The term ‘dive bar’ means a little something different to everyone. There are even four variations on Wikipedia, with the most amusing being from Playboy; “A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows—bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly”. Now, while that bar sounds like tons of fun, a more accurate definition can be found on Urban Dictionary; “A well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele.” And lastly my definition: a no fuss, no muss kind of place, i.e. there is no craft cocktail program, be ready to order when the bartender asks you what you want. Jeans and a t-shirt are just fine or dress up, you do you. It’s a local hangout, don’t’ get me wrong, visitors are welcome, just be respectful. But most importantly there’s a jukebox. In my mind if there’s a jukebox then there’s dancing, even if there’s no dance floor. Or at the very least bad lip-syncing into an air microphone.
Good thing for us locals, and those visiting, Sonoma and Napa County have a great selection of ‘dive bars’. But word to the wise, they don’t all like to be called dive bars. To me the term is endearing, I love these bars. I’ve laughed, cried, kissed, argued, danced my face off, and created amazing memories at some of these bars. I hope you do too!
Below are two lists; the first being a few of my favorites and the second being from a few locals… who know a thing or two about drinking.
My top 3:
Steiners- Located in the town of Sonoma, right on the square, Steiners is great. Bar food, local/regional beers on tap and in the bottle. Be fancy and order a split of bubbles or be like me and order jello shots, yes, they have pre-made jello shots. Pool tables, darts, catch the game or wait till around 10 pm on Friday (seasonal) and Saturday night for the DJ to come on and dance the night away.
Ana’s Cantina- Located on the main drag in St. Helena, CA (Napa, Co), this is a great spot for “getting out of Napa” and a getting a little more down to earth… sorry that’s my ‘Sonoma County is better than Napa County’ roots talking. But seriously, we should never take ourselves too seriously. If you can’t, then it’s best to check that person at the door and let loose on the other side and Ana’s is just that place! Dollar bills stuck to the ceiling, still can’t figure that out… pool tables, karaoke, jukebox, dancing, it’s got it all. And I’m not the only one who agrees, check out Goop’s blurb.
Round Robin- Located on Mendocino Ave, just before the light at College Ave (right hand side, going North on Mendocino) sits the Round Robin or more commonly known as The Dirty Bird. As the night is starting to come to an end, you’ve made your rounds downtown or around the dive bar triangle, which includes The Belvedere, the 440 Club and Round Robin, you end here or in my opinion you should end here. Earlier when I said, no fuss, no muss, this is that bar. It’s straight up beer, shots or well drinks… don’t expect anything else. Just enjoy the jukebox, pool tables, super drunk people entertainment, and the once open-air fireplace (total retro find and holy safety hazard, I can remember when it used to run).
Top picks from local Sonoma Countians (By County):
Trevor’s Pub - aka The Carpet Bar- San Rafael, CA…it has green carpet flooring, hence the nickname.
Susie’s – Calistoga, CA
Pancha’s – Yountville, CA – This is a smoking bar…I know, unheard of in California. I’ve been told drink the beer (nothing with ice) and be prepared to burn your clothes after… sounds like I should visit soon.
Ernie’s Tin Bar – Petaluma, CA
Volpi’s – Petaluma, CA- Come for the traditional Italian cuisine, stay for the bar in the back.
Russian River Pub – Forestville, CA – I have never been here, from the website and driving past it, it doesn’t look too divey. I’ve heard nothing but good things and it was featured on Triple D…I did, I just said that… Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, damn that catchy catch phrase!
Willie Bird’s Restaurant – Santa Rosa, CA- Now this place is OLD SCHOOL and I am embarrassed to say, I have never been in it. I’ve had their turkey’s, they are great but never been in the restaurant. That will be changing soon.
Rainbow Cattle Company – Guerneville, CA
Andresen’s – Petaluma, CA
Forestville Club - Forestville, CA – This bar is currently closed due to structural issues, which I can attest to. The one and only time I was in this bar, I thought the bathroom was going to fall into the creek. But I had a great time listening to live music and dancing with friends. So hopefully they are able to make the repairs needed and reopen.
Alright, there it is… I can honestly only vouch for the first three listed. But believe you are in good hands if you venture off to any of the other places listed. Enjoy, drink responsibly, meaning always have buddy and don’t drink and drive. Cheers!