11 Best Dive Bars in Phoenix

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

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.

Climb aboard.EXPAND
Climb aboard.
Benjamin Leatherman

Rum Runners
Ahoy, mateys. There be more than a few barflies that gather within the cramped confines of this pirate-themed dive located in North Phoenix. Maybe they come for the raucous karaoke sessions or weekly goldfish races. 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. 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.

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

Westwood Tap
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

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

Kat's
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 East Phoenix institution, Wanderin.EXPAND
The East Phoenix institution, Wanderin.
Benjamin Leatherman

Wanderin
When you, ahem, wander in to this East Phoenix hole-in-the-wall, 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 who'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.

Closing Soon...for 31 years now.EXPAND
Closing Soon...for 31 years now.
Benjamin Leatherman

Closing Soon Saloon
Fish in gumball machines, potted plants on tables, and colorfully whimsical hand-drawn signs advertising drink specials are some of the eccentric visual elements on display at this decidedly eclectic Scottsdale gin joint. This neighborhood tavern has lasted more than 30 years, serving up spirits and suds from a storefront wedged between a laundromat and taco shop. The walking-distance locals are as diverse as the jukebox playlist, which ranges from Frank Sinatra and ABBA to a-ha and Zeppelin. Drinkers suck down bargain booze while the barkeeps line the empties on the bar, keeps watch over the quarter game (drop a coin into a jug of water — if it lands in the shot glass at the bottom, your next drink is discounted) and doles out raffle tickets for the "Cash for Customers" game, in which the winning number means more green and another night of strange times at the Closing Soon Saloon.


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