Because mirrored glass is the diviest kind.
There is always something to be admired by a dive bar that throws the term “world famous” into its name. And though Bull Tavern may occupy a small part of a strip mall on the outskirts of Jacksonville proper, who am I and who are you to question the legendary status of the establishment. The fact that the space sits behind one-way mirrored glass only lends additional credibility to the dive bar’s name, and the red, bold block letters that span the length of four large windows and two doors leaves little to be questioned.
Jacksonville dive bar Bull Tavern is about as southern a dive bar as you’re going to find in a largely urban portion of a major American city. Were the structure transported to the outskirts of a farm well outside city limits, it would fit right in and that is only a good thing for those looking for a little respite from the urban environment that surrounds Bull Tavern. The reputation of this particular Jacksonville dive bar is that it is a magnet for bikers, and though that may be true (there were indeed a few in attendance during this reviewer’s last visit), the phrase ‘biker bar’ should be seen only a descriptor, not a limit on who might be welcome.
This is the type of Jacksonville dive bar where birthdays are celebrated, special potlucks are arranged, a little light gambling can be arranged and the in-bar video games serve as enduring and eternal sources of competition and pride. Though the neighborhood that surrounds Bull Tavern isn’t as residential as that description may imply, this is certainly a neighborhood bar that caters to a steady stream of nearby residents and regulars.
Inside, the space serves as a single-space shoebox of a dive, bar on one end, pair of pool tables on the other. The walls are covered in street signs, racing posters, license plate and all variety of beer memorabilia. Flags hang from the black-painted drop ceiling and a series of wood lattice-covered beams cross the space, making the ceiling feel just a bit lower and the space a little more compact. Among the mirrored beer signs directly over the bar, a piece of wood inscribed with “Old Hookers Are The Best” can be found, a fine complement to the steer horns just above it.
And though there are a couple of televisions mounted throughout the space, Bull Tavern feels much more like a group conversation-style dive bar rather than a watch-the-game-in-silence style sports bar. A pair of tall, wooden, in one case ancient tables straddle the open space between bar and pool tables. And a small side room features a couple of sit-down gambling stations in keeping with Florida dive bar tradition.
Bull Tavern is an escape, and one maybe a little bit mislabeled as a biker bar and more of a neighborhood haunt that welcomes bikers, locals and those passing by. Though there is no mistake that Bull Tavern is a true Jacksonville dive bar, the vibe is one that would feel appropriate to the country just as well as it does to a strip mall in east Jacksonville. Biker or not, that mirrored glass makes for an alluring dive bar destination on any trip through the city.