- Adam Kincaid For the AJC
Dive bars hold a special place in the hearts of Atlantans.
They're the neighborhood watering holes and the so-bad-it's-good destinations that offer a break from pretense. They're the places where expectations can be lowered in direct proportion to alcohol prices.
Tucked into the folds of our city, most of the great dive bars could go unnoticed behind forgettable signage and plain exteriors, if not for their hallowed reputations. Our favorite dive bars are like the photo negative of our restaurant scene: gone are the celebrity chefs, the famously amazing bathrooms, and the omnipresent combination of vintage light bulbs and reclaimed barn wood.
Atlanta's favorite dive bars bring us back to the basics: cheap beer, standard liquor and mixed drinks whose names are also a list of their own ingredients. Most dive bars even have ashtrays —used, indoor ashtrays.
For all their differences in environment, air quality and general sanitation, we love our dive bars just as deeply as our trending restaurants. The reason: Dive bars don't care what the world wants of them, and that same thinking is extended to us. We can be ourselves in a dive bar, even if that means behaving in ways that we'll regret by morning.
The best dive bars in Atlanta:
1058 Howell Mill Road N.W., Atlanta
Northside Tavern is already the best gas-station-turned-blues bar in Atlanta and a quintessential dive bar by any measure. It's a great place to cut loose with friends, and it's a staple of life on the west side. The only thing better than the music are the prices.
1136 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta
There is no body of water in Little Five Points large enough to support yachting. The décor inside the club is "nautical" in the same sense that saltwater-induced delirium is nautical. Yet, YC is the kind of place where people come together. Whether it's the food, the darts or the respectable prices, Atlanta's only Yacht Club is exactly the kind of fun you'd expect at a L5P dive bar favorite.
789 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta
No article about dive bars in Atlanta would be complete without the obligatory nod to The Clermont Lounge -- that world-famous Poncey-Highland nudie bar behind and below the currently under renovation Clermont Hotel. Don't bring a camera but do bring cash. The Clermont is a cash-only establishment with a strict "no pictures" rule. As a public service to those who've recently emerged from extended hibernation, it should be noted that Clermont visitors expecting a standard strip club experience might be surprised. But those same visitors are encouraged to stick around. Seeing Blondie and friends work their magic is an Atlanta rite of passage.
1091 Euclid Ave. N.E., Atlanta
Nine out of 10 "doctors" agree: Elmyr (pronounced el-meer) will cure your ills. The Tex-Mex food is so delicious, the restaurant's Kirkwood spinoff location -- amusingly named Elmyriachi -- sometimes runs out of food. One Google review of the famous L5P hangout summarized it perfectly in noting, "You'd have to be a stupid, uptight jerk not to love this place."
555 S. Atlanta St., Roswell
Outside the perimeter, there are few dive bars more beloved than historic Roswell's favorite karaoke spot. Chaplins (no apostrophe because, of course, they wouldn't) is where you end a night OTP. It is a deep dive. Yet, it is a dangerously fun place to drink and people-watch. The patrons are a mix of 20-and-30-somethings who've made their way from trendy Canton Street establishments for a karaoke nightcap and bar flies taking in the scenery.