The Best Dive Bars in Washington, D.C.

Despite the seas of suits, ties and lady pantsuits, the District still loves a down-and-dirty dive with crappy bar food, a jukebox and cheap drinks. From basement lounges to seedy “grills” (whose “grill” addendum is often obsolete), these are the D.C. stalwarts of mediocre drinks and superbly dingy decor.

  • 1

    Ivy & Coney

    Do you miss Chicago? Do you miss Detroit? Ivy & Coney is your bar. Do you like hot dogs and cheap beer? Ivy & Coney is also your bar. The drinks are limited to a few cheap picks including Stroh's, Old Overholt and Old Grand-Dad. In fact, everything's cheap, even membership; store your booze in a locker if you're a regular.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • jukebox
    • cheap date
    • sports
    • bar food
  • 2

    Madam's Organ

    A play on the name of the bar's neighborhood, Adams Morgan, Madam's Organ is a D.C. institution welcoming in misfits, musicians, punks and artists for over two decades. While the food and drinks are nothing to write home about, the weekly musical line-ups are. From blues to pool to karaoke, this is a one-stop shop for messy bliss.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • live music
    • cheap beer
    • late night
    • bar food
  • 3

    Quarry House Tavern

    Crappy décor in a dive is requisite. Often it's just a few tin beer signs or a wooden placard with a cliché about how the bartender is always right. But some dives go the extra mile: a boar’s head adorned with underwear, a “Fuck Yelp” bumper sticker. Add a killer beer and whiskey list, great burgers and Old Bay Tater Tots, and you've got the Quarry House Tavern.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • lots of whiskey
    • bar food
    • cheap date
    • live music
  • 4

    Showtime Lounge

    Primarily a jukebox joint, Showtime has a stellar collection of R&B and vintage soul curated by owner and DJ Paul Vivari. And, best of all, it's free. Drinks aren’t much more expensive: Grab a $5 “ComBOH” (Natty Boh and cheap bourbon), spend some time in the bathrooms where vintage Redskins articles are pasted all over the walls and cue up a few songs. Though it's only been open since 2013, Showtime has the makings of a longterm dive.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • jukebox
    • craft beer
    • cheap date
    • live music
  • 5

    The Raven Grill

    The funny thing about the Raven—which holds Washington, D.C.’s oldest liquor license—is that it’s called a “grill” and has a neon sign that reads “cocktails,” yet it offers neither food nor cocktails. That is, unless you’re willing to consider potato chips dinner or Jack and Coke a cocktail. But it does have personality a plenty. From students to taxi drivers, the newly immigrated to longtime residents, the Raven teems with the real D.C., far from the shadow of the federal city.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
  • 6

    The Red Derby

    Can a place that serves brunch also be a dive bar? In D.C. it can, as long as shots and beers are available and there are no fancy riffs on the Eggs Benedict. The Red Derby is a bar foremost, and a bar that can manage a decent Tom Collins alongside boilermaker specials. But because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, falling somewhere in between a neighborhood haunt and a dive—or, more accurately, a dive-bar-to-be.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • bar food
    • cheap date
    • games
    • outdoors / patio
    • craft beer
  • 7

    The Red Room at Black Cat

    You go to Red Room for the music at Black Cat. It's a bar to take a break from the show upstairs, or wait for it to start. But it's a bar, with its lo-fi table games, stellar jukebox and eclectic décor, that still deserves a visit on its own. The bartenders have just the right amount of swagger (sometimes musicians themselves) and the beer is priced right.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • games
    • live music
    • jukebox
    • cheap date
  • 8

    The Tune Inn

    Guy Fieri loves The Tune Inn, which should turn most discerning people the other way, but it’s been in the District since 1947 and has earned its place on the list of the most notable dive bars in town. After a fire in 2011 forced a remodel, much of the old grime is gone, but it still has the same greasy food, cheap beer and flotsam decorating the walls. It’s also one of the last dive bars left in Capitol Hill.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • cheap date
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