Want a cocktail menu? Looking to order something Instagram-friendly? Well, buddy, these ain’t your kind of places.
But if you want a cheap beer— accompanied by a shot on the side— and friendly regulars, head to these neighborhood dive bars. With low lights and relaxed atmosphere, these watering holes raise spirits. Frills and fluff are excluded.
Dive in and check out the assortment of liquors— mainly whiskey— and the grumpy, old men— veteran patrons perched at their favorite stools— then meet the MVPs` women bartenders. These ladies open beers, pour drinks, give advice, crack comebacks like whips, kick out unruly men twice their size and put up with a string of undeserved invectives— all in one night, and all while holding a smile.
Want respect at a dive? Give them respect. The women tending bar at dive bars are tough cookies. It’s up to you if they’re going to be sweet.
Daffy’s Thirsty Duck
5134 Lewis Ave.
Years at present bar: First week of October.
Bar experience: Nope.
What does it take to tend bar here? Sass. Lots and lots of sass.
How do you get rid of unruly customers? You yell really loudly. And then you have everyone else send them off.
What’s your craziest story? There was an argument going on and a guy grabbed another guy by his throat and put him on the wall. It was settled pretty quickly when Larry (the owner) came out and separated them.
Crox Bar & Grill
1776 Arlington Ave.
Years at present bar: 3 1/2 years
Bar experience: This is my second bartending job. My first one was 15 years ago in a hotel bar.
What does it take to tend bar here? You have to have thick skin, big time. I’m the comedian here, I’m the entertainment. I try to be fun. I throw ice cubes at people. If they’re mean to me, I’m mean to them. If they cuss me out, I cuss them out and then we’re friends the next day. I’m fun, but I have a short fuse.
How do you get rid of unruly customers? Nobody wants to leave the party. But we have a liquor license until 2:30am. I tell people, I’m not going to lose my job for anybody. So I would take their beers and push them out the door if I had to. We have a list of people who are barred (banned). They’ll start off at 30 days and sometimes we bar (ban) them permanently.
What’s your craziest story? It was my second day here, and this doesn’t happen all the time, but there was this guy who was in the Centurions motorcycle gang. And he was getting out (of the gang). He owed them money, and they wanted their vest back. They tracked him down to the bar, stopped here and beat the living crap out of him.
4020 Secor Rd.
Years at present bar: 6 years
Bar experience: On and off for 15 years.
What does it take to tend bar here? This is a really good place to work, so just show up and have fun.
How do you get rid of unruly customers?
You just have to have a line. And when somebody crosses it, they have to go. But I’ve never put my hands on anybody. I’ve yelled a little…
What’s your craziest story?
Not here, but one time one of our regulars decided to strip naked in the middle of the bar for no reason. In front of the front door. And it was also a restaurant. That guy had to be removed.
2604 Jutland Ave.
Years at present bar: 13 years
Bar experience: 25 years
What does it take to tend bar here? Anywhere, it takes patience and knowledge of your product and knowledge of your customers.
How do you get rid of unruly customers? Generally, your backup is your customers. Most people don’t have a problem, but if it gets that unruly, you just call 911.
What’s your craziest story? When I worked at Upper Deck, one time they forgot to book a band, and the entire staff had to get up and sing and dance on the stage all night to keep customers in there.
The Thirsty Turtle
531 Oak St.
Years at present bar: 1 1/2 years
Bar experience: 20 years
What does it take to tend bar here? You have to be tolerant.
How do you get rid of unruly customers? You just go along with it. It’s in fun, most of it. If it gets serious, you kick them out. Last week, I had a guy who, when he’s had too much, he gets “handsy.” I try to be nice… nicely mean.
What’s your craziest story? A guy I know came in, it was his birthday. I was busy so I didn’t notice he was drunk. I gave him a beer. He wanted more. I said no. I had a bar full of people and he wouldn’t get off his bar stool. My teeth were clenched and I said, “Get out of my bar.” He wouldn’t leave, so I went over with another guy and drug him out the door. Everyone was singing “Happy Birthday” as we drug him out.
South Side Liquor Box
1214 Broadway St.
Years at present bar: Couple months
Bar experience: 14 years, several different bars in the area.
What does it take to tend bar here? People say stuff about my boobs, but I’m used to it, I’m immune to it. You gotta have patience, you gotta be willing to work with a variety of people. Whether they’re “thugged out” with grills (glitzy teeth coverings) or they look like they belong in a homeless shelter or they’re a stuck-up person.
How do you get rid of unruly customers? Tell them to leave, cuss them out if you have to. If they don’t leave, push the (panic) button, they leave real quick.
What’s your craziest story? I had a stalker. He followed me home. Every time I’d work, he would just sit in there. But he would tip me $300-$400 a shift, so I dealt with it. We’ve got a taser back here, but we’ve never had to use it.
2851 Tremainsville Rd.
Years at present bar: Almost 3 years
Bar experience: 18 years
What does it take to tend bar here? It takes a fun attitude and being efficient and skilled in making drinks.
How do you get rid of unruly customers? Tell them they can’t have any more drinks and ask them to leave. Sometimes they don’t like to go, but on Friday and Saturday nights there’s a bouncer. Or the cops have to be called.
What’s your craziest story? I had a party bus come in, in the middle of the afternoon, probably 10-12 people, and they all started fighting with each other. I ended up having to call the cops. Three went to the hospital that day.