Grab a High Life, take a lap, look for the Colt 45 sign.
The fact that no vintage beer sign museum exists is a tragedy, but kudos for Lee Harvey’s in south Dallas for taking up the cause. Located in a particularly desolate neighborhood, stumbling upon Lee Harvey’s is stumbling on a dive bar oasis that happens to feature an epic front yard patio thick with picnic tables and probably a dog or two. Ownership and formats have rotated over the years, including stints as diner and biker bar, but the current incarnation of Lee Harvey’s embodies drinking in a 1970s-era wood paneled basement in the best possible way.
To address the natural question first, no tangible connection exists between Lee Harvey Oswald and this particular dive bar beyond the city of Dallas playing home to both. And though the space itself has lasted a handful of decades, beginning its life as a residential home, the name is fairly recent and more a dash of character than anything else. But no name was needed to add character here, the wood paneling, vintage signs, massive lot and oasis location all the character needed in a Dallas dive bar.
It is not unthinkable for someone to visit Lee Harvey’s without experiencing the majesty of the dive bar’s interior. The front yard is epic, purposefully referred to here as a front yard because that’s what it looks like, albeit with more picnic tables than the average residential lot. A large front patio doubles as the dive bar’s outdoor stage, host to a rotating set of bands on weekends playing to the broadly assembled crowd. Lee Harvey’s is dog friendly, the outside patio the obvious destination for most, making for a neighborhood vibe despite a location that does feel a bit like a well-lit island in an otherwise sparse area.
And while the front yard is indeed impressive, the real dive bar majesty is found inside, every wall a shrine to some long forgotten beer sign sometimes devoted to a long forgotten beer company. The space is a bit of a maze, a good thing in this case because multiple drinking alcoves are created throughout Lee Harvey’s, including a front sitting room with vintage CD-based jukebox and the first hint of museum quality beer signage (look for the Michelob cylinder light here). Next to a Ms. Pac-Man machine in this front room sits a cigarette machine under maybe the most glorious light in the dive bar, an epic Colt 45 lamp.
The bar is a double sided, 360-degree offering sitting in the center of two rooms divided, again creating some secluded dive bar drinking for those seeking such a thing. Half of this bisected bar space sits near the front entrance, a small selection of padded green hightop chairs lining the counter. Though a repair can be found here and there, the counter at least gives the appearance of a life largely untouched, imperfections thankfully visible. The beer sign game is strong here as well, a bright red Miller Beer sign hovering over the center of the back end of the bar. A fireplace adds yet more character to a small sliver of Lee Harvey’s already packed with it.
On the way to the second half of the bar area, a pool table sits in a relatively removed portion of the space, the wood paneling here complemented by a mirror and a pair of glorious Coors lamps that sit over the table. Next to the bar, more green hightop chairs and a strand of hanging large-bulb, red Christmas lights that fill the space with a perfect dive bar glow when paired with the deep brown hue of aged wood paneling. No matter the side of the bar, for those retreating inside, the hightop seats serve as a nerve center of sorts, full view available of those drinking amid Lee Harvey’s signs and paneling.
A graffiti-filled bathroom isn’t exactly an uncommon dive bar characteristic, but Lee Harvey’s boasts a pretty formidable offering. Painted sometimes but not constantly, the tapestry here is thick and evolving. Behind the scenes, updates have been made and a full kitchen is available the bulk of the day. Offerings include classic sandwiches and burgers, but there is a ribeye on offer as well, making the food here nothing to dismiss. A near-daily happy hour takes the affordability here up a notch as well, prices already fairly reasonable among Dallas dive bars.
Though ownership has shifted here a few times, and the name is certainly an intentional choice to generate a bit of interest, Lee Harvey’s wood-lined interior simply cannot be faked. The small footprint inside, dominated by a hub & spoke bar placement provides a beer sign labyrinth that begs to be experienced with a High Life in hand. That a massive front yard provides additional overflow drinking space only adds to a south Dallas dive bar king.