Launce Rake

Top 10 Dive Bars in Las Vegas

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Thirsty for Cheap Beer and Hard Liquor? Dive Into One of These Local Watering Holes.

Dive bars. They usually don’t make the Chamber of Commerce list of places for visitors to visit. They’re usually better known among the local constabulary than among the Rotarians, but if you really want to know the neighborhood, or the town, know the local dive. You may want to avoid striking up conversations with the derelict on the stool next to you, and likewise avoid ordering the Thai-basil-muddled lemongrass-infused with bitters aged bourbon Asian Manhattan, but there’s no better place for getting a cheap beer and a shot. And God bless America, that’s something we can still do. At least in Vegas.

Our obnoxiously arbitrary Top 10 list:

The Huntridge Tavern
When Kate, the sweetest bartender this side of the Continental Divide unless you’re an asshole, in which case get the fuck out, answers the phone after you’ve drunkenly left your credit card at the bar for the umpteenth time, she greets you with a perky-if-slightly-husky-from-the-secondhand-smoke “HISTORIC Huntridge Tavern!” Historic it is, allegedly the oldest continuously operating gin joint in Las Vegas. It’s across the street from the historic Huntridge Theater, aka theatre, aka the 1948 architecturally interesting movie theater-slash-punk rock venue-slash-cheap furniture store that gives the surrounding neighborhood of hipsters, urban pioneers, junkies and welfare frauds its name. They’ve got TVs with sports and video poker, and, if you’re looking for cheap liquor, the cheapest. Don’t be fooled by the very cool bike rack out in front. Walking into the HT gives you the heady scent of pre-chemically enhanced tobacco, of ointments favored by the superstitious elderly and cheap draft beer. In other words, it is the absolute acme of dive bars. 116 E Charleston Blvd, (702) 384-7377

Dispensary Lounge

Dispensary Lounge Las Vegas

Sometime, about 1978, a local bar took the brave stance of taking back 1974, and the Dispensary was born. In shades of taupe, tan and ecru, this eastside stalwart has survived disco, punk, new wave, grunge, industrial, old, metal, new metal, bell bottoms, skinny jeans, and still has Seals & Crofts on the music system. Regular and pretty good lounge-esque jazz performers (check schedule), with a weird water-wheel-type doohickey on the wall and a kick-ass bar menu, the (family owned since 1976!) Dispensary survives. All hail the Dispensary. All hail 1974. 2451 E. Tropicana Ave., (702) 458-6343

The Double Down Saloon
When does a dive bar stop being dive? A decade ago, when Playboy named it one of the best dive bars in America? Given the extraordinary diversity of folks attracted to this punk-rock haven, it’s not impossible to see one or more of those mag models, but you’re more likely to find working stiffs of various and sometimes unclear genders listening to the best jukebox in the Western world. The management and clientele of the Double Down have thus far successfully avoided the siren call of gentrification. May it be forever and ever. 4640 Paradise Road, (702) 791-5775

The Fifth Avenue Pub
It gives you some idea of the age of this place. Fifth “Avenue,” or street, was changed to Las Vegas Boulevard at least forty years ago. This is not a cute dive bar for tourists, young people, or people with sensitivities to tobacco, vomit or vermin of any kind. Although just a short detour off the well-traveled boulevard, at Charleston Boulevard, one of the busiest intersections in the city. But the beer is cheap, the air conditioning works, there’s none of that irritating sunlight cluttering up the place, and you will meet some interesting locals. Just keep one hand on your wallet. 906 S. 6th St., (702) 385-5000

Champagne’s is an institution, with fuzzy red velvet fer-de-lance wallpaper, decades of congealed tobacco smoke, and shot glasses for light fixtures over the bar. At one time, this place was a hangout of mobsters, but as the Boulevard Mall across the street decayed, so did Champagne’s fortunes. But it’s still a favorite of the drinking cognoscenti. The juke box leans heavily on classic country, lounge and pop from the 1950s and 1960s. The liquor and beer is cheap, but don’t walk in here asking for the latest in New York City gourmet mixology. This is a dive bar. Also, one of the absolute best karaoke selections in the world tucked into the back bar area Thursdays and weekends. 3557 S. Maryland Parkway, (702) 737-1699

The Dive Bar

Angie Divebar

This is kind of a dive bar, well, it IS a dive bar, but it’s also a punk-rock-music bar. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You can also find some country playing in this dark hideaway at Flamingo and Maryland, so it’s. All. Right. Cheap beer and whatnot too. Attractive tattooed bartenders, pool and did I mention that the music is VERY LOUD? Dive Bar is close to the university, but this isn’t a student hangout. Or if they do hang out, they’re keeping it on the down low. The bathrooms, however, need to be investigated by the World Health Organization, but hey, as long as you don’t touch anything – sorry girls! – you should be fine. Probably. 4110 S. Maryland Parkway, (702) 586-3483

The Office Bar
Catty-corner from the Double Down and ensconced in the heart of the gay-friendly Fruit Loop, the Office is neither gay nor punk rock. It is just a bar. With a pool table, a junky old juke box with fortunately out-of-date songs, and a bar. While most dive bars cleave to a clientele of locals, this bar is a (long, drunken) walk from the Strip and airport-proximal rentals to welcome anybody, with any name. Your reporter met a very attractive Serbian hooker there once; our relationship would have blossomed except for her horribly racist attitudes towards Bosnians, Croatians, Gypsies, blacks, Asians, Muslims and Roman Catholics. 4608 Paradise Road, (702) 737-7756

Dino’s Lounge
The Bartolo and Bartolomucci family have run this quintessentially downtown bar since 1962. The sign outside says “The Last Neighborhood Bar in Las Vegas,” and the way things are going, that could well be totally true in a few years. Dino’s is almost to cool to be called a dive car, since people flock there now in a way that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago, but there’s still the old crown hanging on. Juke box and pool, but the karaoke on Thursday’s is outstanding. The location is classic, too – right at the city limits of the real city of Las Vegas, close to Tiffany’s Café, the Olympic Garden, Naked City and the Stratosphere. Everything comes together at Dino’s. 1516 S. Las Vegas Blvd., (702) 382-3894

Stage Door Casino
Truly, you have to have a dive bar that is ON the Strip – or at least a short jog off Las Vegas Boulevard. This Cathedral to Vegas Sin is the dive that time forgot. Don’t come in here expecting to order or receive crafted cocktails of subtlety and wit. This is strictly a cheap and easy bar. Don’t let the name fool ya… this is not the casino you saw in the movies. But they will get you loaded. 4000 Audrie Drive, (702) 733-0124

Hard Hat Lounge
Another classic Vegas dive bar in the shadow – literally, in the wee hours of the morning, the shadow – of the Strip, this just on the west side. Like Dino’s, a relic of 1962 – it was a bumper crop of small bars that year – the fact that the Hard Hat survives is a miracle. With barely any marketing, a long walk from local housing, this gem struggles on. The mural in back of the bar is by a now-deceased painter who used it to pay off his bar tab. 1675 Industrial Road, (702) 384-8987

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