While business professionals, college students and many out-of-towners are attracted to Dallas’ trendy cocktail bars and upbeat clubs, there’s a thriving dive bar scene for locals and visitors alike who enjoy a laid-back bar atmosphere with no formal dress code and cheap drinks. Though the top dive bars of Dallas differ in their decor and specialty drinks or food, they all provide a chance to interact in a relaxed spot over a cold one or two.
The sign outside of Lakewood Landing reads “Upscale Dive,” hinting to the ironic and sarcastic nature of the dimly lit, gritty bar and its bartenders in Lakewood, an area adjacent to White Rock Lake, about a 17-minute drive northeast of downtown Dallas. The clientele is mostly Gen X with millennials and boomers sprinkled in, and many are seen weekly, if not a few times a week at “the Landing,” as many locals call it. The food here is of typical bar fashion, with the corndog as a well-known favorite. Beware the jalapeno poppers – they’re flaming hot! Drinks are cheap, especially the beers, and best enjoyed on the outdoor patio where patrons in their 20s, 30s and 40s with tattoos, black digs and cigarettes chat and mingle in a laid-back fashion.
Cosmo’s takes the crown for being a super retro dive bar in Dallas. It sits on the border of East Dallas and Lakewood, just a few minutes’ walk from Lakewood Landing, and features ’60s-style chairs, a cool jukebox, dim-lighting and films from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s on the big screen TVs. There’s also a great outdoor patio filled with patrons, a firepit and a cool vibe. The bar is as known for colorful cocktails, mostly rum- or vodka-based concoctions with cool names like Chocolate Tinis, Irish Neckties, Sex with Jackson’s and Paris, Texas. It’s hard to beat a classic Cherry Limeade cocktail. Dig in on the bar’s pho or Frito chili pie – they don’t disappoint – or pizza on Sundays as it’s half off. As Cosmo’s is the “fanciest” of the dive bars in town (and not really that fancy), some visitors sport vintage or chic dresses and rompers; however, most seem comfortable in jeans and casual tops. The bar tends to draw those in their late 20s and early 30s for the most part, but you might find some 40s and 50s patrons sprinkled in.
Located on Lower Greenville, a trendy street filled with restaurants, outdoor patios and a variety of bars and coffeeshops, Single Wide is the little sister dive bar to Double Wide in Deep Ellum, a historical neighborhood known for its live music scene just a five-minute drive east of downtown. Visitors can expect the same retro-inspired drinks at Single Wide that are found at the larger establishment, like Yoohoo Yeehaws, a frozen and spiked Yoohoo and the Twisted Tang. Most locals order a Grandpa’s Glory – a Lonestar beer, shot of Old Grand-Dad and Parliament cigarette – from their favorite bartenders like Dave, who often wears a hat and rocks a killer beard. The dive atmosphere comes from the fact that Single Wide is small and long on the inside with quirky decor, a large bar, small sitting area and an even smaller outdoor patio, which is often shoulder-to-shoulder with millennial hipsters, alternative intellectuals and big-bearded men rocking rock band or pithy-sayings T-shirts. Despite limited space, there’s weekly events like bingo and old-school DJs.
There’s not much to Tradewinds Social Club beyond a bar, pool table and a lounge. However, it has built a loyal clientele since 1968 by enticing dive-lovers with live music that ranges from eclectic DJs to bands, karaoke nights, movie screenings, pizza and pop-up food specials like sushi burritos. The clientele depends on the night but is pretty diverse in age and style – some rock distressed jeans and black tops while others have on hats, shorts and Dallas Cowboys shirts. Oak Cliff, where the bar is located, is not known for its thriving nightlife scene, but rather for its great Mexican restaurants and daytime shopping at boutique stores found in the Bishop Arts area. However, with Tradewinds Social Club in the mix, Oak Cliff isn’t without a good place to meet new people and enjoy a good drink in the evenings, especially during 5 to 8 p.m. happy hour when domestics are $2.50 and wells are $3.00.
If you’re looking for a great place to have a drink and hear live blues or karaoke, The Goat is the right dive bar for you. The patrons here range from hipsters in their 20s to blue-haired hippies and motorcycle-enthusiasts in their 60s, all brought together for their love of good music, cheap drinks and a good time. It’s a casual atmosphere, with visitors swaying to the music, dancing or crowding around the bars, tables or pool table, especially on Tuesdays when ladies play pool for free after 7 p.m. Don’t be surprised to find people at The Goat in the morning – happy hour is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Drive 18 minutes northeast of downtown Dallas and you’ll find The Goat among a small shopping center, just a few minutes’ drive from the shores of White Rock Lake.
The Grapevine Bar has been a Dallas dive bar since 1996. Decor is mixed and matched to create the perfect dive atmosphere. Plus, there’s a rooftop deck with downtown views and an outdoor basketball court for patrons. With signature frozen drinks on the menu like a peachy Bellini or a Tangarita (Tang-inspired margarita), watching a pick-up basketball game can be quite entertaining. A location in Oak Lawn, the city’s LGBT-friendly neighborhood that’s a 10-minute drive north of downtown, means there’s a mixed crowd of LGBT and straight visitors. You might be hanging out with a drag queen one minute and an overly masculine rugby star the next. Whoever you meet at The Grapevine, just know they’ll be laid back and interested in catching a game on the big screen while sipping on a $2 or $3 drink during all-day happy hour Sundays through Tuesdays, or from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays.