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Tara Jones

Drink

Tara Jones: The Best of the Worst — 5 Dive Bars to Try in Santa Barbara and Goleta

Nursing a drink at these authentic neighborhood bars will have you coming back for more

The Sportsman Lounge, at 20 W. Figueroa St. in downtown Santa Barbara, reportedly is the oldest bar in town.
The Sportsman Lounge, at 20 W. Figueroa St. in downtown Santa Barbara, reportedly is the oldest bar in town. (Bill Macfadyen / Noozhawk file photo via Instagram)

Hipsters everywhere seem to be flocking to the latest neighborhood bar for a supposed taste of a bygone era, but craft cocktails and skinny jeans do not a dive bar make.

For all you hipsters out there with your fashionable beards and inventive libations who think they’ve been going to dives, here is what a dive bar isn’t:

» It’s not a secret speakeasy with a line forming out the door.

» It’s not the kind of place where they serve a craft cocktail with fresh mint — or fresh anything for that matter.

» It’s not likely to serve any kind of food that isn’t fried or pickled, if they even serve food at all.

» It’s not going to have wi-fi.

» And it’s not likely to have a floor your feet won’t stick to.

If you have the “warm fuzzies” when you enter the room, see anyone wearing a bowtie or spy a selection of bitters that has more than one bottle in it, you’re not in a true dive bar. 

Old timers have told me that the dive bar era is over since “money has moved in” and cleaned things up, even in the roughest of neighborhoods. 

But I say if you don’t feel safe as a single woman walking into a neighborhood bar alone it may still qualify, even if the floors in this town are relatively clean. 

So, if you’re looking for a place to whet your whistle where the drink selection is small and simple and the décor theme features leftover items from a 1970s garage sale, then check out this list of the top five neighborhood bars that are as divey as it gets in Santa Barbara.

BoHenry’s Cocktail Lounge

BoHenry’s is more like The Regal Beagle than your grand pappy’s back-alley bar, but it has a story or two to tell. Just ask the bar manager about the owner’s parent’s legendary past. 

A highlight at BoHenry’s on Santa Barbara’s Westside is the pickle back special. Chase a shot of whiskey with pickle juice for an unrivaled dive-bar experience. Click to view larger
A highlight at BoHenry’s on Santa Barbara’s Westside is the pickle back special. Chase a shot of whiskey with pickle juice for an unrivaled dive-bar experience. (Tara Jones / Noozhawk photo)

Disney-inspired and secret society paintings created by the owner and his father, “Papa Duke,” line the walls of this Westside Santa Barbara bar (formerly Palmieri’s) that tell pieces of the family history.

The menu written on chalkboard-painted cabinet doors is worth a look as well, with off-the-wall listings like $1 Unicorn Poo and Pickle Back shots.

There’s no shortage of deals in this den with a slice of pizza and pint for $7, happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. daily, and a plastic Budweiser beer pitcher-parting gift if you spend more than $10.

Located at 1431 San Andres St., BoHenry’s hours of operation are 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. Sundays.

Break Time

Formerly a Goleta auto parts store with patchy plastic carpeting that looks like it’s covered in bits of left-over grease and lighting fixtures hung with chains, Break Time may very well be the diviest of dens around.

Campy strands of Christmas lights cover the indoor iron railings and top of the bar, while worn-out couches that look like they’ve seen some action line the sides of the open room at the bar, at 5977 Encina Road.

The drink selection is standard with a few obscure beers on tap like Not Your Father’s Root Beer, Racer 5 IPA and Illusive Traveler Grapefruit Ale.

Free popcorn is available to help fuel your night of drinking and fun.

Come for the novelty of being in a bar that looks and feels like a 40-year-old double-wide in a trailer park, but stay for the pinball machines, dart boards, huge shuffleboard table and rounds of pool that are free every day from 10 p.m. till midnight.

Break Time’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to midnight Sundays.

Jimboz Lounge

Check your political correctness and pretentiousness at the door when you visit this gem of a hideout that displays a partially lit-up lounge sign and American flag outside.

If you’re looking for drinks and a show, look no further than the boisterous eye-patch laden guy behind the bar at the one-room Jimboz Lounge at 2711 De la Vina St. in Santa Barbara.

The décor is par for the course and the drinks are of the sturdy sort, but the welcome wagon that ushers people in the door is what makes this place so lovable as you’re regaled with songs sung on top of the bar, dirty jokes and hearty hellos.

“No Buffoons Allowed” in this neighborhood bar, but you can bring dinner with you and reheat it in the on-site microwave while you kick back with a $6 shot any day of the week.

Jimboz’s hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Roundin’ Third Sports Bar

If you want to go where the clientele is strictly local, a visit to this well-kept sports bar nestled behind a 7-Eleven on the outskirts of Goleta is in order.

Come for Roundin’ Third Sports Bar’s daily happy hour from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. where you’ll get 50 cents off any drink or decent-deal combo special, starting at $7.50.

If you’re lucky enough to come on a night with live music, stick around for some dancing, good laughs and an incredible drink selection that goes three bottles deep behind the bar.

Otherwise, ask about out the Grand Slam challenge in which patrons are encouraged to come back again and again to drink a menu of 36 different drinks to receive a T-shirt emblazoned with the bar’s logo.

Located at 7398-F Calle Real, Roundin’ Third’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends.

Sportsman Lounge

This centrally located bar — the oldest in town! — has been church to the down-and-out, average Joe local for 81 years and has been praised in both writing and song.

Not to be confused with a sports bar that boasts HD flat screens in every corner, Sportsman Lounge in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara is simply game for a laugh, a round of pool and old-timer stories.

Check out the white board of daily specials on the wall, then kick back with a long pour while you take note of the taxidermy-decked walls complete with the stuffed hind quarters of a squirrel, deliciously seedy audience and fun 1990s music played nightly on the jukebox.

Located at 20 W. Figueroa St., Sportsman Lounge’s hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Tara Jones leads Eat This, Shoot That! and welcomes reader tips and ideas for future columns. She can be reached at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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