Cocktails created by award-winning mixologists are great, and we love a fancy wine bar. But sometimes, all you want is an inexpensive cocktail enjoyed in an authentic space. And a dive bar is the perfect place to do just that. These eclectic spaces aren’t trying to be anything other than what they are: an easygoing, local spot to drink, relax, and enjoy. Here are a few of our favorite dive bars in Derby City.

The Back Door

Neighborhood: Tyler Park
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This local haunt is one of the few places in town open until 4 a.m. daily, often serving as the final stop before locals head home after a fun night out. Formerly a warehouse and storage facility, The Back Door’s 5,000-square-foot space is now filled with billiards tables, darts, foosball, and arcade games. The bar’s most notable interior feature is the massive mural, which features the faces of more than 1,000 patrons. Louisvillian Bill Page, a longtime customer of The Back Door, created it.

mural on a wall with numerous faces and two people playing pool
Bill Page painted this mural at The Back Door. It features the likenesses of more than 1,000 of the bar’s customers. Image: The Back Door

In addition to ample indoor seating and tons of games, there’s also lots of space on the outdoor patio. There’s a full bar to accommodate all your drinking whims, plus a kitchen that serves late-night bites (until 2 a.m.) such as burgers, nachos, chili, and wings. Be sure to try the house special, Bombers, which are hand-rolled wontons stuffed with chicken, jalapeños, mozzarella, and cheddar cheese, served with sweet chili sauce.

burger and chips on a white plate
This chicken salad sandwich is a special at The Back Door. Image: The Back Door

The Hideaway Saloon

Neighborhood: Bonnycastle
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This dive bar and music venue opened in 1996, and it’s one of the few places in Louisville still offering ’90s prices. The spot serves $1 jello shots, $3 Fireball shots, and two-for-$10 Irish car bombs. Guests can also expect a daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., along with other specials. The bar’s name is derived from its discreet location; if you blink, you just might miss the hidden staircase entryway. But regulars can show you the way to affordable drinks, which can be enjoyed from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily.

pile of Jello shots next to video game controllers on a bar countertop
The Hideaway Saloon offers $1 Jello shots and free video games all day, every day. Image: The Hideaway Saloon

The Hideaway Saloon is also a video game lover’s dream, with a wide variety of consoles available for free gameplay. From Mario Kart Double Dash on a Nintendo GameCube to Halo 5 on an Xbox One, there’s on-screen fun for all. For non-gamers, the bar also boasts table tennis, billiards, and darts.

Men playing video games at Louisville dive bar.
There’s no charge to play any of the games at The Hideaway Saloon. Image: The Hideaway Saloon

Mag Bar

Neighborhood: Old Louisville
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Set on the corner of South Second Street and Magnolia Avenue, this Old Louisville gem prides itself on cheap drinks, a surly staff, and the self-proclaimed “best jukebox in town.” The bar opened its doors to Louisvillians in 1962, and today, it’s serving up drinks and bites seven days a week, from 3 p.m. to 4 a.m.

drum set and other equipment on a stage
Numerous concerts and events are held on Mag Bar’s stage, dubbed the Magnoliadome. Image: Mag Bar

The shelves are lined with more than just drinks — they feature eclectic decor, including everything from eagle sculptures and a tiki mask to skulls and a pair of fishnet-clad mannequin legs. The interior offers a lot to look at while enjoying weekly specials like all-day happy hour prices on Mondays or “pint & slice” Tuesdays, where each pint purchase comes with a free slice of pie from Pizza Donisi (next door). The bar also hosts regular music acts on the stage space, dubbed the “Magnoliadome.” Its annual music festival, held from July 20 to July 23 this year, features four days of live music from multiple genres.

shelves filled with liquor bottles and various knick knacks
Mag Bar’s decor is unlike any other drinking hole in Louisville. Image: Mag Bar

The Pearl of Germantown

Neighborhood: Germantown
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With a 2016 opening, The Pearl of Germantown — The Pearl to locals — is the newest dive bar on our list. But with its interesting array of decor, you’d never guess it has been around for less than a decade. Its Christmas lights never come down, and the walls feature a mishmash of decor with nods to beer, sports, celebrities, and more.

inside of a bar with wooden tables and brown leather stools
The Pearl of Germantown’s eclectic decor includes Christmas lights that stay up all year. Image: The Pearl of Germantown

There’s lots of colorful outdoor seating in the back, which is perfect for pet parents — but don’t be surprised if you see Fido hanging out inside at the bar, too. Pooches often sit under a stool, patiently waiting for their humans to finish a beverage. As expected from a dive bar, all the drinks here are affordable, so you can drink whatever you wish without hurting your wallet. Be sure to spin the mystery wheel for a bit of extra fun. What you land on is what you get, whether it’s the beer of the day; “Zin City,” a pink zinfandel served with an extra-long straw; or the bartender’s choice.

back area of a building filled with benches, tables, and chairs
Pets are welcome at The Pearl of Germantown — in the outdoor seating area as well as inside. Image: The Pearl of Germantown

Cheers, Louisville!


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About the Author
Lennie Omalza

Lennie is a Southern-based freelance writer. Originally from Hawaii, she is a yoga-loving foodie who travels as often as she can.