While we all love to peruse a list of fine wines and gather with our girlfriends in swanky bars and do the whole “see and be seen” thing, there’s just something to be said about a really good dive bar. We love a place where you can let your hair down (or keep it in a messy ponytail), drink beer out of a bottle without being judged, play pool with people you just met and not worry about having to put on a fashion show.
Fortunately, Memphis is full of great dive bars, and we’ve assembled a list of our faves so your next girls’ night out can be a little lower key, and likely a heck of a lot more fun.
6 Must-Visit Dive Bars in Memphis
2559 Broad Ave., Memphis, TN 38112 • (901) 730-0719
Hours: Daily, 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.
The exterior of this much-adored, pirate-themed oyster and cocktail bar features an iron anchor and an almost child-like skull and crossbones trash bin, but inside, there’s little doubt you’re in one of the best dives in town. The “ship bar” (formerly of Anderton’s, the extinct Midtown bar) compels you to bring out your inner “arrgh,” and an extensive cocktail list includes more bourbon and rum (of course, because that’s what pirates drink!) options than any other bar in town. Leather-like booths, dark wood and slightly cheesy pirate murals make this dive a little more lush than others. The 21-and-up bar is non-smoking, although there’s a nice patio if you need to light up.
1702 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38104 • (901) 726-1101
Hours: Monday through Friday & Sunday, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Liquor? No. Beer. That’s your beverage option, and if you need a greasy burger or patty melt, The Lamplighter is your place. Run forever by the no-nonsense Miss Shirley (Williams), a bartender known for shutting down promptly at 3 a.m., The Lamplighter is still as basic as they come, meaning there’s no WiFi, no wine, no fighting and no credit cards accepted. You will, however, find probably the greatest selection of music in town on The Lamplighter’s jukebox.
531 S. Main St., Memphis, TN 38103 • (901) 523-9754
Hours: Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Rooted in jukebox culture and Memphis character, Earnestine and Hazel’s isn’t just a spot to hit in the wee hours of the morning, which is when most Memphians know to go. It actually opens at 5 p.m. and stays open super late (or early, depending on how you look at it). It’s gritty and full of characters, and it tends to be a shrine for those who come through town on their band tours. (We’re looking at you, Justin Timberlake.) Like a great dive bar, E&H serves up a greasy, hangover-fighting Soul Burger, which you can score for a five spot during happy hour and $6 the rest of the time.
477 High Point Terrace, Memphis, TN 38122 • (901) 452-9203
Hours: Daily, 5:30 to 11 p.m.
The Pub, opened in 1947, is maybe a dozen feet wide and 20 feet long, but even this tiny space packs a punch when it fills up at night. Patrons crowd around small tables and play shuffleboard, and if you are really lucky, our friend and Pub fan Jon Walker will be in the house, choosing tunes from the digital jukebox. The Pub may be small but it has a huge a selection of beer – count ’em, 57!
786 E. Brookhaven Cir., Memphis, TN • (901) 683-9044
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.
When you come to the definition of dive bar in the dictionary, the sign for the Windjammer is likely what you will see, and any local knows that this wouldn’t be a complete Memphis dive bar list without The Windjammer. And while the place smells like last year’s fries, the do make a great ribeye! There’s also full-on karaoke, but be sure to bring your patience if you plan to sing — The Windjammer is full of regulars who are known to be mic hogs.
1532 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38104 • (901) 726-0906
Hours: Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.
So the P&H, which stands for “poor and hungry,” is one of those joints that you’re just not sure if you should cross the threshold, but we say go in … and go in with an open mind. The 50-plus-year-old Midtown bar is one of the few smokers’ bars still left in Midtown, and it looks poor and hungry, like it needs a good polish and a big hamburger. The tables and chairs look like cast-offs from a church bazaar, and the crowd is a true cross section of Memphis, with an emphasis on heavy drinkers, hipsters and musicians. The P&H hops after midnight. Bring your own liquor, or order beer by the pitcher, which is the only way it comes.
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