Our 5 Favorite Downtown Dives
Best Bar for Drinking Before Grocery Shopping
Come as you are to this no-frills joint located inside the beloved Phoenicia Specialty Foods market. Though it otherwise has all the atmosphere of your local Starbucks, the bar feels buzzy when a DJ or live band hits the stage, which is often and gets packed when there’s a concert or a basketball game at nearby Toyota Center. As a bonus, pretty much every wine on offer pairs well with the store’s flaky baklava. Just saying.
Best Bar for Partying Like a (Literal) Rock Star
If you think bars should be loud and dark, have bathrooms full of graffiti, and employ bartenders rather than mixologists, this is your place. Too hip to be a dive and too rock ’n’ roll for the hipsters, the Dirt nevertheless has a large fan base. Don’t be surprised if the headliners performing across the street at House of Blues pop in after their set.
Best Bar for Pretending You’re in Mexico
The Pastry War
This little bar sources its tequilas and mezcals from Mexican distilleries that harvest their agave sustainably and mixes them with ingredients like jamaica (hibiscus) and spicy Tajin. Have a couple of habanero-serrano margaritas amid the Día de los Muertos figurines and café lights, and you’ll swear you’re drinking on a lively patio in Guadalajara. The place even accepts pesos.
Best Bar for a Drink with Bill Nye
The vibe here could easily feel pretentious if it weren’t for the kitschy cocktail menus, inspired by everything from Astroworld to the movie Point Break—and, most importantly, a puckish obsession with the science-y side of drinks. The bartenders, led by managing partner Alex Gregg, first wowed us with the Anna Nicole Smith cocktail, a classic White Lady that morphs into a Corpse Reviver No. 2 halfway through drinking, thanks to liquid nitrogen and other stuff you once learned about in chemistry class.
Best Bar for Pretending “New” Downtown Never Happened
It wasn’t so long ago when to live and hang out downtown was to be a bit of an odd duck, someone who rejected the siren call of the McMansion in favor of an urban loft and weekend strolls through empty downtown streets. If that was you, your bar was this friendly, laid-back dive, where the jukebox is almost always playing something cheesy and Jell-O shots are almost always on offer. Owner Sunny Vik is usually on hand, ready to chat and pour you a strong drink. Just don’t try to make off with one of her koozies.