Eater turned to the people behind the Austin food and drink scenes and asked what their favorite dive bars are. Read on for their picks, from Paul Qui’s love of the people at Liberty, White Horse, and Cheer Up Charlie’s, Jason Stevens of Bar Congress’ G&S Lounge’s self-serve hospitality, to Red Star Southern’s Erica Waksmunski’s bathroom drinking at Donn’s Depot.
Paul Qui, chef and owner of Qui & East Side King
"Liberty, White Horse and Cheer Up Charlie's because of the good people that hang out there and the great people that run these establishments. They're as passionate about their businesses as we are passionate about ours."
Deana Saukam, media and events director, of Qui & East Side King
"For me, the Liberty is very nostalgic as a favorite dive bar because it's also home to our first ESK location. I just love the patio, the Liberty team, and I have lots of fond memories there. The White Horse is really fun and special with the live honky-tonk bands playing nightly, and the dance floor that is perfect for two-stepping. I like bringing guests who are visiting Austin there. Cheer Up Charlie's is also great with the big open patio, and that beautiful rock wall backdrop. It's a great place to catch a show, and I remember hanging here in the good old Club de Ville days too. All-in-all The Liberty, White Horse and Cheer Up Charlie's are run by amazing people doing what they love, bringing spaces filled with great energy and good people to Austin.
Jason Stevens, bar manager of Bar Congress
"One of my favorite bars in Austin is the G&S Lounge. They have a killer beer selection, awesome (and some strange) arcade games, but my favorite is their fridge filled with chilled glasses out in the bar for guests to grab a cold mug if they need. I appreciate that touch of self-serve hospitality."
Sarah McIntosh, owner of Epicerie
"I like going to Pour House (or did rather, it just closed), Workhorse and the Tigress. My favorite is probably Workhorse. I order whiskey and it closes at midnight, which forces me to make it home in time for some sleep. Plus it’s cheap, and close to the restaurant."
Erica Waksmunski, owner and chef at Red Star Southern
"I'd have to say Donn's Depot. Back before it was renovated, it would've been Ginny's for sure. Who doesn't love the fear of the ceiling caving in at any moment while watching a chicken shit on a bingo card?!? But these days, I could spend the whole evening two steppin’ and hanging out in the women's bathroom of Donn's (which is constructed from an old boxcar) while knockin’ back Lone Stars."
Andrew Wiseheart, owner and executive chef of Contigo
"Shoal Creek Saloon: crawfish, oysters, and the best Lone Star in town."
Andrew Curren, chef at Easy Tiger
"The dive bar is my favorite kind of bar, and Austin has quite a few I love to visit, including the Horseshoe Lounge, Lala's, and Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon. It's hard to pick just one, but I must say a pitcher of Lone Star with a couple of friends at Deep Eddy Cabaret is tough to beat."
Josh Hare, owner of Hops & Grain
"I’m going to have to go with G&S Lounge on S. 1st. They have an impressive beer selection and the owner/bartender is a pretty rad dude. Unless he doesn’t like you, and then he’s very un-dude. And his dogs are always in the bar. Oh yeah, and they have air hockey and ice cream sandwiches."
Alexis Chong, executive chef at Sway
"I love to go to Crow Bar, 04 Lounge, Black Sheep Lodge mostly. Tall cans of PBR really speak to me. If I am feeling classy, PBR on draft at Black Sheep is nice."
Takuya Matsumoto, executive chef and co-owner of Ramen Tatsu-Ya
"The diviest bar that comes to mind that I like to support is Plush. I don't consider it a dive bar, but more of a DJ mecca with a dive bar feel. I like it because people go for the music and the DJs play what they want to play and not what they feel they have to....like Iggy or Miley. First off, the place is the size of a shoebox. During peak hours, it gets shoulder to shoulder. The inside is super grungy. The floor has years and years of funk on it, but the bboy/bgirls still brave it out and get down on it. The bathrooms are littered with stickers and graffiti. Its a good thing its dark in there. Plush has been around for awhile now and I hope it never changes."
Tatsu Aikawa, executive chef and co-owner of Ramen Tatsu-Ya
"Hands down, my favorite dive bar is Plush on Red River. I’m definitely biased on this joint because I held a weekly DJ gig there for many years. Also, I formed a DJ crew Table Manners Crew. We used to go nuts on Saturday nights! The place is packed like sardines when it goes off. There were many legendary nights there, many great DJs, lots of history."
Steven Dilley, owner of Bufalina
"Yellow Jacket Social! Great vibe, friendly people. Indoor / outdoor. And they sell Texas Whiskey and have a killer cheese plate."
Ania Robbins, bartender at Drink.Well
"Since my husband and I moved to Austin three years ago, Nomad has been our choice for the dive bar. It has a very nice patio and it's a walking distance from our house. But I have to say, King Bee has been stealing the spotlight lately. The place has a dive-bar feel to it but accompanied by a solid spirit selection and outstandingly delicious pizza. Plus, you can play giant Jenga on the patio! Billy and Colette always make you feel so welcome, they're the best hosts!"
Andrew Botticelli, co-owner of Botticelli's & Little Barrel & Brown
"Deep Eddy Cabaret, Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon and Dry Creek Cafe will always be old favorites."
Susana Querejazu, pastry chef at Odd Duck
"I know it's not technically a dive, but Midnight Cowboy still has a bit of that divey, former-brothel charm along with some really great cocktails. I also end up at the Horseshoe Lounge a lot, the boys from Odd Duck and Barley Swine love it. It’s right down the street so its an easy post-shift drink."
Ted Prater, chef at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden
"Lala’s Little Nugget: It’s Christmas year-round and really fun to take out of towners there. The 04 Lounge: It’s down the street from my house and a good little dive bar. Great dollar beer specials on Monday and Tuesday. Horseshoe Lounge: Just a great old divey bar on Lamar. G&S Lounge: If you don’t know what you want to order, they’ll kick you out. It’s hilarious."
Alana Zanello, bar manager of Jacoby’s Restaurant and Mercantile
"I’ve always loved Casino el Camino of course for their delicious burgers and painfully jaded bartenders. I really like Jackalope for a raunchy movie and cold beer. I’ve always thought Donn’s Depot was a blast with the hilarious time warp feel and endless service industry shots. These days though, I love checking out the White Horse and the sea of different walks of life Austin has to offer. And to shake my booty!"
John Lewis, barbecue prince
"Barflys at 5420 Airport."
C.K. Chin, owner of Swift's Attic and Wu Chow
Easily Mean Eyed Cat & Whisler’s. The Mean Eyed Cat did a fantastic job in revitalizing what I would consider an Austin landmark. Also Max Moreland and Jed Thompson are ironically the nicest people to ever own a bar that has the word "MEAN" in it and certainly add a level of hospitality to a "divey" feeling bar. Whisler’s is also phenomenal, just such a perfect representation of taking a building and breathing new life into it (which I have a soft spot in my heart for.) The place has so much character, much like Scranton himself. They just added their mescal bar, Mezcalaría Tobalá upstairs, which just ups its badassedness that much more.