True grit: Dive bars in South Florida that we love

Red's Bar and Package in Wilton Manors. (Joe Cavaretta, Sun Sentinel)

The air is thick with smoke and the walls are soft from decades of being pelted by darts, lit cigarettes and drunken fists. Red-faced patrons slouch over Budweisers at the wooden bar top, telling a smiling barkeep their tales of NASCAR races, Harley rides and bar fights. Suddenly, the door creaks open and, after their eyes adjust to the blast of sunlight, the barflies cry out in unison, "Hey, Tony!" The newcomer joins them at the bar, and the drinking and storytelling continues.

This scene is the norm at South Florida's dive bars, those dimly lit watering holes that have seen generations of booze hounds through rough nights. We've compiled 15 of the best spots from West Palm Beach to Florida City. Make sure to bring cash – these joints rarely accept credit cards.


Grady's Bar

905 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-761-9416

This place is a landmark. It's been standing on the corner of Andrews Avenue and Ninth Street since 1940. Bartender Martha Mac says, "It used to be that people brought their kids in and let them run around the bar while [their parents] drank." Grady's no longer admits children, but it does offer a mean bowl of chili, $1.75 drafts and conveniently located bathrooms right in the middle of the bar.

Josie's Too

2660 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, 954-963-8735

Josie's is an all-American dive bar: A big ol' red, white and blue flag hangs on one wall, and a Tim McGraw-Budweiser neon sign shines in the front window. Bartender Barbara Bennett tells newcomers right away that she only serves beer or wine.

Red's Bar and Package

2610 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors, 954-564-0233

This is the only true dive bar in Wilton Manors. It also may be the only bar in town where you'll find little Confederate flags and $1 creamsicle Jell-O shots. If you're hungry, arrive early: On a recent visit, the kitchen ran out of sliders by 5 p.m.

Kim's Alley Bar

1920 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-763-7886

The strong smell of cigarettes will stick to your clothes as soon as you take a seat here. The bar's redeeming qualities: its vast selection of beers and spirits, and the strip of padded armchairs next to the shuffleboard table.

Ocean's 11 Lounge

800 N. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, 954-454-5858

Of Broward County's dives, this one may be the classiest. The women who serve two-for-one shots wear red-and-black corsets, and the tables in the front room boast white-linen tablecloths, though it's unclear who actually eats at Ocean's 11.