There are two types of dive bars in Austin: New establishments with pretty people, and old establishments with gritty people. Both make use of roughed-up, broken-in properties, but it's the latter that I love: The ones that feel like Cheers, the ones that will probably never be trendy, the ones with a solid jukebox and a bartender named Dixie. Here are those places.
Before Lake Austin Blvd was the portal to rich Austin, it lied on the outskirts of town, in the hilly wilds of Austin hippies who grew pot at home and smoked it at Barton Springs in broad daylight. Deep Eddy Cabaret is a remnant of that time -- they don't even take credit cards! -- but what you sacrifice in ATM costs, you make up for with an amazing, Velvet Underground-filled jukebox and a storied history. Cheers, Deep Eddy Cabaret.
Donn's is partly housed in an old train car, which should give you an instant idea of the atmosphere: Think Americana-meets-country dance hall. Live music every night of the week and mostly $5 cocktails -- which I can guarantee you will not find anywhere else on west 5th.
Though the bar is always packed with a mix of old timers and newbies, there's a perpetual Cheers vibe to Ego's that makes this non-pretentious, crammed-underneath-a-parking-garage bar pretty lovable. Maybe it's because everyone is cheering on their friends at Ego's bar none karaoke, or maybe it's the sense of camaraderie one feels at Tuesday night trivia. It doesn't matter who wins or loses, because soon you'll all be drunk-singing Garth Brooks together on the stage anyway.
You can really only fit two people and one upright bass on Hole in the Wall's Guadalupe-backed stage, but that's precisely what makes it so fantastic. One of the bumper crop of 1970s Austin music venues, Hole in the Wall is where a whole slew of Austin musicians got their start.
Stranded in a strip mall that should have been leveled years ago, The Grand is so boldly un-hip (it's website is a MySpace account!) that it turns back in on itself and becomes hip again, via the all-powerful force of hipster irony. A sea of pool tables, friendly staff, dart boards, and pizza make it a continuously popular stop, among hipsters and grizzled old regulars alike.
Welcome to Lala's Little Nugget, where every day is Christmas Day. A "Keep Austin Weird" institution, this is a place where the beer is cheap, the jukebox plays James Brown, and there is dusty yuletide decor limply hanging from the ceiling year-round.
Named after a Johnny Cash song, this ramshackle bar is so delightfully out of place on fancy west 5th. With creaky wooden floors, broken in (and/or broken) furniture, and a jug band/singer-songwriter/hillbilly music lineup, it draws an eclectic crowd almost every night of the week. And before 2004, it was Cut-Rite Chain Saws, where Dennis Hopper visits in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
The Hideout's existence is so mysterious for north Austin, but I'm not complaining -- the patio is humongous, the happy hour lasts forever, and it is literally open until 2:00am. (Who in suburban north Austin is still awake at 2:00am?) The crowd is a nice mix of just-off-work fellas and hipsters, sipping cheap drinks and munching food that is surprisingly solid fare for a pub.
Perched above BurgerTex in what feels like a long, wooden, once-upon-a-time storage room, Barflys reliably serves up dirt cheap drinks and tunes from a quality, well-curated jukebox. This used to be metal head central, but now the crowd has mellowed out into a less aggressive bunch.
More of a pub than a dive proper, the Pour House is Allandale's answer for after-hours beer-sippin' and (polite) rowdy-makin'. There's a pretty great selection of brews on tap, as well as a huge backyard and low, cozy ceilings indoors.