Photo by Thomas Hawk
I LIVED IN VEGAS for four years and went out to dive bars far more nights than I didn’t. There’s one on every corner, often three or four. From the suburbs to the University to Downtown, dive bars are plentiful in Vegas, so a top nine is truly an exclusive list.
It’s against the dive bar spirit to be too discriminating, so I list these in no particular order:
1. Double Down Saloon
Self-proclaimed “The Happiest Place on Earth,” the DD is legendary, but still authentic, as it’s dirtier than ever, and the mosh pit will leave you bloody.
One look at the men’s bathroom, the toilet/urinal/sink, with no stalls, no toilet paper and certainly no soap and you won’t doubt that this icon is still a dive.
The walls and ceilings are painted murals of demonic flapper era naked circus girls and elephants and psychedelic swirls. Punk and psychobilly shows most nights, and never a cover charge, though a donation to the group of hoodlums at the gas station next door is recommended if you want to make it home alive.
If you seek a quieter dive experience, come late, 4 AM on a Tuesday perhaps, when the strippers are getting off work and looking to unwind, and order a round of Ass Juice for one and all.
2. New York Café
Even most locals don’t know about this jewel, where old junkies play the sickest blues/jazz/funk you’ll ever hear on weeknights starting at midnight or 1 AM, until sunrise, with long breaks in between sets. The only cost is whatever you can afford to drink, and your soul.
3. Rush Hour
One of a thousand neighborhood dumps, this one is on the edge of the dreaded Green Valley suburbs, a much needed reprieve from the endless malls. No music here, except the jukebox.
I recommend the graveyard shift, weekends. Tell Josh I sent you and you’re sure to have a few on the house. Great place to just stare into the void.
That’s not “yeyo,” but it’s close enough. This college bar has exotic tacos such as the Shanghai, and a nice selection of beers and tequilas. Just avoid Thursday’s “frat boy” night, and you’ll be fine.
5. The Crown and Anchor
In the mood to watch a classic bar brawl, or better yet, start one? This British style pub is just the place. Real live European soccer hoodlums just looking for trouble at 8 AM on a Sunday morning. Plus 35 beers on tap, and waitresses in plaid skirts.
Imagine the Beverly Hillbillies decorating their home like a nightmare from Frank Sinatra’s third cousin. Avoid karaoke night unless you are masochistic.
7. The Bunkhouse
The walls are adorned with pictures of Gary Cooper in High Noon and John Wayne in half the movies he made. But this is not done out of some postmodern irony b.s.; I think the owners just like westerns. Drinks at the Bunkhouse are stiff and the degenerates are aplenty.
8. Dive Bar
How can a real dive bar be called Dive Bar? Easily. Once you feel the spilled beer, broken glass and general grime under your feet, and see the six inches of plumber’s butt perpetually showcased by the bartender, you’ll understand.
Free punk and metal shows most nights. Open ‘til sunrise.
An institution. Just across from the school, part of the Maryland Parkway drunk stroll, which includes Yayo, and the Crown and Anchor as well, and Champagne’s if your feet are feeling good. Everyone claims to go here, but few actually do, except the loyal handful of regulars who live there.
If you think your life is pathetic, stop by Cheers after 10 PM for two dollar well drinks, two and change for double tall drafts, and look at these hopeless barflies. Open 24/7. Conveniently located next door to the infamous Roberto’s taco shop, the perfect place to get cheap greasy food before you pass out.
For a look at a totally different side of Vegas–check out our Vegas Green Guide.
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Marcus Crowe is coeditor and contributor to Neon Geyser, Porcelain Sky, a poetry journal based in Las Vegas, and featured on www.zeitgest-press.com. He walks and stargazes through deserts and mountains and broods at the end of the bar. He is currently hiding out in Florida finishing up his long awaited novel, and preparing for an international adventure to Patagonia and beyond.