Feel like slumming it?EXPAND
Feel like slumming it?
Benjamin Leatherman

11 Dive Bars in Metro Phoenix

Not every single bar in the Valley is a pristine, well-maintained watering hole. As a matter of fact, there are those that have seen better days and are, quite frankly, shabby as hell. The floors are usually sticky with beer and booze, the furnishings were worn out long ago, and there’s a certain aroma in the air of cleaning supplies or other potent scents.

Sounds like paradise to us.

Naturally, we’re referring to the Valley’s cache of dive bars, better known as the places where bar flies bend elbows, where day-drinkers go to avoid the sunlight and abuse their livers, and where everyone else (ourselves included) go when they want to slum for a bit. Cheap booze and cheap thrills are the norm, as is kitschy décor, lowbrow fun, condom dispensers, duct-tape on the bar stools, and, of course, a colorful bunch of regulars who are eager to make your acquaintance ... whether you like it or not.

As is the case with many genres of bars, some places are better than others. Here are 11 such dives around metro Phoenix that more than qualify.

The Bikini Lounge is a staple of Grand Avenue.
The Bikini Lounge is a staple of Grand Avenue.
Benjamin Leatherman

Bikini Lounge
1502 Grand Avenue
602-252-0472

Despite its name, the Bikini Lounge is not the place to gawk at busty bartenders in swim wear. Instead, this Grand Avenue mainstay and dive bar favorite is a blend of every personality on the downtown spectrum. Friendly, long-term bartenders serve drinks to the business crowd, hipsters, and artists from nearby neighborhoods, and, ahem, more regular joes who have been visiting the bar for years. The Bikini first opened its doors way back in 1946, making it the oldest watering hole in Phoenix. It maintains its '40s appeal, only making basic repairs throughout the years, while updating its overall vibe with professional DJs spinning several nights a week.

Pool tables at the Break Room.
Pool tables at the Break Room.
Lauren Cusimano

Breakroom Bar & Grill
4729 East McDowell Road
602-267-1010

Formerly the First Quarter and Johnny’s East Side, this east Phoenix standalone bar is easily spotted, but we’re sure, often avoided. More fun for us at Breakroom Bar & Grill, then. The bar staff is accommodating, and the patrons are usually just trying to play pool. As the name would suggest, there are numerous pool tables and dart machines, bar-wide parties for heavy drinking days like St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve, pub food with billiard-related nicknames, dangerously inexpensive drink specials, and plenty of bar game tournaments and karaoke nights to feed your competitive side.

Drop in, drink up, and stumble out.EXPAND
Drop in, drink up, and stumble out.
Benjamin Leatherman

Do Drop In
9501 North Seventh Street
602-944-1323

Imagine your zany uncle wanting to convert the basement into a bar and your aunt letting him. The result would probably be a lot like the Do Drop In. With its wood paneling, drop ceiling, and low fluorescent lighting, this iconic Sunnyslope watering hole has been a neighborhood mainstay for years. It's an odd place, featuring a curious collection of libations (everything from Oskar Blues Old Chub to Alaskan White Ale, and single servings of Sutter Home), along with cheap-ass cigarettes and microwave snacks of the greasy and belly-busting variety. The Do Drop doesn't make apologies for that — or so suggests the "No Sniveling" sign above the bar. The locals may take a while to warm up to you, and the tough-but-tender barkeep is quick to give a newcomer some heat for not closing the front door, but once you've paid your dues, do drop in again, won't you?

A mainstay of Mesa since 1982.EXPAND
A mainstay of Mesa since 1982.
Benjamin Leatherman

Jupe's
2655 West Guadalupe Road, Mesa
480-897-1006

Jupe’s first opened way back in the early 1980s, and certainly looks every bit its age. That’s not a slight by any means, however. We wouldn’t change a thing about this out-of-the-way scruffy Mesa haunt — from the crumbling stucco and mismatched office furniture in the smoking area outside, to the patchwork wood paneling and period-specific beer signs inside — nor would its diehard devotees and neighborhood regulars. They’re welcoming to a fault, much like the members of the same family that have slung suds in ice-cold mugs for three decades, to those who can find this word-of-mouth spot, though they’ll sass you for rooting against their beloved Minnesota Vikings or trying to pay for a one-buck Jell-O shot and Natty Light chaser with plastic, since Jupe’s has been cash-only, and big on Purple Pride since Day One.

Meow that's what we call a dive bar.
Meow that's what we call a dive bar.
Laura Hahnefeld

Kat's
2309 East Indian School Road
602-957-2444

Once known as the notorious Liguori Lounge — a spillover joint for the defunct rock 'n' roll landmark the Mason Jar — this CenPho dive has maintained its neighborhood hidey-hole status by welcoming a diverse, and sometimes tough, crowd. Down the narrow hallway running the length of the bar (which is peppered with license plates, airbrushed pics of hotties, and feline photography) Kat's opens up into a rec room of sorts with pool, free Texas hold'em tournaments, and a claw game filled with porn DVDs. The longtime locals are happy to chat it up while downing daily drink specials or happy hour brews, and they won't hesitate to dance whenever a Bette Midler song booms from the jukebox.

The infamous men's room at the Dirty Verde.EXPAND
The infamous men's room at the Dirty Verde.
Benjamin Leatherman

Palo Verde Lounge
1015 West Broadway Road, Tempe
480-656-9699

There’s a few reasons why people sometimes refer to this Tempe institution as the "Dirty Verde" — and it ain’t just because that’s a cute and clever nickname. Put simply, the cash-only Palo Verde is a lovably well-worn mess that boasts an array of band stickers covering the walls, myriad graffiti adorning every single inch of both restrooms (even the old-school condom machine above the urinal), and more funk than the Motown catalog. And we love it just the same. A curious cross-section from all over Tempe (be they college kids, neighborhood folks, or people just hanging in the back) visit the Verde to start their drinking during the daytime or to grab one last round before last call (and it gets even weirder on the weekends). Cheap booze flows like water here, and a variety of local punk, hardcore, metal, and noise rock bands perform in one corner on the weekend. That's right: There's no stage here.

The wood-paneled walls of Pomeroy’s – where you can easily kill a lunch hour.EXPAND
The wood-paneled walls of Pomeroy’s – where you can easily kill a lunch hour.
Lauren Cusimano

Pomeroy’s
5551 North Seventh Street
602-264-5411

Set among all the new restaurants and coffee shops along Seventh Street in Uptown, find Pomeroy’s tucked away in the Cinema Park Village Shopping Center. This place has been family-owned and titled Pomeroy’s since it opened in 1983, and it is certainly a neighborhood hang. Unless the door is cracked open, there’s no way you can tell the time of day. Instead, try a game of pool, explore the small arcade area, order some wings, gaze at all the weird shit decorating the bar area, or try to explain to your neighboring stool-warmer how Venmo works (actually, don’t). This wood-paneled haven is the perfect daytime drinking escape, or even just good place to kill a lunch hour.

The interior of the Royale Lounge is just as quaint.EXPAND
The interior of the Royale Lounge is just as quaint.
Benjamin Leatherman

Royale Lounge
2428 North 16th Street
602-253-2217
Though 16th Street is filled with its share of Mexican food joints, discotecas, and distractions, nothing stands out as brightly in the darkness of night as the vintage sign adorning the Royale Lounge. While dive-seekers and hipsters make evenings and weekends busy, the bar stays lively during the day with working stiffs squeezing a beer or two in on a lunch break, and neighborhood regulars sipping spirits around the clock. If their conversations aren't enough to keep your attention, their pinball machine, pool table, jukebox, and an amber-colored jar of pickled eggs might do the trick. The bartenders are plenty amicable, but don't try to pay with anything other than simoleons, as The Royale is a cash-only joint.

Climb aboard.EXPAND
Climb aboard.
Benjamin Leatherman

Rum Runners
8355 North Seventh Street
602-944-8616

Ahoy, mateys. There be more than a few barflies that gather within the cramped confines of this pirate-themed dive located in north Phoenix’s Sunnyslope. Maybe they come for the weekly Wii bowling or shuffleboard tournaments. Then again, it might be for the inexpensive drinks (which are handily listed on the wall as “grogs”), the amiable vibe, and the ultra-friendly bartenders that will eagerly pour ‘em another round here at Rum Runners. Be warned scallywags, they won’t take any of your guff and will quickly deep-six anyone who’s had a few too many or gets too rowdy. Just be grateful they won’t make you walk the plank.

Keep an eye out for the Wanderin sign on McDowell Road.EXPAND
Keep an eye out for the Wanderin sign on McDowell Road.
Lauren Cusimano

Wanderin
4140 East McDowell Road
602-275-1062

When you, ahem, wander in to this east Phoenix barroom, it's immediately obvious you're in for some real dive bar debauchery. Happy hour runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wanderin, and drink prices are scribbled on liquor bottles with a Sharpie. The Wanderin opens at 6 a.m. to an old-school, hard-drinkin' neighborhood crowd that's anything but bashful when it comes to socializing. The back room is never used, and the no-frills interior has seen better days. Along with the booze, the joint boasts an array of cheap, microwaved munchies, and, of course, cigarettes. When you're not busy petting the Chihuahua relaxing on the stool next to you, or doing shots whenever the regulars shout "Get 'er done!" feel free to talk with one of the down-to-earth barkeeps or play "Solitary Man" by Neil Diamond on the jukebox, and watch the place break into song.

Just another night at the Westwood.EXPAND
Just another night at the Westwood.
Benjamin Leatherman

Westwood Tap & Grill
1818 West Glendale Avenue
602-995-5897

Lots of bars try to pass themselves off as "friendly," but how many places are cool with customers' pooches scampering about? Saying Westwood Tap is a "welcoming" place is an understatement when you see a schnauzer cruising past the cocktail waitress slinging drinks. Doggies aren't the last of Westwood's charms: A vending machine glows in the corner, ready to dispense munchies or cigarettes, and the venue's long mirror, which runs the length of the bar, makes it possible to watch the developing action in the room as if it were a widescreen movie. Join the patrons as they shout at the basketball game on TV, and sing along to the piano bit from "Layla," or plop down at the bar's retro-grooviest feature, a cocktail unit arcade equipped with Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga.

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