The 14 Best Dive Bars In AtlantaPour one out for more nights we won’t remember at dives we’ll never forget.
The rules on what makes a dive bar a dive bar are a little fuzzy. It’s really a “we know it when we see it” situation. But our loose criteria involve a certain level of grime, cheap booze, and an IDGAF attitude. While most of Atlanta is battling outside developers who don’t understand the fabric of our city, these decades-old dives keep hanging on so we can keep hanging out.
A squat one-story building with metal bars affixed to the windows looks out of place amidst the trendy high-rises in the revamped West Midtown. But what some might label an eyesore, we call the best dive bar in Atlanta. We doubt there’s been any significant upgrades to the place in its 50-year history as a bar, and that’s fine with us. Inside, the walls are painted completely black so the space feels small—even though it houses a pool table, a few tables, and a small stage. But longevity aside, it's the live blues that makes this rowdy venue one of the city’s best nightlife destinations. Seven nights a week, there’s some local musician serenading a crowd of music lovers, tone-deaf drinkers, and anyone out just searching for a good time.
The Rusty Nail Pub is the diviest dive in Atlanta. For starters, the room is divided into smoking and non-smoking sections a la the ’90s. There’s usually a haze surrounding the bar as people puff on cigs and swig beers. Walls are stuffed with old sports memorabilia and vintage beer merchandise, and there are plenty of TVs for watching any game you fancy. But what’s truly memorable about this Brookhaven haunt is the absurdly big 18-foot gun-shaped smoker outside the bar that they use to smoke their juicy meats. So BBQ is the thing to order here along with their impressive hot dogs, which can be loaded down with your choice of eight toppings.
This beloved dive bar in O4W is set to close after this year, making way for some type of new mixed-use development (excuse us while we roll our eyes). The Local is up there as the creme de la creme of wing spots, so we’re sad to see this Atlanta staple go. Darts on the back wall, packed Monday night karaoke sessions, and a big collection of local brews also make this one of the best beer places. So grab a tall boy and some lemon pepper wings and enjoy this place while you still have time. We’re not crying, you’re crying.
What does a boat oar, an old bicycle, a moose head, and a PBR pennant all have in common? Nothing, which is why we always question why they’re all hanging on the walls at The Earl, a small, much-beloved music venue and dive bar in the heart of East Atlanta. Nothing really goes together, but no one really cares because they’re drinking cheap beer and listening to loud rock music. To blend in, grab a beer and order one of the best burgers in the city, the Big Earl—their messy version of a Big Mac that has caramelized onions, sauce, and cheese dripping out the sides—it’ll sober up anyone who has had one beer too many.
A mainstay on Ponce since 1996, this dive bar right next to the Plaza Theatre has become an institution for cheap beers and good food. Dinky chandeliers hanging above the high top tables are more about funny aesthetics than practical lighting since the dimness helps to hide the very lived-in feeling of the bar. Young people are usually spilling outside of the tiny interior onto the sidewalk for a little more air. With a space so small, serving food seems like it would be too chaotic. But thank heavens you don’t need a lot of arm space to eat most of The Righteous Room’s munchies like their hot dog, wings, or nachos.
Little Five is the divey epicenter of ATL. Almost every bar in that hood could be classified as a dive, but Euclid Avenue Yacht Club is the quirkiest and one of the oldest. Their door says “membership not required,” but if it was, we’d absolutely pay the fee to belong. The walls are stuffed with nautical-themed knickknacks (a giant shark, a bust of a mermaid) that look like they’ve been on the walls since the bar opened in the ’80s. After a few reliable beers, we’ll need one of their massive and messy burgers to keep our sea legs. Our favorite is the Backyard Burger with a spicy jalapeño ranch slaw oozing out the sides.
The Howell Mill area has undergone a makeover corresponding with its still-questionable rebranding as Atlanta’s Upper Westside. But when we want to drink with people who keep cash under their mattress, we swing by Mr. C's. The place is instantly recognizable from their sign that offers hilarious life advice such as, “Carrots improve your vision, but alcohol doubles it.” This tiny wood paneled bar has regulars that have been coming here for decades, but newbies will still feel at home here, too. A lone pool table sits among high top tables across from the bar, and a jukebox jams out songs that are as varied as the clientele. Here, the most popular drink order is one more—their sign truly doesn’t lie.
Eleventh Street Pub is a tiny dive bar with almost none of the dive bar staples. There’s no jukebox, no darts, and no pool table—probably because there isn’t any spare space to put ‘em. And instead of spending moolah on a new flashy interior to try and compete with the surrounding buzzy Midtown spots, Eleventh Street simply staples bills from all over the world onto the wooden rafters above the bar. We’ll gladly staple a few of our own dollars up there to bask in this charming, small town bar atmosphere in the heart of Midtown. When we need a food fix the smash burger with two patties and onions caramelized with Coca-Cola is our favorite order.
This is the best pool hall in the city, so naturally the sound of pool balls clacking together and the overpowering smell of cheap beers greets you upon entering this Midtown dive. There are plenty of tables, so you can always find a place to play or test out trick shots without judgment. The laid-back vibes are helped along by the heavy pours (seriously, we always feel like we could breathe fire after taking our first swig). And luckily after a few drinks, we aren’t too discerning about food because offerings, like the pastrami reuben and house burger, are just fine enough to hold us over until we call the pocket for the eight ball.
Black Bear Tavern is a Chicago bar. Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs—they support them all. Avoid wearing any Braves or Falcons gear here on game days because there’s literally nowhere to hide (or dodge dart board players) in the small room. What sets this place apart from other dives is the food. You’ll want to be a regular here after you try one of their burgers, like the Wisconsin with four different cheeses. Wash it down with a beer while you people-watch the tavern’s colorful cast of sports fans who all have eyes glued to the games on all the scattered TVs.
The red door makes this bar easy to find, and the affordable drinks make it hard to leave. Keep in mind this is Buckhead’s version of a dive, so it’s more polished. The front room is home to a variety of arcade games like Skee-Ball and Big Buck, which appeal to its younger techy crowd. The main room holds a single bar and standing-room-only space that’s usually filled with an overwhelming amount of polo shirts and button-downs on weekends. Even the neon sign above the bathroom advertises that rich people party here, so it's the Atlanta dive to take your S-class-driving friends. But on weeknights, the dive bar field trippers stay home, and this place resembles more of a chill watering hole than the closing night of a corporate company golf outing.
When you need a beer break and a bar with a come-as-you-are attitude, Five Paces is the move. Unlike its neighbor Red Door, this gritty bar largely attracts a clientele who want no parts of the otherwise sleek Buckhead bar scene. Beer is the most common thing in people’s cups, so don’t come here thinking you’ll get one of those cocktails that come with a little umbrella. The slightly older crowds pack out the long, galley-style bar room and often spill out onto the huge patio with an outdoor bar. Because there’s no food here, you’re bound to meet a few serious drinkers who enjoy trapping strangers in conversation about the good ole days.
Manny’s is Grant Park’s most reliable neighborhood dive bar. It has an ownership link to Manuel’s Tavern, so it’s got some built-in street cred. Worn, wood tables look like they’ve seen a bar fight or two and help give the place a been-around-for-decades feel even though the place is only a few years old. An exposed brick wall dividing the two rooms that hold a few dart boards, arcade games, and soccer scarves make it feel possible to bump into avid watchers of both Ted Lasso and Sons of Anarchy. As an extra bonus the food is very solid with plenty of sandwiches like the meaty reuben and a cheesy smash burger that goes perfectly with a cold beer.
The back wall of this Inman Park bar is decorated with quotes like, “You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.” Clearly, casual drinkers need not apply here. An older crowd of locals fill the seats at the bar, and old black and white photos of historic buildings in Inman Park line the walls. If it reeks of neighborhood pride from the decor to the clientele, it’s probably because this is one of the few real neighborhood-y bar scenes in Inman Park. With a few larger TVs above the bar, things can get sporty here, too—and there’s often someone who’s had one too many yelling at the screen. The menu is identical to their sister restaurant, The Bucket Shop, so their burgers and other bar bites are solid.