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Top Ten Dive Bars in Broward County

Ah, the dive bar. Some might think the term is an insult, but we mean it as a compliment - an endearment, really. Basically, it refers to any establishment where the cigarette smoke obscures your view of the aging barkeep, fights break out at 2 a.m., the jukebox plays only country or old rock classics, and red-faced patrons stumble in and out according to the after-hours sign on the door. And everyone's favorite slogan is "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." It's that grungy, comfy home away from home where everybody knows your name.

All these things -- and more -- are what makes for an unforgettable and (best of all) inexpensive night out. And this list is a lineup of all those places that help give Fort Liquordale its alter-ego name. Cheers to our list of the top ten dives in Broward County.

10. Grady's Bar

One of the oldest locals spots around, this is a no-frills kind of place with just one pool table, a pinball machine, and an old jukebox that still plays CDs. Standing at Andrews Avenue and Ninth Street, it's the type of spot known for attracting a good neighborhood crowd. And because the place has been around so long -- since 1940 -- the bar has become a favorite for quite a few generations of South Floridians who can appreciate the bar's old Fort Lauderdale "charm." Speaking of charm, we especially like that the bathrooms are located in the center of the bar, just in case too much cheap beer too fast does you in early. Here, a burger and fries will run you about $3.50, a draft beer less than $2. Sitting next to a toothless old man on a rickety wooden barstool? Priceless.

9. Dirty Blondes Sports Bar

After a bit of a face-lift and the addition of a few new flat-screen TVs, Blondies is back as Dirty Blondes, the new face of the old favorite dive bar on Fort Lauderdale beach advertising "The World's Longest Happy Hour" from noon to 10 p.m. daily. Dirty Blondes might also have the world's longest bar. It spans the entire reach of the place, 30 chairs long, and stops just short of a backroom that offers pool (it's free to play on Friday), darts, and a pinball machine. The best seat in the house is up front, where the entrance opens to offer a fresh-air view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Fort Lauderdale boardwalk off A1A. Dubbed a sports bar, it's a favorite among locals thanks to 50 flat-screen TVs, a basic selection of $3.75 well drinks, and 99-cent domestic draft beers. There's no food, but the crowd and bartenders -- and the deals -- make up for it.

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8. Kim's Alley Bar

This old-school-style establishment has been around for more than 60 years, turning locals into regulars since 1948, making it one of Fort Lauderdale's oldest relics. Located off Sunrise Boulevard in the Gateway Shopping Center, it's that inconspicuous place you stop before heading toward the beach, just a few steps down the road from the Intracoastal in Victoria Park. Don't let Kim's boring brick façade fool you, though. Inside, you get two bars for one: the seemingly quiet front lounge is dimly lit and smoky, while the mysterious, hidden back room offers a sports theme where you'll find all the standard dive accouterments: pool, darts, Ping-Pong, and a killer jukebox. The spot has become a staple for many of the local city residents who -- every day from about 4:30 p.m. on -- will begin the daily migration by foot to the bar. It's a good way to get there, because after a few dozen draft beers or well drinks, you'll need a taxi to get back home.

7. Red's Bar and Package

If you live in the area, consider this place your Cheers. Beyond the near-windowless brick wall of a single-story old cement block building placed in the middle of a large open parking lot of Dixie Highway, you'll find Red's Bar and Package, a dive bar for the neighborhood crowd of Wilton Manors. Whatever you think about the location -- don't. This is a place for everyone, straight or not. With first impressions, it's a good thing it's the inside -- not the exterior -- that counts. Red's is the real deal when it comes to dive bars, with a friendly bar staff, a large U-shaped bar, a shiny new jukebox full of yesterday's favorites and today's hits, as well what can only be described as a massive display of liquor. The $1.50 draft domestic beers are cold, the $1 Jell-O shots give you the feeling of bygone college days, and the pomegranate margaritas are actually pretty good. While the interior is a bit lackluster -- be prepared to brace yourself against a strong, putrid odor once you walk in -- it's the crowd that has the most color. If you're in the area, stop by for lunch, karaoke Wednesday, or lingerie night (ask once you get there). On a nice weekend night, the back patio also serves as an outdoor barbecue spot.

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6. Josie's Too

Serving only beer and wine, Josie's is the very definition of standard American dive bar -- a huge American flag hanging on one wall reiterating the point. Here, the bartenders know all the regulars, so you'll be picked out of the crowd as a newcomer the minute you walk in the door. Any regular here knows the owner by name. It's not hard to remember: The place is named for 78-year-old Josie, who stops by the establishment on occasion and can be caught singing and dancing and otherwise serenading patrons. The bar doesn't serve food -- you can smoke, after all -- but does offer bar bites like the jars of Slim Jim's and pickles. Pitchers, bottled beer, drafts, and wine are all less than $7 to help wash them down. The eclectic local crowd will tell you they're awaiting their next Tom Brady sighting (he was here in 2005 for a GQ photo shoot, which the bar proudly advertises with a shrine-like display). Just be sure to bring cash. You'll need it to stuff down Josie's shirt if she does appears for an act -- and the bar doesn't take cards.

5. Flossie's

The sign outside says "Home of the Tiki Bar," but this isn't a tiki bar. Far from it' Flossie's is quite possibly one of the single best places in South Florida to find a beautiful woman who can drive her own Harley. It's also Dania Beach's very best dive and biker bar, discreetly located off a back-alley service road to give it that clandestine, locals-only location. The regulars here are bikers through and through and have been since the place opened in the mid-1970s. Beyond the sea of bikes out front, you'll find a sea of regulars seated inside, a sprawling common area that desperately needs a makeover, with rescued kitchen furniture and worn barstools. The bar serves the standard domestic and basic imports by draft and bottle, and -- if you're hungry -- a taste of the kitchen's standard bar fare including American picks like wings and burgers, while themed nights get more creative with tacos and burritos. Don't try the tacos or burritos, but they're there if you want to punish yourself.

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4. Ocean's 11 Lounge

For more than 30 years, locals have flocked to this swank little dive in Hallandale Beach known for its stiff drinks, hot bartenders, and zero pretense. The lounge-style bar sits off Federal Highway -- mercifully far from any touristy crap -- which means locals abound. Here, the bar itself is the focal point, a long marble-topped counter with a vast selection of liquor beyond. The place is dimly lit, glowing red from lantern-style lights that dangle overhead. The real color comes from the staff, however, some of the hottest bartenders around, scantily clad as they prance around in booty shorts and red and black bustiers. If you're thirsty for more than just a good time, the standard dirt-cheap beers, neon-tinged cocktails, and stiff drinks are offered at two-for-one during daily happy hour, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. There's also some pretty tasty food, here offered as "snax," including the house favorites, waffle cheese fries, hot dogs, and homemade chicken soup.

3. Dive Bar

When you walk up to the dive, the first thing that greets you is a colorful old pirate -- no, not one of the patrons -- the bar's official outdoor mascot. Inside, the décor is a bit less colorful, a dark cave of a place lit by Budweiser lamps and beer signs, with mismatched furniture, one part nautical them, one part tiki bar thanks to a few large bamboo pillars and live rings. The roaming bar with cheesy track lighting under the counter is just the spot for bellying up for a cold one or watching some local live acts on the rickety old stage at the back of the room. Luckily, this is one dive bar that lives up to its name: specifically $4.75 domestic bottled beers, karaoke, $5 well drinks, and a happy hour that spans from noon to 7 p.m. The bar serves a good selection of draft beers starting at just $2 and has several craft selections to choose from, unlike many other hole in the walls. It also has a full kitchen serving everything from soups and salads to wings and burgers and wraps. For $5.99, you'll get the bar's famous lunch and a beer special.

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2. Greenbrier Bar

Is it a restaurant? Is it a smoking lounge? Is it a bar? Is it a... strip club? The lounge with three large bars is a humble watering hole serving many loyal patrons who reminisce of the days when bartenders were a bit more risqué. At one time, bartenders were known to remove their tops to pick up a Jenga-style stack of dollar bills with their bare breasts. But the days when a nipple made a regular appearance are supposedly long gone after the place got in trouble with officials for not being licensed for public exposure. Today, this Pompano Beach bar still serves up a sea of cleavage, just a tad more timidly. The place proudly advertises itself as a smoking lounge, and the air is thick with the smell of cigarettes and booze. If you like your meal with a good smoke, stop by for the lunch special, priced at just $5.50 and offered from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Although the kitchen closes around 7 p.m., it offers standards like flame-grilled hamburgers and chicken fingers as well as options like their special grilled ham and cheese sandwich or country fried steak for $6 to $10.

1. The Elbo Room

If you're not from around here and read the travel brochures, you'd think Fort Lauderdale's oceanfront strip was nothing but high-class establishments and oceanside bars that serve giant daiquiris. But they're missing a description of Fort Liquordale's more permanent fixture, the dive bar of the spring breakers known as the Elbo Room. Since it was established in 1938, the landmark bar has survived more wet T-shirt contests, drunken brawls, and abuse from nature (a Category 4 hurricane couldn't take this place down) than can be imagined. Want to check out the action? It's probably the only dive -- or bar, for that matter -- with its own web-cam monitor. And even though it smells like piss and vomit most of the time, the fact that it's half outdoors helps to keep you from vomiting yourself. It's also a dive with a view, located at the corner of A1A and Las Olas, directly across the street from the waterfront boardwalk.

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna