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Cheap Shots

Eight of our favorite dive bars across the country

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There's a time and a place for the perfect Negroni, impeccably poured by a nattily attired mixologist. But sometimes you just need a shot of whiskey, a jukebox and a complete lack of vanity. It is at that time and that place that you should direct yourself to a good old-fashioned dive. When pretension and cash are lacking, here's where to go.

Dan's Cafe, Washington, D.C.
This isn't just a dive; it's the dive. Terrible acoustics. Dicey bathrooms. No windows. Cheap-ass bottled beers. Dust-covered plastic plants. And did we mention the shots come served in ketchup squeeze bottles? It's little wonder in-the-know drinkers head to Adams Morgan for an hour or two of concentrated, wallet-friendly drinking.

The Cloak Room, Austin, Texas
Across the street from the Capitol, The Cloak Room keeps it refreshingly real. (Rumor has it then-governor George W. once stopped in for a nonalcoholic tipple.) Dark, tiny and subterranean, with a jukebox and a salty barmaid named Bev, this is dive-bar paradise. A three-hour happy hour doesn't hurt, either.

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Irish Haven, Brooklyn
Aside from the occasional free-food giveaway, the only calories consumed here are of the beer and well drink variety—no snacks in this haven. But there's a jukebox, a ragtag pool table and Coors Light for $3 (cash only, friends). Martin Scorsese even filmed a scene for The Departed here. Translation: This spot out-pubs every Irish pub in Boston.

The Old Town Ale House, Chicago
"The best bar in the world that I know about," raved no less than legendary film critic Roger Ebert. Do the time warp at this throwback institution that draws a mixed crowd of students, professionals and Second City performers. Solo drinking is no sweat, thanks to the jazz-and-blues stocked jukebox and all that insane wall art to stare at. Remember that whole naked-painting-of-Sarah-Palin-with-an-assault-rifle viral sensation back in '08? Yeah, it started here.

The 5 Point Cafe, Seattle
Some mottos just tell it like it is, and 5 Point's is one: "Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929." The oldest bar in Belltown, located near the Space Needle, slings booze 24/7 and features not one but two happy hours (morning and afternoon). It also serves a full menu around the clock (hello, deep-fried cheese curds), supplying enough sustenance for you to soldier on until daybreak.

Earnestine and Hazel's | Photos: Courtesy of FujoshiBijou, Ernestine and Hazel's

Earnestine and Hazel's, Memphis
Talk about your old haunts—this spot gives ghost tours and claims that a tuneful spirit steers the jukebox, queuing up eerily prescient songs. Crave anything but a domestic beer and you're sh*t out of luck, though there is a local ale from Ghost River Brewing. The food menu features exactly one item: The Soul Burger, replete with onions, cheese, pickles and (you knew it was coming) Worcester-spiked Soul Sauce. We especially dig the slightly later happy hour (5 to 8 p.m.) and the $2 beers that go with it.

Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles
Not all Hollywood institutions celebrate the silver screen. This stand-alone den of kitsch proves that real men and women drink tropical drinks, from classics like the Rum Runner to humdingers like the Uga Booga, made with mystery juices and a lot of Myers's dark rum. The decor sets the scene with floor-to-ceiling Polynesian camp.

Saturn Bar, New Orleans
Out of the way locale: check. Ramshackle exterior: check. Taxidermy-heavy decor: check. Yet this is less a dive than a well-worn institution, now open seven days a week. There are grumbles that the ironic set has latched onto the place—there are now once-a-month back-room dance parties until dawn—so taxi over on a weeknight for a more legit experience.

Have your own favorite dive bar? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Dan's Cafe 2315 18th St. N.W. Washington, DC 20009 202-265-0299 The Cloak Room 1300 Colorado St. Austin TX 78703 512-472-9808 Irish Haven 5721 4th Ave. Brooklyn NY 11220 718-439-9893 The Old Town Ale House 219 W. North Ave. Chicago IL 60610 312-944-7020 The 5 Point Cafe 415 Cedar St. Seattle WA 98121 206-448-9991 Earnestine & Hazel's 531 S. Main St. Memphis TN 38103 901-523-9754 Tiki-Ti 4427 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90027 323-669-9381 Saturn Bar 3067 St. Claude Ave. New Orleans LA 70117 504-949-7532

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