Ah, dive bars. Places with lights so dim, you can barely see the dirt on your pint glass. Where the beer-soaked wood creeks under your boot, between skips from the jukebox. Where you can’t tell whether the wall is holding up the dusted rows of decades-deep décor, or vice-versa. Where the hangover comes in smell-form. Where the only good Tinder dates ever happen.
I could go on, but you get the point. Roll up your sleeves, my fellow patrons. We’re about to go diving. But before I list a few of my local favorites, let’s clear something up. If a dive bar says it’s a dive bar, it isn’t a dive bar. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of quality, local watering holes around town. But not all dives are created equal, and that’s my point. A good bar is like a good guitar. The more history it has, the more authentic it becomes.
If you haven’t figured it out, I love me some dives. With that said, I’m going to get things going and list a few of my favorites. I’d like you to add your favorite in a comment below, so we can get a nice, long list going. I promise to visit every bar mentioned, and add to this article as time goes on. Let’s dive in.
Deep Eddy Cabaret
Deep Eddy Cabaret is alive and well, since opening back in 1951. I went to check it out after it was recommended by a fellow blogger and, let me tell you, this is the real deal.
With wooden panel walls and ceilings so low you have to duck when walking, I knew this place was a gem the second I walked in. Deep Eddy keeps things simple in the way of beer selection and entertainment, and stays true to its roots as a neighborhood bar. What I mean by that is you immediately feel like you know everyone in there, even if you don’t know anyone.
As a bonus, Deep Eddy Cabaret boasts what might be the best jukebox in Austin. Don’t believe me? Just ask Gary Clark, Jr.
2315 Lake Austin Blvd. – Website
C. Hunt’s Ice House
This one’s a bit tough, since C. Hunt’s beloved owner, Chester, recently passed away. I frequent here, and the loyalty local patrons have to Chester and his bar is remarkably evident. This place has a family feel to it, and joining the family is as easy as ordering a beer.
C. Hunt’s Ice House offers such a unique set-up, highlighted by the ice trough that runs the entire length of the bar. Though you can make yourself comfortable outside at one of the many picnic tables, the trough is where it’s at. I never truly appreciated the glory of an ice-cold beer until the trough. Sorry, I just like typing “trough.”
This spot is a must for dive-bar enthusiasts. It’s so divey, it hardly has a real website. Own it, C. Hunt’s!
9611 McNeil Road – Website
The Aristocrat Lounge
Head a little further down Burnet, and you’ll find your way to The Aristocrat Lounge, formally known as the Poodle Dog Lounge. While you’re there, see if you can pick out all of the poodle décor that remains. Great drinking game, by the way.
Beyond creepy poodle statues, The Aristocrat is lined, and I mean perfectly lined, with Marilyn Monroe photos around the entire bar. I don’t mean to harp on the interior design, but it’s a sight to behold, for sure. That is, if you can even see while inside.
This bar is a ton of fun. Not only does The Aristocrat offer a robust and distinctive drink selection, but it also hosts a surprisingly varied assortment of games (including a BADASS Pac-Man table). And when you’re sick of hanging out in the dark, head out to the atmospheric patio, where you’ll almost always make a new friend.
6507 Burnet Road – Facebook page
Earlier, I touched on the importance of history when it comes to a good bar. Enter: The Tavern. Here’s a general timeline for The Tavern, dating back to 1912: grocery store -> steakhouse -> brothel -> bar (that last one since 1933). Oh, and there’s a ghost that haunts the upstairs. Like a real one.
The Tavern has been given a bit of a facelift over the years, but its rich history is still respected through its design and overall feel. This place makes for a great sports bar, with plenty of TVs and an impressive food menu. The upstairs patio, which overlooks the street and has all the Christmas lights you would expect at an Austin bar, is perfect for small groups. Just watch out for the ghost.
922 West 12th St. – Website
There you have it. We’ve begun the greatest and most comprehensive list of authentic Austin dive bars that the Internet has ever seen. The bars mentioned above serve as a good representation of what a true dive bar really is, so if you’ve yet to make your way to one of these fine establishments, I strongly suggest you do so.
As I mentioned, I’d like to keep this going, so please offer up your favorite dives in the comments below. And if you’re ever unsure about whether or not you’re in a real dive bar, then you’re not.
@andychuckchase wants to know:
Give it to me: what is your favorite dive bar in Austin?