By Meghan Roberts
Ever on the prowl for cheap beer and good shows, I’ve sampled my fair share of dive bars in Vancouver. Ranging from Main and Hastings to Gastown, I’ve compiled a guide for you to find the right dive bar for your comfort level. If you’re inexperienced, for God’s sake, start at the top. Those more attuned to the world of dive bars can start a little lower down for a good adventure. And if you’ve already been to the last two on my list, then I salute your bravery.
The Metropole, aka the Met (320 Abbott Street). I wouldn’t even call this a dive bar, though it has some sketchy roots. It used to be quite the homeless hangout until Donnelly Pub Group took it over. Since then it rose to a hipster hang out, followed by a more mainstream, Granville-esque crowd. It has a close proximity to sketch though, and may be novel enough to fill that edgy quota your friends with striped shirts are looking for.
On The Edge Pub (303 Columbia Street) – One of Gastown’s newest pubs, On The Edge will surprise you with large, comfortable booths and nice décor. They have cheap beer specials and an impressive selection of local brews on tap. Skip the lines in Gastown and head here for a few drinks. Your wallet will thank you.
The Astoria (769 East Hastings Street) – Far east on Hastings, the Astoria has become the place to go. The shadiest part of this bar is the bus ride there. It’s always busy and packed to the rim with local hipsters and residents of Commercial Drive. Get there early and have a delicious, cheesy dinner at Au Petit Chavignol (http://www.aupetitchavignol.com/index.html).
Funky Winker Bean’s (35 West Hastings Street) – Funky Winker Bean’s, located under Save-On-Meats, is a classic. There’s Karaoke, $1.75 beers, and nude portraits on the wall. Lots of seating makes it a great place to chill out with your friends.
Cobalt / 917 Main (917 Main Street) – The Cobalt / 917 Main used to be a staple in the punk, metal, and hardcore scene. Recently revitalized, it’s become a bit trendier and less rough, but still features great local bands. It’s right by the Main Street Skytrain Station, so it’s easy to get to and from.
New Brandiz (122 East Hastings Street) – One of my favourite weeklies, No More Strangers, has taken to hosting their party at New Brandiz. The inside was much bigger and nicer than I expected, albeit the paint job was… eclectic. It’s about a half a block from Main and Hastings, so it’s not for the faint of heart. If you like local indie bands, give No More Strangers at New Brandiz a try. Just be sure to take a friend or two.
Pat’s Pub (403 East Hastings Street) – If you’re into the hardcore or metal scene, you’ve probably been to Pat’s Pub at least once. It’s located on East Hastings in the Budget Inn Patricia Hotel. Cover depends on what bands are playing, but is usually average to cheap. There are always a few characters there, but the main sketch element lies in the surrounding atmosphere. A bonus is their micro-brewed lager, which is affordable and surprisingly floral.
The Balmoral (159 East Hastings Street) – Another Main and Hastings special, the Balmoral was newly renovated, albeit there were seemingly very few changes. The floor-to-ceiling columns are painted to look like totem poles, and there’s a smoking room leftover from when such a thing was legal. The place is big, busy, cheap, and populated by friendly Main and Hastings locals.
The West Hotel (488 Carrall Street) – We went here to see a friend’s show once. Most of the people were there to see one of the bands, though there were a few regular patrons. There was an overwhelming smell of urine, not unlike the alleys one finds in Gastown. The beer was cheap, but not cheap enough to override the smell.
Grand Union Hotel Pub (74 West Hastings Street) – Dubbed “Vancouver’s Favourite Country Pub” on it’s sign. I was once told by a born and raised Vancouverite that in the 70s, the “o” in “Country” was omitted. Nuff said.
Savoy Pub (258 East Hastings Street) – In the words of my good friend: “Savoy is useful only when drinking at the Rickshaw is perceived to be too expensive”. This is a homeless hangout. You’ll probably feel out of place, because you are.