Bring your Sharpie to the bathroom.
Adair’s Saloon is a Dallas dive bar so pure that were I to sleep and dream of dive bars, as often happens, the marker graffiti-marked walls of Adair’s would be the first image conjured by my PBR-starved brain. All signs point to a memorable evening when the Google Maps location seems a little suspect, with a pin suspiciously boxed in by an alley and a freeway. In fact, the Google “Street View” associated with Adair’s address is a photo taken quite literally from a speeding Google Map van on the nearby highway.
Sandwiched between the overpass and a parking lot, Adair’s occupies the tail end of a building in Dallas’ Deep Ellum district, a neighborhood perpetually walking the tight rope between an authentically underground vibe and surreptitious gentrification. Adairs’s is the best evidence of the former, unabashedly grimy, dark and inexpensive – in other words, perfect.
Adair’s walls belong in the dive bar Smithsonian, the result of decades of encouraged graffiti across any and all surfaces, with a smattering of stickers as complementary confetti, particularly behind the small stage at the front of the space. Christmas lights and neon beer signs provide the only significant light sources, aside from the soft glow of a few TVs mounted throughout. The ceiling is, you guessed it, covered in signage, graffiti and the occasional flag.
Though the center of the space is kept largely clear to accommodate the crowds drawn by free live music every night, booths line one wall and short tables occupy the rear of the space. And the bathrooms. Oh, the bathrooms. Slightly more orderly than the fevered scribblings of an inmate with access to a marker, the graffiti dial hits 11 within. Layer upon layer of unknown acronyms and drunken signatures line every inch of the simple bathroom walls. Again, they’re perfect.
The food menu is robust and astonishing, ranging from the hamburgers that first gave Adair’s its notoriety down to a single egg, purchased for the budget-friendly price of $1.25. The hamburgers, half-pound monstrosities designed to test the structural integrity of your mouth, represent a tradition started in Adair’s original location in Cedar Springs, opened in 1963, brought with the owners when they moved into the current location in 1983.
And it is the combination of all of these elements that makes Adair’s a perfect representation of a dive bar. The atmosphere, the food, the music, the walls, the Texan authenticity that runs through the space, the menu, the bathrooms. It’s the kind of place to get a Lone Star, a burger and a dose of country music…and a single egg if you’re feeling feisty.