The Best Dive Bars In Oakland, California

Chelsa Lauderdale

It’s a well-known fact that dive bars are among some of the most coveted hang-out spots in the USA. What’s not to love: drinks are cheap, characters are colorful and bartenders are knowledgeable. These Oakland dive bars live up to ‘dive’ standards and are some of the best places to drink in the East Bay area.

1. Missouri Lounge

Bar, Vegetarian

Missouri Lounge, Berkeley
Photo Credit: Heart and Dagger Saloon
Missouri Lounge features a full bar and hefty beer selection. The quickest way to beat the line at the bar is to order the $5 ‘Special’ (shot of whiskey and a PBR) or, for the same price,’El Special’ (shot of tequila and a Tecate). The grill serves a variety of traditional bar foods including burgers, hot dogs, and vegetarian options. Though Missouri is relatively small inside, there is plenty of space on their outdoor patio which has long wooden tables and benches, or, for a more private experience, wicker huts with comfy seating for four to six. DJs spin a variety of music nightly and there’s an open mic every Wednesday. Dogs are allowed on the back patio area, so Missouri is the perfect bar for dog owners and enthusiasts alike.

2. Heart and Dagger Saloon

Bar, Pub Grub

Heart and Dagger Saloon has all the markings of a biker bar, the patronage of Heart and Dagger ranges from bikers to techies to the average Joe. However, bikers do get the star treatment, with the ample motorcycle and bike parking right out front. The interior space is small—half of it is taken up by the bar and the other half is a game room dedicated to the pool table, pinball machines, and a handful of arcade games—so plan on sitting on the patio. The drinks are always cheap and strong, smoking is allowed on the patio, and this bar lovesdogs.

3. Radio

Bar, Pub Grub

Radio, Oakland
© eastbayjay/Flickr
True to it’s name, Radio is all about the music: with an ever-changing DJ lineup there’s always something different playing. It could be death metal, it could be 1970s disco, or it could be Jay Z’s complete discography. Stop in on Sunday night for Sunday Night Snackdown from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. every week and enjoy an all-night Happy Hour and free snacks. Radio’s location also makes it the perfect place to start a night of bar hopping, with tons of other bars within walking distance.

4. Merchant’s Saloon

Bar, American

© Zach Den Adel/Flickr
Merchant’s Saloon’s caters to the morning- and day-drinking crowd. They appeal to a diverse crowd: crust punks, yuppies, tourists fresh off the ferry from SF. What do all these people have in common? They love cheap, strong drinks and they like their music turned up. This is the kind of bar where $5 will do, just bring a couple extra bucks for the jukebox and a tip.

5. Nick's Lounge

Bar, American, Pub Grub

Nick’s Lounge is a karaoke bar but the drinks are cheap enough to fit the dive bar profile. Karaoke gets going nightly and continues until the early hours: there are always regulars who put on a great show. Nick’s is quite a small space but they offer reservations, which usually are a good idea for larger parties.

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