My favorite thing about dive bars—the real ones, not the self-aware ones—is the familiarity. The lighting, the jukebox, the parlor games. The predictable assortment of archetypal patrons. It all reminds me of a place I’ve been before. A place I’ve enjoyed before. Likely with good people.
Dive bars get a bad rap sometimes, but that sort of familiarity is rare—poetic, even. And when you’re on the road, away from home, that familiarity can be divine. It’s a constant you can count on, confide in, and plan your evening around, no matter where you roam.
Even in rural Iowa. In a city of some 9,000 people. Where the only place to get a drink past 8pm has a jar of pickled pig’s feet on the bar and a handwritten list of more than 30 people who’ve been 86'd next to the register.
That’s my other favorite thing about dive bars: the unexpected.