“Definitive” List of DC’s Dive Bars

The Big Hunt - one of DC's dives

The Big Hunt – one of DC’s dives

[UPDATED 7/14/17 – Revised In light of Tim Carman and Fritz Hahn’s articles about dive bars for the Post, including 1) The Top 8 Dive Bars in DC Area 2) Why a Bunch of Bars are not Dive Bars, and 3) Is the Tune Inn a dive bar?; Edited 2/25/16 in light of Twitter comments and particularly some great Reddit commentary; thanks to Borderstan for linking]

The topic of DC’s dive bars often leads to lively debate-just see the comment section of Thrillist’s list of top DC dives. Many self-proclaimed dives have sprouted up throughout town in recent years, a phenomenon detailed in a great piece in the Washington City Paper in August 2014, leading to the term “thrive bar“,as well a persuasive DCist argument that the DC dive bar is dead.

To settle this once and for all (ok, not really), Barred in DC’s definitive (and comprehensive) list of DC’s dive bars is here (with apologies to many Ethiopian and Hispanic spots that might fit the bill). Definitions of dive bars abound-though this list eschews any particular definition and instead tracks public perception of whether a bar is a dive or not. That being said, in italics underneath each bar’s name, reasons why a particular spot really isn’t a dive are included (including whether the Post weighed), and in reality, most of these would be called just a neighborhood tavern in most cities not named DC.

Other bars that are “divey” in certain ways  but not full-blown dives are also listed. Since many feel age makes a difference (including Tim and Fritz) (though only about 40% of our Twitter followers think so), the year of opening is included to help draw your own conclusion. Finally, interesting stories about many of the bars in the list are linked.

 

Old-School

  • Raven Grill (Mount Pleasant) – 1935
    • dunno, too many hipsters and bros on weekends?
    • Post Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Dan’s Cafe (Adams Morgan) – 1940s (current owner since 1965
    • has a bouncer and line to get in, not really a neighborhood crowd, not open 4 days a week, only opens at 9p, still shitty as hell
    • Twitter poll results
    • Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Tune Inn (Capitol Hill) – 1947
  • Post Pub (Downtown) – late 1950s / current name 1974 / current owner since 1976
  • Trio’s Fox and Hounds (Dupont) – 1967 / current owner 2013
    • large TVs, cleaned up in recent years, big patio
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Chuck and Billy’s (ColHi/Pleasant Plains) – late 1960s
    • haven’t been yet
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Black Rooster Pub (Dupont) – 1970
    • business district
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, Fritz Hahn would make a decent case for an after-work dive bar
  • Stan’s Restaurant (Downtown) – 1970s / current owner since 90s
    • sort of more loungey than divey, in business district
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive bar because food is too good
  • Lindy’s Red Lion (Foggy Bottom) – mid 70s
    • college crowd, decent food, business district
    • Post Verdict: Likely not a dive bar because of college crowd
  • Kelly’s Irish Times (Capitol Hill) – 1978
    • Irish bar, too many kickballers, business district, big patio
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, probably not
  • The Bottom Line (Downtown) – 1979
    • business district, corporate-ish crowd for lunch but not so much after work
    • Post Verdict: Not a Dive
  • The Fireplace (Dupont) – 1990
    • haven’t been yet, DJs/VJs?
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • The Big Hunt (Dupont) -1993
    • beer is too good, elevated patio, young crowd on weekends, doesn’t open til 4p on weekdays, lots of fun events
    • Twitter poll
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive because of beer
  • Player’s Lounge (Congress Heights) – 1994
    • haven’t been yet, but seems like a definite dive, it was formerly a strip club for godsakes
    • Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • Harry’s (Downtown) – 1994
    • touristy, lots of natural light, business district
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, unlikely to consider dive
  • Recessions (Dupont) – 1996/1997
    • young crowd on weekends, in business district, hotel
    • Post Verdict: Unclear, Posssibly might be too much of after-work crowd
  • Velvet Lounge (U Street) – 1997
    • live music club
    • Post Verdict: One of top 4 best true dive bars in DC
  • The Meeting Place (Dupont) – ??
    • never been, in business district
    • Post Verdict: Unclear

The New DC Dive (Post would consider none of these dives due to young age)

  • Black Cat’s Red Room Bar (early 2000s)
    • in live music club
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Wonderland Ballroom (Columbia Heights) – 2004
    • dance club, DJs, not open til 4 or 5p on weekdays
    • Post Verdict: Not dive b/c too self-aware of hipness
  • Trusty’s (Capitol Hill / Potomac Ave) – 2005
    • kitschy with mason jars for beer and schoolbus bar upstairs, brunch, not open til 4p on weekdays
    • Post Verdict: Fritz Hahn says it’s a great neighborhood bar but bus makes it too much like a theme; he said it was on way to being a dive back in 2005
  • Solly’s (U Street) – 2006
    • brunch, lots or programming
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Red Derby (Columbia Heights) – 2007
    • Fancy cocktails, brunch & decent food, roof deck
    • Twitter poll
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive due to roof deck
  • The Pug (H Street) – 2007
    • good beer, hipstery upscale vending machine, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys
    • Post Verdict: Close to being true dive, but loses points due to fancy vending machine
  • Codmother (U Street) – 2011
    • too crowded and dancey sometimes, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys
    • Post Verdict: Would be a dive due to cheap beer/grungy environment and funny cocktail names if it wasn’t so new
  • The Pinch (ColHi) 2012
    • food too good, doesn’t open til 5p on wkdys, live music focus in basement
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Showtime Lounge (Bloomingdale) 2013
    • DJs & dancing
    • Post Verdict: Would be due to cash-only policy, $5 beer-and-a-shot combos, a CD jukebox, Redskins wallpaper in the bathroom, a house band, but too new
  • Bravo Bar (ColHi/Pleasant Plains) – 2014
    • doesn’t open til 5p
    • Post Verdict: Would be a dive if not for age/lack of veneer of grease
  • Ivy & Coney (Shaw) – 2014
    • roof deck, doesn’t open til 4p on wkdys
    • Post Verdict: Unclear
  • Lyman’s Tavern (ColHi) – 2014
    • never been, good food and beer
    • Post Verdict: Not a dive

Some Divey Aspects but not a Dive 

  • Downtown/Foggy Bottom/Georgetown: The Exchange (1973), Mr. Smith’s of Washington (in old Chadwick’s) (2015)
  • Dupont: Sign of the Whale (1981), Larry’s Lounge (1992), Buffalo Billiards (1994), Lucky Bar (1997), Bier Baron (2010)
  • Adams Morgan: Bedrock Billiards (1992), Madam’s Organ (1992; current location 1997), The Blaguard (2008), Shenanigans (2012)
  • Logan Circle/ U Street: DC9 (2004), Stoney’s (2006), Duffy’s (2006), Dodge City (2010), Black Whiskey (2013)
  • Cleveland Park – Atomic Billiards (1993), Nanny O’Brien’s (mid-90s)
  • Capitol Hill – Bullfeather’s (1979), Tunnicliff’s Tavern (1980), Capitol Lounge (90s),  Billy Goat Tavern (2005), Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (??)
  • H Street – Jimmy Valentine’s (2007), Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (2009), Atlas Arcade (2012)
  • Petworth/ParkView/Columbia Heights – Looking Glass Lounge (2008), DC Reynolds (2012)
  • Chinatown/Penn Quarter: Irish Channel (??), Rocket Bar (2007)
  • NE DC: The Dew Drop Inn (2015)
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One response to ““Definitive” List of DC’s Dive Bars

  1. Pingback: Barred in DC’s Definitive Dive Bar List: Mapped – District Ninja·

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