As American cities go, Phoenix is new, the beneficiary of nearly constant growth over a period of decades that continues to push the boundaries of the city. In that context, finding an ancient dive bar is a little more tricky here than in other locations, but there are dive bar gems throughout the city that provide a glimpse into a past that may not be as lengthy as an East Coast original, but is no less rich.
Maybe the city’s best example of hidden history is Bikini Lounge
, a dive bar crossed with a tiki bar that is very much in the running for one of the oldest tiki bars in the world. Opened in 1947, tiki bars weren’t really a thing at the time, though the growing need for escapism would spark an explosion of Polynesian-themed establishments over the coming years. The dive bar’s past has been embraced more fully by current owner Matt Tomb, the space becoming more a true tiki bar than a tiki-themed dive.
As the city’s borders have expanded, dive bars once considered outposts on the fringe slowly coming into the core of the city, including a place like East Phoenix’s Wanderin
. The vintage here is a little older (1972) but any bar that opens at 6 AM and closes at 2 AM will no doubt catch its share of diverse regulars. The fact that a package liquor store is attached to Wanderin only adds to the round-the-clock appeal.
And then there are the countless corner neighborhood dive bars like Swizzle Inn
, in this case the resident of a back corner of a strip mall that looks a bit foreboding at first glance. Inside, Christmas tinsel and string lights rival the friendly communal dive bar atmosphere of any city. New or not, Phoenix’s dive bar scene is alive and well, the vintage mixed with more recent entries. Just like any city, finding a great one is a matter of experimentation and a few curated suggestions have been compiled below.