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Pint glasses on a wooden shelf.
The pint lineup at He’s Not Here.
He’s Not Here

Top 9 Triangle Dive Bars for a Beer and a Shot

Hot dogs, live music, slides, and cheap drinks abound

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The pint lineup at He’s Not Here.
| He’s Not Here

There’s something comforting about a no-frills dive bar. Perhaps because there are no expectations; simply come as you are. The often unmarked, nondescript watering holes serve as a place to get away from it all while enjoying a cold one — or to enjoy the familiar face of the person behind the bar. Food? Don’t count on it, but there are a few spots in the Triangle that dial up the game with damn good hot dogs and the ability to ring a well-known pizza joint via a faux red phone for delivery. There’s also a solid music scene intertwined and a new dive bar with a slide (with a no drinking while sliding rule).

In search of your neighborhood dive bar? Check out these 10 vetted options throughout the Triangle so you can find your own version of Cheers.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Accordion Club

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Nestled in a strip of local spots on Geer St., including LouElla (a wine bar) and Welcome Tattoo (obviously a tattoo shop), Accordion Club exists. It’s dark and cozy inside, but there’s also a sizeable patio out back with string lights and picnic tables for those who don’t want to get lost inside. The beer menu features a solid list of local and domestic beers, and locals will be the first to say they go out of the way for Sunday morning Hatch burritos. The Frito pie and hot dogs make for excellent drunk snacks to sop up all the liquids.

Person playing pool.
Pool table at Accordion Club.
Forrest Mason Media

Kotuku Surf Club

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A popular divey bar with a badass outdoor scene, where PBRs, cornhole, a pool table, and bocce ball are part of the equation. The bar itself is dimly lit and gives off all the vibes of an expected dive. Dogs are also welcome, making it a sought-after watering hole for Durham locals and their furry friends. During the pandemic, the spot upped the minimum age for patrons from 21 to 23 to tone down weekend crowds filled with often-rowdy college students.

Rubies on Five Points

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In December 2020, Criterion shuttered and locals mourned the loss of one of Durham’s best bars. Enter end of 2021 and Rubies enters the scene, taking over the second story of the building. Get into the bar by way of a discreetly marked entrance with crown signage, up a dimly lit red staircase, and into complete escapism. The team behind Luna Rotiserrie is responsible for bringing this new divey-meets-music venue and bar to life. Find industry workers shooting Jager shots post-dinner shifts and catching up with locals at the bar or at intimate booths with dimly lit lamps. Live music and DJs are a big part of the equation and the team will open Remedy Room, a classic cocktail bar, in the downstairs space in 2022.

Man taking a shot at a bar.
The bar at Rubies on Five Point.
Forrest Mason Media

He's Not Here

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Welcome to the oldest bar in Chapel Hill, a Tar Heel staple since 1972. The dog-friendly establishment attracts the collegiate crowds downing libations out of the legendary 33-ounce Blue Cup on the outdoor patio space. Beer specials are abundant and happen on the regular, as does live music on weekends. The blue cups are so popular that you can buy them in quantities of 25 and 50.

The Cardinal Bar

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It’s a dive bar with hot dogs, but some frequenters might reverse and say it’s a hot dog bar with beers. Whatever the case, it’s a good time. Expect lots of canned brews, rotating local taps, and, of course, a simple hot dog menu with all the accoutrements to add on (there’s a vegetarian dog included). The ambiance is neither that of a bar or a restaurant, but somewhere in between, just on the outskirts of Raleigh’s downtown proper — and hidden just enough that it evokes a chill, regular crowd. Co-owner Jason Howard recently opened an outpost in neighboring town Clayton.

A person handing another person two hotdogs and a beer.
Hot dog and a beer at Cardinal Bar.
Cardinal Bar

Johnson Street Yacht Club

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Located in the old Office Tavern space, Johnson Street Yacht Club brings an elevated dive bar experience to downtown Raleigh — equipped with an adult slide. Note: there are rules and you can’t drink and slide. The website is quirky, noting “We’ve got booze. We take credit cards but we don’t take no shit. Behave yourself. Salty women welcome. Triflers need not apply.” There’s ample outdoor seating plus fun rotating cocktails (a frozen Dark ‘N’ Stormy, anyone?) — and an ever-changing, random food menu.

Frozen cocktail in a plastic cup.
Dark ‘N’ Stormy at Johnson Street Yacht Club
Johnson Street Yacht Club via Facebook

The Ugly Monkey Party Bar

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On Morgan Street in Raleigh, the Ugly Monkey Party Bar draws customers in with its neon-lit sign. It gives off vibes of a ridiculously good time but also a massive hangover when walking by. If you’ve witnessed this bar, you know why. Cheap shots, rum buckets, pole dancing (on the bar), open mic night, karaoke, and more. All that said, yes, it’s still divey and locals frequent the joint for a drink or two. Line up the whiskey shots, sit back, and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s also wise to plan on taking the next day off.

Slims Raleigh

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Slims is considered a music venue, but it’s got all the right dive bar vibes and has been a Raleigh staple since 1999. Shows are up close and personal, and there’s a patio out back where cigarettes and socialization happen. Upstairs, there’s a pool table and lounge, should you crave a more intimate setting. While it’s a dive bar the spot takes booze seriously and offers a wide variety of spirits and beers — and the price is always right.

Window with Slims on the glass.
Slims Raleigh
Slims Raleigh

Hot Shots Hideaway Bar

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Grab your friends and spend an afternoon drinking cheap drinks and playing pool. It’s Cary’s version of a modern-day Cheers and a spot that feels like a home away from home to locals — with video games, dartboards, and pinball. TVs are focused on sports and drink specials, including $8 pitchers and very cheap cocktail offerings, which are a big draw. It’s nothing fancy and that’s a good thing.

A pint of Bud Light on a pool table.
Hot Shots Hideaway Bar.
Hot Shots Hideaway Bar

Accordion Club

Person playing pool.
Pool table at Accordion Club.
Forrest Mason Media

Nestled in a strip of local spots on Geer St., including LouElla (a wine bar) and Welcome Tattoo (obviously a tattoo shop), Accordion Club exists. It’s dark and cozy inside, but there’s also a sizeable patio out back with string lights and picnic tables for those who don’t want to get lost inside. The beer menu features a solid list of local and domestic beers, and locals will be the first to say they go out of the way for Sunday morning Hatch burritos. The Frito pie and hot dogs make for excellent drunk snacks to sop up all the liquids.

Person playing pool.
Pool table at Accordion Club.
Forrest Mason Media

Kotuku Surf Club

A popular divey bar with a badass outdoor scene, where PBRs, cornhole, a pool table, and bocce ball are part of the equation. The bar itself is dimly lit and gives off all the vibes of an expected dive. Dogs are also welcome, making it a sought-after watering hole for Durham locals and their furry friends. During the pandemic, the spot upped the minimum age for patrons from 21 to 23 to tone down weekend crowds filled with often-rowdy college students.

Rubies on Five Points

Man taking a shot at a bar.
The bar at Rubies on Five Point.
Forrest Mason Media

In December 2020, Criterion shuttered and locals mourned the loss of one of Durham’s best bars. Enter end of 2021 and Rubies enters the scene, taking over the second story of the building. Get into the bar by way of a discreetly marked entrance with crown signage, up a dimly lit red staircase, and into complete escapism. The team behind Luna Rotiserrie is responsible for bringing this new divey-meets-music venue and bar to life. Find industry workers shooting Jager shots post-dinner shifts and catching up with locals at the bar or at intimate booths with dimly lit lamps. Live music and DJs are a big part of the equation and the team will open Remedy Room, a classic cocktail bar, in the downstairs space in 2022.

Man taking a shot at a bar.
The bar at Rubies on Five Point.
Forrest Mason Media

He's Not Here

Welcome to the oldest bar in Chapel Hill, a Tar Heel staple since 1972. The dog-friendly establishment attracts the collegiate crowds downing libations out of the legendary 33-ounce Blue Cup on the outdoor patio space. Beer specials are abundant and happen on the regular, as does live music on weekends. The blue cups are so popular that you can buy them in quantities of 25 and 50.

The Cardinal Bar

A person handing another person two hotdogs and a beer.
Hot dog and a beer at Cardinal Bar.
Cardinal Bar

It’s a dive bar with hot dogs, but some frequenters might reverse and say it’s a hot dog bar with beers. Whatever the case, it’s a good time. Expect lots of canned brews, rotating local taps, and, of course, a simple hot dog menu with all the accoutrements to add on (there’s a vegetarian dog included). The ambiance is neither that of a bar or a restaurant, but somewhere in between, just on the outskirts of Raleigh’s downtown proper — and hidden just enough that it evokes a chill, regular crowd. Co-owner Jason Howard recently opened an outpost in neighboring town Clayton.

A person handing another person two hotdogs and a beer.
Hot dog and a beer at Cardinal Bar.
Cardinal Bar

Johnson Street Yacht Club

Frozen cocktail in a plastic cup.
Dark ‘N’ Stormy at Johnson Street Yacht Club
Johnson Street Yacht Club via Facebook

Located in the old Office Tavern space, Johnson Street Yacht Club brings an elevated dive bar experience to downtown Raleigh — equipped with an adult slide. Note: there are rules and you can’t drink and slide. The website is quirky, noting “We’ve got booze. We take credit cards but we don’t take no shit. Behave yourself. Salty women welcome. Triflers need not apply.” There’s ample outdoor seating plus fun rotating cocktails (a frozen Dark ‘N’ Stormy, anyone?) — and an ever-changing, random food menu.

Frozen cocktail in a plastic cup.
Dark ‘N’ Stormy at Johnson Street Yacht Club
Johnson Street Yacht Club via Facebook

The Ugly Monkey Party Bar

On Morgan Street in Raleigh, the Ugly Monkey Party Bar draws customers in with its neon-lit sign. It gives off vibes of a ridiculously good time but also a massive hangover when walking by. If you’ve witnessed this bar, you know why. Cheap shots, rum buckets, pole dancing (on the bar), open mic night, karaoke, and more. All that said, yes, it’s still divey and locals frequent the joint for a drink or two. Line up the whiskey shots, sit back, and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s also wise to plan on taking the next day off.

Slims Raleigh

Window with Slims on the glass.
Slims Raleigh
Slims Raleigh

Slims is considered a music venue, but it’s got all the right dive bar vibes and has been a Raleigh staple since 1999. Shows are up close and personal, and there’s a patio out back where cigarettes and socialization happen. Upstairs, there’s a pool table and lounge, should you crave a more intimate setting. While it’s a dive bar the spot takes booze seriously and offers a wide variety of spirits and beers — and the price is always right.

Window with Slims on the glass.
Slims Raleigh
Slims Raleigh

Hot Shots Hideaway Bar

A pint of Bud Light on a pool table.
Hot Shots Hideaway Bar.
Hot Shots Hideaway Bar

Grab your friends and spend an afternoon drinking cheap drinks and playing pool. It’s Cary’s version of a modern-day Cheers and a spot that feels like a home away from home to locals — with video games, dartboards, and pinball. TVs are focused on sports and drink specials, including $8 pitchers and very cheap cocktail offerings, which are a big draw. It’s nothing fancy and that’s a good thing.

A pint of Bud Light on a pool table.
Hot Shots Hideaway Bar.
Hot Shots Hideaway Bar

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