They're the stuff of novels and television shows. Pablo Picasso traded sketches for food at a dive in Paris. Hemingway stumbled home from dives in Key West. Deals and friendships are made there, and there's at least one in every town, from Portland to Pompano Beach.
The neighborhood dive bar may not be flashy, and its food might never win a Michelin star, but you're not going to watch the big game at Jean-Georges, are you? We are fortunate to have some great dives in South Florida. From outdoor bars so close to the beach that you can taste the ocean in your beer to hideaways tucked away into alleys and strip malls, there's a place for you to call home. Here are some of our food-serving favorite dives.
Brass Ring Pub
10998 Okeechobee Blvd., Royal Palm Beach. Call 561-296-4563.
People in the know say the Brass Ring has the coldest beer and the best burgers in Palm Beach County. Short of sticking a thermometer into our glass, we're inclined to agree. As for the burgers? The half-pounder is hand-shaped from meat bought by nearby butcher Nebraska Meats. Lava rocks in the grill impart a taste of smoke, and it's topped with no more than cheese, tomato, onion, and lettuce. Crinkly fries come on the side. Nearby, eight televisions line the walls, and yes, there is a brass ring game, along with darts, a pool table, and a well-stocked jukebox. All your best dive bar requirements — with a frosted mug to boot.
4587 N. University Drive, Lauderhill. Call 954-749-5627.
Laissez les bon temps roulez... in Lauderhill. There are few places in South Florida where you can get authentic Cajun food like it's served on the bayou. Add in cheap Jägermeister and you've narrowed your search to Rosey Baby. Big pots of crawfish gumbo are always simmering in a dark roux. Here, the holy trinity (peppers, onions, and celery) are alive and well, and you might just see your maker after going to heaven with a large pot of boiled mudbugs or blue crabs flown in live from the bogs of Louisiana. Wash them down with a few cold beers — or some of that cheap Jäger, if you're feeling a little rowdy.
2765 NE 28th Court, Lighthouse Point. Call 954-941-0418.
Cap's Place was once a speakeasy and gambling joint where locals flashed their car lights from shore to signal the scow. There's a road to drive there now, but the experience just isn't the same without taking the complementary boat from the mainland. Not much has changed inside, except for the fact that, short of some bets on the game, there's no more gambling. Despite — or because of — its rustic charm, many famous faces have made it a point to hang out here, including Joe DiMaggio and George Harrison (it must have seemed a little like Liverpool with palm trees). The food is more expensive than the average dive and, shall we say, as dated as the interior, but not every place has a scenic boat ride included.
2033 NE Second St., Deerfield Beach. Call 954-421-8880.
Don't let the fact that Guy Fieri filmed an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives here deter you from visiting this institution that has a perpetual wait. But hunker down, because the dolphin sandwiches and lobster rolls are legendary. After an order of whale chips and a few cold ones, you'll forget all about the fact that the crazy-haired guy with the bowling shirt was here.
1100 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood. Call 954-921-9425.
If you like a little potty with your patty, Le Tub is the right place for you. A lot of dives decorate with license plates and posters, but it takes a true dive to decorate with old toilets and tubs. Le Tub is noisy and crowded, and it's a bitch to get a table, but it also has the best burgers in the nation, according to Oprah and GQ and a whole lot of others. If you're looking for a good meat-to-bun ratio, Le Tub is out of whack — on the meat side, that is. Thirteen ounces before cooking, even after shrinkage, this beauty is still a beast. Charred dark on the outside, the inside is warm, pink, and juicy. Seasoned with a little salt and pepper, we like to add only a slice of good old American cheese and ketchup. Anything more would be like putting a dress on a dog — some people do it, but it's totally unnecessary. Everything is à la carte, which means you can skip the fries and go straight to the Key lime pie, which is tart, creamy, and, best of all, house-made.
1111 Love St., Jupiter. Call 561-575-6252.
It's a bit of a drive all the way to Jupiter, but come on — this is the place where Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson filmed the video for "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere." That makes it about a million times more authentic for parrotheads than a trip to a Margaritaville. Besides, this bar is steeped in old Florida history. The Square Grouper and the Castaways Marina that it's attached to date back to the 1890s. It's survived hurricanes, drunks, and the occasional smuggler — a square grouper, by the way, is slang for the bales of pot smugglers would dump from planes to waiting boats. The food is simple but satisfying. Think of it as a barbecue at your favorite buddy's house on the Fourth of July — charred burgers, hot dogs, and wings. We like to grab a pulled-pork sandwich, made from slow-cooked pork with enough tangy barbecue sauce to run down your arms, and a cold one any time of the day or night... because it's 5 o'clock somewhere.