Dive bars, like the lingering vague smells that inhabit them, are difficult to exactly define. So, too, is the dive bar’s appeal, since it varies by individual and depends on any number of different, often-personal factors. And, certainly, no list of eight of them from across the entire country is going to be definitive.
Having said that, this list of America’s most authentic dive bars, published recently by The Washington Post, is a bunch of crap.
While admirably acknowledging it’s an impossible task, the Post’s intentions – and evaluation criteria – seemed reasonable enough for the endeavor. True dives, the paper said, possess the following attributes: "They must have history; they must have regulars; they cannot be expensive; they cannot have craft cocktails."
Agreed! And yet, somehow, Wisconsin was left out. How? Of the eight picks, I’ve only been to Candlelight Lounge in New Orleans – it was very cool; I was very drunk – so I can’t speak to how perfectly they all capture the Post’s dive-bar essence. But to completely ignore the drunkest of our 50 United States when assessing the nation’s top dive bars feels like an oversight.
"Democracy dies in the darkness," is the Post’s lofty new motto, but dives thrive at night. And, judging by its coast-heavy selections – New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Detroit – which, problematically, somewhat recalls our 2016 electoral map, it looks like WaPo left the bar before closing time and, once again, forgot about the Midwest.
Ugh, politics. Now I need a drink. At a dive bar! And since I don’t want to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles for a beer at one of the Post’s posh picks, I’ll just go to one of the eight beloved dives on my local list (click on the link to read about why).
1. My Office
4. George's Pub
While we’re on the topic, what’s your favorite dive bar, Milwaukee? Let us know!
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.