What is a dive bar to us? A dive bar is anti trendy. There is no jumping on the newest anything, it is a bar with cheap drinks, sometimes decent food, and a bunch of regulars. You might be one of them. We might be too. Either way, we wanted to share what we have learned so you can make an informed decision on your alcoholic impulses.
Before we get into it, every bartender in town probably knows this but did YOU know that the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest drinking night of the year? We have never heard it called this but apparently it is known as Blackout Wednesday or Drinksgiving — and in a way this says a lot about everyone having to hang with the in-laws for a few days.
It has been 8-9 years since we have updated this list and the city has lost a few classic places but there is a bunch more to add, so let’s get into it.
Ed. note: Damn you Reddit! Beat us to it but this list has been on my list for several weeks.
5406 Lakeside Avenue
A bar in a tiny strip mall out in Lakeside that has been around since the seventies with a sign that is super faded where you can barely read it. Pretty good indication that things don’t change around here. Karaoke every Tuesday thru Saturday filled with blue collar locals that sing old country tunes and eighties’ throwbacks. Good fun! The pours are huge and cheap with a bar that seats about 40-50 people with a ‘smoker’s room’ in the far back. Plot twist: They are owned by a nice Korean family that serves halfway decent bulgogi!
2101 W Main Street
Their brunch might be the most drunken Sunday Fundays spot in the city. One of our original favourites in The Fan with a few large seaters so you can show up with friends — cheap drinks, affordable bar food that never changes and low lighting that makes everyone look half way decent at last call.
2706 E Main Street
Settled on that super sketchy sharp turn at the end of Shockoe Bottom, this place is a dive, but a fun Irish pub if that is your scene. More big pours, decent food, small bar with a patio and ample seating if you want to bring the kids to watch you get hammered.
Patrick Henry Pub
2300 E Broad Street
Our favorite haunted bar up in Church Hill with a bar crowd that runs the spectrum. Expect older for happy hour and more creative types aka ‘characters’ later into the night, this place is the best spot for people in the neighbourhood to get a buzz and then wander back to their homes without the drive. For the rest of us, don’t drive drunk down through Shockoe Bottom — cop central!
City Dogs In The Fan
1316 E Cary Street
A bar that is filled with locals that graduated VCU sometime in the last 5 years but have yet to move away from the school. You got cheap hot dogs, decent cheese covered fries and a happy hour that runs super cheap.
Bubba’s Bar & Grill
4000 Williamsburg Road
Haven’t been to Bubba’s but every time a dive bars list gets mentioned someone always brings them up, so here we are bringing them up. Report back with your findings.
217 W Clay Street
Take an outrageous alien filled metal band bent on your destruction and put that vibe inside a bar in Jackson Ward. The food is creative, the bartenders are fun and on any night of the week you will find a few good people to strike conversation with. Expect metal music, varied crowd and a nice big patio in the back to mingle in.
2416 W Cary Street
Is taking a beach bar and putting it in the city seen as trendy? Not sure, but to us this is a huge dive bar that’s a great place to meet up with a bunch of your friends while still having ample room to move around. Live music some nights, sports all the time, bar food and cheap booze. Near Buck Hunter and that virtual golf game is where you will find us milling around.
Rose Marie Inn
8923 Patterson Avenue
A no frills hole in the wall inside a small strip mall out on Patterson with great pours, a bunch of regulars with a smattering of hipsters that decide to make the drive on the weekends.
901 W Marshall Street
Honestly, the food is too good to be in the dive bar category but the actual bar sure feels like a dive bar — cheap beer, eclectic crowd and 70-80s decor inspired by movies like Heavy Metal and Conan The Barbarian. The patio out back has live music on occasion and don’t worry about the motorcycles usually out front, everyone here is super friendly and like they say, no jerks.
McCormack’s Irish Pub
12 N 18th Street
This used to be big part of the Shockoe Bottom scene back in the day, and if you’ve been around that long your picture might be on their wall of fame leading upstairs. We are here to tell you it is still super fun with an off beat crowd of goths, punks, loners, losers, and everything in-between. If you are looking for a walk on the Richmond’s weird side — your night should start, or end, here.
2813 Hathaway Road
Big room pool hall that specialises in — darts. If you had an urge to get in the dart game, this is your ticket into that world. Good selection of beers, decent bar food and plenty of room to wander around — if you live in and around Stratford Hills you should check it out.
Dug Out Bar & Grille
1510 Mountain Road
This is a little outside the city but for people living out there this is their dive bar watering hole. Karaoke several times a week, locals, cheap booze and a dope little pool room off to the side. Friendly patrons that might give you side-eye to city folk but the drinks make up for it. Every time we went, and we went several times, its been a blast but if you live in the city, don’t drive there if you dont have to.
Home Sweet Home
3433 W Cary Street
This tiny place at the end of Carytown makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. Expect a great vibe, super small bar, with a sweet patio to people to look down on the shoppers wandering by. Feels a bit like going over to your friend’s house. Also, if you love hockey, you can prob catch a Caps games here.
Sheppard Street Tavern
2922 Park Avenue
Live in the Museum District, or what used to be called the Devil’s Triangle, and want a decent spot to get a drink? It is nothing fancy but another friendly bar where you can get to know the locals that make up the area and have a few smokes on the patio. Relaxed atmosphere, the food is decent, good brunch menu but really its a spot to catch a buzz that is light on the wallet.
1 S. Mulberry Street
We found out a few weeks ago that Bamboo Cafe is named after the famous rolling papers and back in the 70s somehow this tiny place used to have rock shows with lines that would go around the block. Today it is much quieter but still one of favorite places to get a drink with a bartender line up that gets along with everyone. For those that remember that show Cheers, this is like Cheers to the people that go there on the regular.
1727 East Main Street
Sometimes you need to look beyond the cover to find a great book. For those of you not used to being out of your element but looking for a good time, Wonderland is like a great book. Once you get in there, you will see that the bar is filled to the brim with horror punk decor, 80s themed pop culture, and a bunch of people dressed in dark clothes — the place is a trip to hang out in but we always have a great time. Also, they have some killer shows from time to time, its worth a visit to Shockoe Bottom.
The Locker Room
5035 Forest Hill Avenue
The grand daddy of them all and a hold over to what Richmond bars used to be like. The pours are stupid huge and the bar is old and cheap looking as hell. You can get drunk playing shuffleboard or picking out songs on the jukebox. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the whole place is smoking except for a small room in the back. Any night of the week, there are the blue collar locals and a bunch of across the Nickel Bridge city types, aka us, coming in to get blasted. Not going to lie, its always fun — just expect to get wasted and call a Lyft to and from.
That’s it for this round. If you have a place you feel needs to be on here, let us know.