20 Dives We Dig

A dive can be old, but it can't be just any old place. It should have a big heart, even if it's small. Its allure rises as the sun sets. As you settle in, it lifts you up. The three B's–bartenders, burgers and bands–tend to be damn good. A dive won't bust your budget. Most of all, you leave wanting to come back.

South

Brewer’s Towne Tavern, Haddon TWP

In 2006, Kurt Brahms and Glenn Wira took over and renamed this 1934 pub, while retaining its collection of vintage beer trays, Phillies and Eagles gear, and Jersey license plates dating to 1926. In the back, you’ll find a pool table and vintage arcade games. The $8.50 Brewer’s Burger, with caramelized onions, mushrooms, bacon and Gorgonzola, hits the hedonistic jackpot.—SV
239 Haddon Avenue, 856-854-5545

Broadway Bar & Grill, Point Pleasant Beach

Possibly the only dive that opens at 7 am with a happy hour and does a brisk morning business, thanks to commercial fishermen coming from the docks for shots and beers before heading out to a day of party-boat fishing. Food service begins at 11 am, with burgers and wings flying off the grill til all hours. A block from the beach, the Broadway is also known for seafood specials and live bands playing classic rock.—EL
106 Randall Avenue, 732-899-3272

Cassville Tavern, Jackson

Think unfinished man cave. Accoutrements include an autographed photo of actor Chazz Palminteri, a shelf displaying a can of each of the 20-odd beers, and a couple flat-screens, incongruous against the faded paneling. For some reason, there’s a Denver Broncos rally towel behind the bar. The Cassville is so throwback you expect someone to light up a cigarette, but it doesn’t happen. The staff is affable, the atmosphere relaxed. If you have a good cardiologist, try the Spider Burger, a 17-ounce monster with Swiss, blue cheese and liquid blue cheese.—Ed Condran
550 West Veterans Highway, 732-928-1411

Corner Bar, Pilesgrove

There is no disputing the Corner Bar’s motto, emblazoned inside the bar: “It’s better here than across the street.” Across the street is a cemetery. Since the bar’s founding in 1933, it has been a Salem County hangout for locals as well as a stop for those en route to the Shore. You can enter through the adjoining liquor store or directly into the bar, with its dartboard, hot sandwiches, and all-day $1 Miller High Life drafts. Free peanuts on Saturdays produce a double crunch: when you eat them, and again when you cross the floor strewn with the shells.—SV
1002 Route 40, 856-769-9804

Donkey’s Place, Camden

Founded in 1943 by boxer Leon Lucas (nicknamed Donkey for the power of his punch), this idiosyncratic bar is run by his grandson, Rob. Anthony Bourdain has touted its cheesesteak (beef slabs on a seeded bun) as the world’s best, but you can get one pretty much only when the sun shines. With Haddon Avenue fairly desolate these days, Donkey’s is open only Monday to Friday from 10 to 6, plus one Saturday a month, matching the work week of most of its customers. They’re a lively lot, singing along to the newish-oldies soundtrack in “Kicking Ass since 1943” T-shirts.—Robert Strauss
1223 Haddon Avenue, 856-966-2616

Jay’s Elbow Room, Maple Shade

Illustration by Jorge Columbo

The brick building is square, the scene inside, anything but. It’s noisy, full of locals ready to break into an Eagles cheer at any time in football season. (41-33, the score of February’s Super Bowl win over the Pats, is now enshrined on a wall.) For atmosphere, there’s a nonfunctioning phone booth near the restrooms. Also a pool table, around which there’s always a kibbitzing crowd. The kitchen stays open late. You can order a cheesesteak or a hoagie until 2:30 am. The gritty joint closes at 3.—EC
2806 Route 73 North, 856-235-3687

Jug Handle Inn, Cinnaminson

Named for Jersey’s gift to the left turn and located on one, the Jug Handle Inn has the oldest liquor license in Cinnaminson, issued in 1912, when the place was affectionately called the Hole in the Wall. Owners Kevin and Nicole Stone feature blues bands on the main floor and a long, well-stocked bar. Head downstairs for shuffleboard and other games. What to eat? Easy. The Buffalo wings are renowned.—SV
1018 Forklanding Road, 856-665-9464

Tara’s Tavern, Farmingdale

The exterior, with its drab-gray shingles, is easy to drive by without even noticing. Step inside and you feel—not quite like Dorothy waking up in Oz, but like you’ve come to the right place to kick back with buddies. The wood paneling may evoke the ’70s, but the bands rock, and owner Tara Bruni sets the comradely tone with an annual Tara’s Tavern ski trip. Forget your diet and order the ReVamp, a powerhouse of Buffalo chicken strips, crumbled blue cheese, cheddar- and ranch-garlic mayo on a baguette.—EC
1 Cookstown-New Egypt Road, 609-286-2300

Twistie’s, Strathmere

Illustration by Jorge Columbo

Reputedly a speakeasy during Prohibition, this cozy, red-shingled house on Strathmere Bay has been a beloved May-to-October social spot under a succession of owners (including Jimmy and Rose Twist in the ’50s). Its unique decor includes fish mounted on the walls, rows of coconuts carved and painted into grinning heads, and an old jukebox packed with an eclectic mix of tunes. The menu is extensive, but the can’t-miss choices are steamers and the fresh fish-of-the-day sandwich. Twistie’s also boasts one of the best sunset views in the area.—SV
236 Bayview Drive, 609-263-2200

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  1. Stef

    Yesterday’s Bar and Grill in Clifton has the best wings, Burrata Salad and specials. The beer is ALWAYS Ice Cold!It’s a dive bar with gourmet quality food!
    Also DP’s in garfield~~~ someone missed the best two dive bars!

  2. Krista

    Old Canal Inn in Nutley is NOT a dive bar. There are so many great, true dive bars in the area but I don’t want anyone to know about them so I won’t mention them here. 🙂

  3. Joe Broski

    Gotta laugh how Jackson, Farmingdale, and Point Pleasant became South Jersey! They are all equal distance from Cape May and High Point – about as Central as you can get!