Creating any kind of travel guide for the Triangle is difficult given the immense amount of people, businesses and unique neighborhoods covered by that kind of blanket moniker. The university-driven culture of Chapel Hill creates a different vibe than Raleigh or Durham, but what all areas have in common is the ability to support hidden dive bar gems.
One not-so-hidden gem is Chapel Hill’s He’s Not Here
, a University of North Carolina institution founded in 1972. As the only beer garden in the shadow of the university, crowds inevitably pack the broad back patio, but the calling card is the blue 32-ounce cups that seem omnipresent in and around He’s Not Here, each holding one of only two beverages offered by the Chapel Hill dive bar: beer or cider.
in Raleigh is more on the classic neighborhood corner spot end of the spectrum, a dive bar that shares the first floor of its building with a hot dog joint in one of the great dive bar pairings possible. Renovations have cleaned up the Bison Bar to some degree, but this is exactly the kind of local dive bar that can be found throughout the region.
And creating a completely different kind of ambiance is The Kraken
on the western outskirts of Chapel Hill, a roadhouse-style dive bar that features a steady stream of live music. Known as a good honky tonk destination, the musical pendulum also swings to heavy metal on occasion, particularly during the bar’s anniversary event, Krakenfest, each year.
These dive bar examples only scratch the surface of the available options in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and elsewhere. All ends of all spectrums are occupied by these and other options, all reflecting the unique characteristics of the communities they serve.