Some of the best dive bars are the most unexpected, unassuming storefronts that open up onto surprisingly rich drinking environments. Downtown Dayton’s Southern Belle Tavern may not be entirely unassuming thanks to the black awnings out front inscribed in gold lettering, but the space inside is nonetheless surprising. Occupying one of Dayton’s older, brick-lined buildings, finding a dive bar crossed with a hunting lodge inside is not exactly the easiest result to envision.
Wood paneling touches nearly every aspect of the Southern Belle Tavern’s interior, from the crisscross pattern on the wood above the bar to the exposed wooden beams that hang over the space. A fair amount of exposed brick is visible in side as well, a nod to the building’s exterior and a nice visual change of space, but this is a wood paneled dive bar at heart. Pool tables, darts and shuffleboard are among the amenities across the fairly cavernous Dayton dive bar footprint, a welcome, dimly-lit refuge from the city center outside the front door.