The 7 best dive bars in Charlotte


Sometimes you don’t want a fancy cocktail with 12 ingredients (one of which is smoke) that takes 11 minutes to make at a tiny speakeasy. And sometimes you don’t want a hop-tastic IPA at a brewery with kids and dogs running around.

Sometimes you just want a beer, and maybe a shot, in a comfortable seat at a worn down wood bar where no one will judge you for drinking Budweiser. Sometimes you just want to go to a dive bar.

In Charlotte, dive bars have become increasingly hard to find — RIP Tommy’s Pub, Philosopher’s Stone and others. But we’ve still got a few grungy gems spread out around the city.

Here are the CharlotteFive staff’s favorites, in no particular order:

Thirsty Beaver Saloon

1225 Central Ave.

No Charlotte dive bar list is complete without the Beav. You’ll find honky-tonk on the jukebox, cheap, cold beer, and unpretentious people filling this tiny building with a huge beaver painted on the side. And surrounded by the massive development happening in Plaza Midwood, this quirky spot that opened in 2008 looks just like the house in the movie “Up,” and there’s something beautiful about it.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe

510 Briar Creek Road

When Bob Peters, one of the city’s top mixologists, calls this his favorite dive bar, you know they’ve got something good going at Smokey Joe’s. And it probably has one of the best outdoor areas of any of the bars on this list, complete with a sand box-y area and a ping pong table. Oh, and there’s a fountain in the ceiling. It’ll make sense when you see it.

Sanctuary Pub

507 E. 36th St.

The Sanctuary has all the best aspects of a neighborhood dive. The PBR is $2. Team Cards Against Humanity games. Late night food from Boudreaux’s Louisiana Kitchen next door. The music is loud and you never know who will walk in (like the front man of a Nordic metal band). Sure, they’ll have sports on a TV or two, but the movies that come on are tops: from “Forrest Gump” to “Zoolander.” Oh and the massive PBR box Christmas tree — fully decked out in colored lights — is truly a work of art.

Snug Harbor

1228 Gordon St.

This “rock & roll bar” is the place go if you’re looking for a show on any day of the week. Expect late-night loud music and the freedom to dance, sing and stop caring what people think.

Jeff’s Bucket Shop

1601 Montford Dr.


If you haven’t been to Jeff’s, you truly haven’t had the best karaoke experience of your life. Walk down the steps to the main entrance and you’ll find Charlotteans belting their hearts out on the microphones, a diverse range of characters and even a popcorn machine. Drinks are cheap and the karaoke is priceless. What more could you ask for?

Hattie’s Tap & Tavern

2918 The Plaza

This little pub tucked between Plaza Midwood and NoDa is dog friendly and has a sweet patio out back. In addition to live music and karaoke, Hattie’s also has bingo nights and has been known to host “Game of Thrones” viewing parties. And while you’re more than welcome to throw back a PBR, this funky bar has a surprisingly good craft beer selection.

Tilt on Trade

127 W. Trade St.

Not all heroes wear capes. #10YearsTILTed

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This little uptown nook has no theme and no schtick — it’s just a beer and shot bar and doesn’t try to be anything other than that. It also still has darts, beer pong and Jenga, which is kinda rare these days (especially in Uptown). The staff make it a point to know you by name and even feature a ton of regulars in photos on the wall. It’s a fun, no-pretense place for a reasonably priced beer in shorts, flops and a tank top, or a suit. It’s just a bar, and a damn good one at that.

Andrew Jenkins contributed to this story.

Photos: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer; File photos


  1. Sounds like a lot of “places to go and people to see” these days in Charlotte area. KB & JB in central Florida.

  2. 1. If it doesn’t smell like Troll’s, it isn’t a dive bar.

    2. Do these places have authentic dank, or is it brought in? As Moe Szyslak found out the hard way, it’s all about the dank.


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