Once upon a time, to refer to a drinking establishment as a "dive" was to insult it, to declare its dark corners unwelcoming places populated by seedy people who'd as soon stab you as clink a pint. And then the '90s happened. Grunge went beyond a music genre — it was a lifestyle best acted out in places reeking with authenticity (and other smells). The cool kids opted out of the excesses of the '80s, adopting blue collar symbolism in the form of flannel shirts and PBRs. Crusty old dudes found their longtime joints overrun with hip young things exclaiming, "What a great dive!" A dive bar does not cater to trends or pretend to be more than what it is. A dive bar simply and efficiently serves the only two reasons for such a place to exist: To get people drunk and to withhold judgment.
Monday through Saturday | 12 pm - 2 am Sundays | 10 am - 2 pm.
Few Humboldt dives are as beloved as The Shanty (213 Third St., Eureka). The place does everything right, starting with cheap drinks and competent bartenders, both surprisingly hard to find and even more so to discover together. Around the bar are locals joshing with each other or lost in reverie, far-away stares above generous whiskey pours. In addition to the usual beer signs glowing neon in the dusk, hand-drawn posters line the bar, the wonderfully disjointed work of Dave O's Sharpie-wielding hand. If the weather's nice or you need a smoke, the Shanty is one of the only places in Eureka with a patio. And by "patio" we mean several wobbly tables, a collection of random chairs and a battered ping-pong table manned by customers who can hold a drink and a cigarette in one hand and return a serve with the other without spilling a drop. For daytime drinking, the Bloody is a must. For nighttime, whiskey and a requisite hot Shanty dog to go with it.
Daily | 8 am - 2 am
The Alibi (744 Ninth St., Arcata) used to be one bar and then, in 2015, it became two, which explains why you'll hear locals refer to the "new" Alibi and the "old" Alibi. The old Alibi is the divey side, dark and resplendent with dogs-playing-pool paintings. Sound absorbs into the walls, which promise to do no talking. It's an ideal place for a hangover breakfast or low-key rendezvous. The new Alibi offers a lighter, brighter, noisier counterpart with modern lines and big windows. Both share friendly servers and a dependable kitchen with a novella-length menu — you're likely to finish your Bloody Mary in the time it takes to decide between the Foggy Bottom and Mad River burgers. Of course, you may need some time to choose your Bloody Mary, too. At last count, the 'bi offered a dozen takes on the restorative cocktail, including the Marie Laveau's Voodoo Mary featuring Cachaca Rum, Louisiana hot sauce, Mary mix and pickled okra. Local tip: You can't go wrong with the Alibi Mary made with Blue Lake vodka.