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A Love Letter to Dive Bars

Dear Dive Bars… It’s not me, it’s you that makes me want to be with you every night. I’ll never forget the memory loss you’ve brought me, your Happy Hours that actually last four hours, your “beer and a shot deal” prices perfect for those of us who still don’t really know what we want to do with our careers. How do I Iove thee, diviest of dive bars, taverns and establishments? Let me count the ways, while trying not to lose count.

Your dim lighting contrasts against the neon beer signs, and the impression that shooting darts is still a popular pastime makes me love you more with each recurring visit. Your year-round hanging of Christmas lights makes me feel less guilty about not having taken mine down yet, either. The jar of pickled eggs that is only there to satisfy some obscure state alcohol law requiring that you serve some kind of food fills me with joy and loyalty to you, the dive bar of my choice.

And yet you, Redcoats, you manage to offer a magnificent menu of more than pickled eggs! Your cooked-to-order eclectic collection of British pub dishes like Bangers & Mash and Tri-Tip Sandwich with Chipotle Chips (“chips” is British for “French fries,” because the British can’t stand to say the word “French”) makes me enjoy sharing a meal with you. And your cocktails have character too, with names like Guava Cadillac and X-Rated Mai Tai. On Tuesdays, Happy Hour stays in effect the whole day and on Wednesdays there’s a quality, old-school Trivia Night that absolutely packs your lively Pleasanton location.

Dive bars, you don’t judge my habit of drinking before noon, Thank you to The Riata in Livermore for opening at 8 a.m. to serve the hair of the dog alongside a delicious breakfast. Your dinner menu is good too, with 12 — count ‘em — 12 different burgers, including one called the PMS Burger. (I know it stands for “Provolone, Mushroom and Swiss” but I like to think it’s our private joke.) Yet you haven’t sacrificed your well-earned reputation for making strong drinks. Others should note that you’re about the only place in America that still serves chicken wings where the drumstick and the wing are still combined and counted as a single chicken wing instead of separating them and counting it as two chicken wings. Nobody else even remembers that that’s how chicken wings are supposed to be served. Only you.

Then there’s you, Gallagher’s Dublin Pub. A genuinely Irish pub in — where else? — Dublin, California that has been around for more than 30 years, run by an Irish family that’s been in the bar business for generations. You’re a sight for sore eyes with your talking pool tables with stained-glass pool table lights hanging by chains above them, just like God intended but the millennials never got the memo. And while I love the dive bars’ tagging and graffiti on their bathroom walls, you’ve taught me to like clean and nice bathrooms for a change.

Then there’s you, the true dive bar, the one that genuinely wants to be a dive bar and has a long history of doing just that. Like Elliott’s Bar in Danville. You’re nearly a hundred years old and such a dive bar that your motto is “Elliot’s Bar: Helping Ugly People Get Laid Since 1907.” You proudly display the dozens of sports team pennants given to you in those hundred years along with the countless neon signs given to you by beer brewers, all while serving up crazy-strong drinks at prices so low that one wonders how you’re still in business.

Dive bars, there are painful and hung-over mornings when I wish I could quit you. But then Happy Hour arrives and that sentiment comes to a complete halt. So I grab myself a bar stool and tell my friends all about my love for you, the primo dive bars of the Tri-Valley, where you’re always serving them strong, and the lush life never ends.

By Joe Kukura