The local dive bar holds a special place in your heart. You know all of the shaggy-bearded Pittsburgh locals who drank the same local pilsner every night. College kids swarm in like flies because dives are cheap and the vibe is relaxed. You come in with your clothes stained and you walk out with them reeking of stale cigarettes. The bar has this homey, familiar feeling that you can’t shake but can’t pinpoint either. What’s are those little, indescribable somethings that keeps you coming back over the years?

It’s a Little…Rough

It’s a Little...Rough

Okay, so this probably isn’t the main reason you would come around to a dive bar. The faded neon entranceway sign could use a couple of replacement light bulbs, to say the least. The floors may be a permanent brown-ish color. The bar stools are held together with gorilla tape. All in all, the space could use a bit of a pick-me-up.

Still, you love it; at least, you tolerate it. You walk in knowing that nobody in the room will judge you for being underdressed. In fact, it’s more likely that you’ll get stares for looking too nice. Your local Pittsburgh dive bar is a great place to freely exchange ideas and chit chat with members of your community. In many ways, that little bit (maybe not so little) of dinginess can actually set you at ease. It gives you a place to relax and just be yourself.  

Pierogies!!!

Pierogies!!!

This polish finger food is a Pittsburgh staple. Since the late 19th century, immigrants from all over the globe made Pittsburgh their home in search for jobs in the coal and steel industries. The polish newcomers brought their culture along with them – including these buttery little delights!

With the cultural uplift that has taken over Pittsburgh in the past decade, you would think that the quality pierogies are at boutique restaurants. As it so happens, some of the key spots to grab pierogies are at your local dive! The best dive bars are equipped with a kitchen featuring your typical American pub fare alongside the crowd favorite potato and cheese snacks.

Gotta Have Your Steelers

The Pens and the Bucs can be there too. There may not be T.V’s around the bar, but the fandom is still very much alive. Without a doubt, you can find black and yellow merchandise hanging up somewhere along the walls or on the bar. During a Steeler game or a Pens playoff match, your friendly neighborhood dive patron is dressed up in their favorite player’s jersey. Off season, the Pittsburgh natives rally at the bar to talk shop about what’s to come.

What can we say? It’s in our blood.

Cheap Beer/Hot Lights

This is a common thread with most dive bars. You can go to these joints for a nice craft draft, but the cheap beers are their bread and butter. The fancy cocktails you find in those upscale downtown bistros are great to have around, but there’s something comforting about sitting on an old bar stool and chugging a PBR.

This inviting feeling has little to do with the lighting, that’s for sure. Lights in a dive bar are either too bright or too dim. They could be colorful, with hot pinks and purples lighting small pockets of the room. The lights could also be hanging at every booth or just underneath the bar. It varies from place to place, but it’s always distinctive.

Pool Tables

Pool Tables

What’s a dive bar without pool tables? This bar staple is synonymous with the smoky air and mischief of local dives. The sharks go around looking for fresh competition.  If there’s more than one table, chances are that the cue ball is missing from one of the tables. When someone inexperienced is playing, you hear the loud clack of balls striking the ground when that someone hits the ball off the table. The sound rings through the bar and signals everyone to give you a disapproving stare.

Covered Wall to Wall

The walls in a dive bar are covered with a little something from everyone. Some examples include: stickers for random touring acts, mostly-peeled-off wall-paper, taxidermy donated 15 years earlier by the owner’s hunting buddy, fragments of sharpie graffiti and maybe a terrible towel or two. What’s actually on the walls isn’t so important. It’s more about the combination of things that come from the diverse patrons that the establishment has had over the years.

Dive bars without their walls plastered with memories are pretty rare – as if a clean paint job would actually ruin their reputations. Regardless, the community postered walls are almost as important to the atmosphere of the location as the booze is!

What do you think makes a good Pittsburgh dive bar? Let us know in the comments section!