours another round or offers up any of the Royale's selection of salty snacks.
5. Palo Verde Lounge
The bar and furnishings are scratched and shabby, its floor is constantly sticky from party fouls, abandoned beer cans litter the place, and the décor could best be described as grungy. And don't even get us started on its cesspool-like bathrooms, which are adorned with grafitti and possess some unforgettable odors. Guess that's why its punky and funky clientele snarkily refer to the Palo Verde as the "Foul and Dirty." They love it just the same, showing up in droves for its copious amounts of inexpensive hooch - including $2 well drinks - as well as a hefty pour, the killer jukebox, and occasional weekend rock shows that feature bands playing in one cramped corner.
While the proprietors of this landmark Gilbert establishment refer to their joint as a sports bar, it still is possessed by an undeniable dive aura. No matter how much team memorabilia is hoisted on the walls, the spirit of its former identity as the old Copper Coin still lingers. There are remnants and reminders throughout the place, including the antique register, an old t-shirt tacked above the shelves of liquor, and the hundreds of pennies located underneath a cracked coating of Lucite on top of the bar. You can still score condoms out a shoddy dispenser in the untidy men's room, waste away the day playing darts and drinking cheap beer during the lengthy happy hour (which runs from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.), or chatter with the colorful bartenders.
3. Swizzle Inn
Take a dive into this nautical-themed North Phoenix watering hole, which is awash in the glow of hundreds of Christmas lights, taxidermied fish, aquatic regalia (including an quasi-outdoor atrium adorned with model ships), and fading paintings of tropical beaches. Swizzle Inn is also awash in cheap booze and drink specials (which are dubbed "the catch of the day"), as the bar staff tends to keep the pour strong and patrons happy. Stop by on the right night and feast on free eats cooked up by owners Bob and Beth Johnson, ranging from a cauldron of bean soup and batch of fresh cornbread to thick slices of tender beef brisket. It will surely hit the spot and help soak up excess alcohol before your trip home.
2. Bikini Lounge
Stop by the Bikini on any weekend night or during First Friday and witness the hoard of hipsters, artists, and funky urbanites filling the place. Visit the Grand Avenue institution any other time of the week and witness the everyday drinkers who call the place their second home. Both of these disparate crowds appreciate its carefree atmosphere, $3 pitchers, and friendly interactions with the hardscrabble bartenders pulling the taps. The lounge's tiki-centric vibe has remained unchanged since its grand opening back in the 1940s, which adds to its charm.
1. Dilly Dally
Despite its Arcadia address and all the swanky neighbors, this East Phoenix institution is anything but upscale. It's a pure, unadulterated dive that fully embraces its sordid and sleazy nature. The sort of place where Charles Bukowski or the fictional dysfunctional alcoholics from Barfly would hang, its equal parts quaint, cruddy, and crude. Spend hours shooting the breeze with barstool philosophers self-medicating with spirits, ogle the cutout collage of nude women, or maybe ponder how long its been since the bar's fish tank has been cleaned. There are also dog-eared paperback books to thumb through, 50-cent bags of hot nuts to enjoy, or spin up some tunes on the jukebox. There are few clocks to be seen inside the place, which allows one to spend hours on end dilly-dallying around at Phoenix's best lo-fi drinkery.
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