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A good dive bar is like your favorite pair of jeans: comfortable, timeless, and well-worn.
While Galveston Island boasts over 200 restaurants and bars, there’s something to be said about the drinking establishments with longevity that we continually find ourselves returning to.
Whether we know them as "pubs," "taverns," or "sports bars," if they’ve weathered the years with minimal change and a veteran staff behind the bar, they can all fit into the category of being considered a "dive bar."
Dive bars aren’t born in one day with an interior made to mimic wear and tear. Dive bars are seasoned. Mostly dark, dingy, and rough around the edges, they are almost always very welcoming and without judgment.
Dive bars typically offer something for everyone, and the best dive bars keep drink ingredients to a minimum, also known as “no stupid drinks.” We’ve gathered a list of our favorite spots on the island where you can loosen your inhibitions and dive right in.
Rumored to be both haunted and a former brothel anchoring one corner of Galveston’s former red light district known as The Line, this dive bar fits the mold. Through the doors are exposed brick walls, tattered sports memorabilia, and a storied history, what more could one want from a place where you can nurse a whiskey and coke while gnawing a greasy griddled burger.
Possibly the only island dive bar that features live music “where lyrics still count,” this notorious bar transplanted from Houston to Galveston in the mid-90s after closing its original location in 1979. Beer and wine only with aged red carpet smothering the floor, odes to musicians grace the walls that are mainly dedicated to the two songsmiths founder/owner Rex Bell played bass for: Townes Van Zandt and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Like Luckenbach, TX this tiny room feels more like a sanctuary to Texas music with Rex Bell playing the part of Hondo.
One pool table, one television, a handful of slot machines, and an occasional surfboard resting outside is what you should expect from the Island Pier Club. A one-room building usually manned by one bartender located across from Seawall Boulevard this neighborhood joint is about as div-y as it gets, and it doesn’t get more local than this. Swing by on a night they have karaoke and indulge in their shot specials to build the courage before taking a turn with the mic.
A double-deck bar with an exterior draped in nautical décor like an actual boat that shares space with a replica of the Statue of Liberty, one simply cannot miss this long-time bar that has met hurricanes head-on. And survived. The spirit of the Poop Deck matches the spirit of the islanders in the form of resiliency. Multiple TVs play sports, dogs are treated like customers, and the parking lot is a mix of motorcycles and luxury vehicles. Live music fills the downstairs most nights and the second floor provides a more laidback reprieve and exquisite view of the Gulf.
Downtown Galveston has no shortage of bars and this drinkery that is nestled next door to the Grand 1894 Opera House was once the dressing room for the performers. Here you’ll find a no-frills joint lit only by neon beer signs, Christmas lights, and the warm glow from the beer cooler. Billiards are in the more visible back room where a picture of Laurel and Hardy greets guests playing pool – and why not since the comedic duo once held the audience’s attention on the theater’s stage. This building also boasts plenty of paranormal activity, perhaps from former actors who wish to remain relevant.
Situated at the beginning of Rosenberg Street where pristine Victorian homes guide visitors into downtown, Robert’s Lafitte is an assuming bar named after former Galveston resident pirate Jean Lafitte. LGBT-friendly and all-welcoming, find your way to the New Orleans-esque back courtyard complete with a water fountain and a shallow pool. Check their calendar for the drag shows that provide hilarious and risqué entertainment.
An island stalwart since 1944 that offers inexpensive bottles of beer and serves amazing hamburgers, gumbo, and muffuletta’s. Be sure to check their Facebook for hours of operation. Learn more here.
Located nearby Press Box, this joint is lowkey, next door to a distillery, and serves up great bar pizza. It’s nothing fancy and that’s the only way you would want it. Learn more here.
Where the Texas Coast begins.
by Dr. Hal Needham
by Visit Galveston
by Visit Galveston
by Visit Galveston
by J.R. Shaw
by Nicky Omohundro