Today, I was calling on one of my accounts, and the subject of a certain "dive" bar in Soulard came up. The question was brought up by the owner of a popular bar, and he had never heard of the dive. Therefore, as a public service, I offer the following guide to the bars of Soulard. I mainly have only walked into these places, trying to sell them cheap wine. However, it is a commonly held belief that every wine sales rep should have one or two bars that they don't do business with- just in case they need to grab a beer in the late afternoon/early evening, and not have to talk shop. Plus, I have met some of the most interesting people in dive bars! Most of these are in Soulard, although I do stray in to Benton Park a tad.
Gladstones- this is the bar that started the conversation. This place has pretty good barbeque, and prides themselves on it. They also have really good daily drink specials. It is quite smoky in there, but the waitresses are nice. They normally dress a bit...um...skimpy. However, they are kind of the people that may have worked in Souldard for a long time- not exactly in their prime. Dennis, the owner, is a super nice guy, and enjoys good wine.
The Cat's Meow- This is the epitome of small, local, dive bars. I don't think they serve food in here. It is crazy smoky, the drinks are cheap, and they only take cash. Go in there with someone who has been there before, or you might not get acknowledged at all.
D's Place- This is the smokiest of them all. Really nice staff, no food (that I know of), but a decent jukebox.
Grizzly Bear- I really like this place. It probably has the best food of any of the bars in the area. The staff dresses skimpy, but not so much that my wife was uncomfortable going in. Try the "Bear Balls"- sort of like hush puppies, but they have chicken in them.
Johnny's- this is the king daddy of Soulard bars. Yeah, the girls dress like strippers on their day off, but it's not too smoky, and the food is decent. It's not like you are going to see naked chicks in there or anything, they just hire good looking, friendly women. If you have the hunger, try the Calypso sandwich.
DB's- sort of a Johnny's wanna-be. The staff is also scantily-clad, but much snottier and the drinks are expensive. The only redeeming quality of the place is the fact that they have free wings on Wednesdays.
Park West Grille- This used to be a great little place with okay food, and a fun staff. I think they have closed.
Frazer's- Not really a dive bar (and it's in Benton Park), but go in for lunch sometime and say hi to my friend Sabrina. Tip her well, because she's about to have a baby, and needs all the cash she can get. They have an amazing, inexpensive menu.
1860's- I have only been there twice, but both times resulted in funny stories about meeting regulars. One lady cussed me out because she thought I was on Top Chef. At first I told her I was, and then told the truth. She didn't think that was very funny. I did.
Carson's- Dirty, smoky, the food is terrible, and the drinks are cheap. You will likely be flashed by a semi-inebriated waitress.
Hammerstone's- I have always heard good things about the food here, but I have never tried it. The one time I was in there, I had a very intelligent conversation about wine with a bartender from New Zealand.
Nadine's Gin Joint- Definitely a locals place. I have been in twice, and was treated really rudely both times.
McGurk's- the place to go in the spring and summer. They have an awesome patio, good beer selection, and decent Irish grub. Not very "divy" though, the place is enormous.
Tucker's- Again, tough to label this a "dive bar", as it has three locations. However, the steaks are decent, and really affordable. Kind of an old school place that I wouldn't mind taking my dad.
The Filling Station- in Benton Park, this is the type of place that you go at the end of the night to grab a beer, and play either darts or pool. Pretty cool vibe, though.
Venice Cafe- If you have out of towners visiting, take them here. The place is like Alice in Wonderland on an acid trip. During the summer they serve great Carribean food on the patio, and really cheap drinks. It's a blast going in there!
Joannies- good pizza, cops eat here a lot.
Trueman's- This place has a special place in my heart. When I first moved here, I got here 6 weeks before my wife. I had rented an apartment that was a 92 second (I timed it) walk from this bar. The food is, well, bar food. However, the beers are only $1.50 during happy hour, and I didn't have any friends in town yet. I must have spent 4 nights a week at this place until my wife arrived in town. Since then, a new owner took over, and there are flat screen tv's and some of the dirty charm is gone. That's okay, we still go in here once every 6 month or so for a fit of nostalgia.
Places I have never been into: Clementines, the Shanti, the Hiway Bar, and a slew of others I'm sure.
Cheers! Raise a glass of PBR at a dive bar soon!