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5 must-visit Vegas dive bars

Super-cheap, gloriously smoky and ridiculously awesome. Dive in!

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Cheap hooch? Check. Odd décor? Check. Giant water wheel? This must be Dispensary Lounge.
Photo: Leila Navidi
Molly O'Donnell

When it comes to dive bars, Las Vegans have the pick of the litter. So why do we only ever hear about the usual suspects? While Dino’s, the Double Down and Champagnes are classic fare, let’s be serious; we live at a dive bar buffet. If you’ve never been to these places, go—now! If you have, consider how they stack up against your top divey haunts. We think they fit right in.

Dispensary Lounge

2451 E. Tropicana Ave., 458-6343.

The first time I stepped foot on the shag carpeting at the Dispensary, I thought I was in dive bar heaven. Beyond the dive-standard cheap hooch, there’s a moving water mill that takes up a whole wall, year-round Christmas lights and a kindly bartender. Subtract a roomful of sad drunks holding down bar stools and you may have reached nirvana, or you’re just at the Dispensary. According to the guy slinging drinks here, people used to come in from “town” on horses. They built the shopping center around the bar, so this place is 100 percent legit.

Favorites

4110 S. Maryland Parkway, 796-1776.

A lousy name for a bar, Favorites is actually kind of a favorite with the young and tattooed. Hidden in plain sight in a strip mall next to Buffalo Exchange, this is a punk-rock dive with bands (who’ve probably been sleeping in their vans for months) playing nightly. From the outside it looks like a party supply store or a front for cocaine operations, but inside, there’s no mistaking the dive-bar aesthetic. The place is spacious, so there’s plenty of room to skulk into a corner with a beer and a million cigarettes and avoid the blaring bands. But why would anyone go to a rock club—dive bar or not—to do that?

Rum Runner

1801 E. Tropicana Ave., 736-6366.

Technically this is a Packers fan hangout, pool hall and chain (with three Valley locations), but if you don’t like billiards or football, they won’t send you packing. When there isn’t a pool tournament going down or a cheesehead convention, it’s just heavy drinkers drinking heavy (cheap) drinks as they slam dollars into video poker machines. Bartender Garth even offers a friendly smile as he tells you to pour out the contents of your water bottle. (You know you’re in a dive bar when they think you’re sneaking in liquor.) Still in doubt about Rum Runner’s dive cred? Check out the portrait of the man with massively disproportionate limbs and the smattering of carny décor and get back to me.

Cheers

1220 E. Harmon Ave., 734-2454.

Unlike at its TV counterpart, when everybody knows your name at this Cheers you’ve probably fallen on hard times. Or maybe just fallen off your chair. By far the cheapest of our surveyed dives (around $3 for well/rail), Cheers is a good place to get drunk. And since it ditched the heavy fluorescent lighting, this place has definitely improved. With pool balls clicking and TV’s blaring in the background, Cheers is a nice spot for a totally anonymous drink.

Bunkhouse Saloon

124 S. 11th St., 384-4536.

Yes, this is a music venue where Neon Reverb holds shows and hip bands sometimes play. But don’t kid yourself, the rest of the year the regulars keep this place afloat. On your average weekend, you could cut the smoke in here with a samurai sword and still not see the bar. The Bunkhouse might be Western-themed, but it feels more like a sweat lodge with low ceilings and people unintentionally hot-boxing one another. If the décor and dramatic nicotine fog don’t give it enough dive-bar mystique, the clincher is when you find out they have food. Don’t feel the need to order anything. Dive bars are for two things: drinking and commiserating.

Tags: Booze
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