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These Are the 33 Best Dive Bars in America

11/25/2013 11:26 am ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014

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Craft cocktails and moustachioed bartenders are nice and all, but sometimes you just want a super-still whiskey/Coke served up by a lifelong bartendress with nicotine-stained fingers who calls you "hon." Or just hates you outright. Sometimes you want to sit in the dark, watching people playing video poker. Or see a fight. With that in mind, we've assembled this list of the country's greatest dives, places where the drinks are as strong as the parking-lot brawlers, the prices are as cheap as the chick you made out with in the bathroom, and everything that is good in this world thrives.

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CREDIT: Jeff Waraniak

2 Way Inn (Detroit, MI)
The oldest standing bar in Detroit -- it survived riots and the collapse of Motown, plus an endless stream of bar fights -- the 2 Way has also doubled as a store, a jail, a brothel, and a dance hall. Now, it stands as the Motor City's ultimate dive, with a bar as old as the building -- and it's owned by a dude who'll often fire up the grill after a few cocktails strong enough to level a building on Devil's Night. The patrons range from hipsters to old-timers, the bartenders are surly, and the interior is like a time portal into Detroit's heyday... right down to the dude at the bar who probably never left after his last shift at the plant.

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Dan's Cafe (Washington, DC)CREDIT: Yelp/Nicole G

The guy sitting next to you might be a senator's aid. Or a college kid. Or a serial killer. But no matter who he is, he's sitting at a dilapidated bar in a dilapidated building, dilapidating his liver via the cafe's mix-your-own cocktail program, where you get liquor, mixer, and ice and pour it in a squeezable condiment bottle. That'll make people do a lot of things, from punch dudes in the face to make out with a butterface in a bathroom that looks like it's trying to trump the one in Trainspotting. Yeah, this place rules that much.

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The Cloak Room (Austin, TX)

Located near the Capitol, the Cloak Room's been an Austin institution since the '70s, when it was opened by a lobbyist who was inspired by a similar DC joint. The unchanged basement bar -- which's located in a historic building -- rocks eerie low-watt wall sconces and dark wood tables that date to before W's governorship (he came in once... for a soda), and the same crotchety bartender has held court/denied you "complicated" cocktails like old-fashioneds since 1989. If a David Lynch film ever called for a conversation between two sinister legislators, this would be the place.

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Buddha Lounge (San Francisco, CA)CREDIT: Yelp/Akiki I.

Unlike any other joint in Chinatown, the Buddha's bartender, Mark, will play you in a dice game for beers (lose and you buy him/you a beer, win and he buys you/him a beer). The one caveat -- you have to play before 8 p.,., because he "has to drive home after work." The ultimate in dive bar-iness: if you want to go to the bathroom, you have to flag down Mark and he'll buzz you into a gate in the back of the maybe-12-seat bar to walk down some sketchy staircase to their men's room. It's cash only, and Mark pushes a "Three Penis" Chinese whiskey pretty hard. Oh yeah -- they have "Three Penis" Chinese whiskey.

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The Aladdin General Store (Aladdin, WY) CREDIT: Yelp/Jenn C.

The biggest building in the Wyoming town of 15, this joint has no plumbing, but it does have an antiques shop, jerky, and -- most importantly -- one of the last "honor bars" in the country. Pop into the liquor store/bar section of the store (it's across the aisle from the post office and next to the buffalo-emblazoned sweatshirts), hit up a shelf full of whiskey, and pour to your heart's content. When you're done, just tell the cashier what you had. But be honest. In a town of 15 people (most of whom probably have guns), you're gonna be pretty easy to track down.

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The Salty Dawg Saloon (Homer, AK) CREDIT: Flickr/Zaskoda

A beacon for crusty crabbers, locals, and tourists (in the busy season), the Dawg's a literal coastal lighthouse that began life as a cabin in 1897, before Alaska was a state. Once also a school and post office, it's now a repository for cheap, strong drinks served up in a joint that's covered with fishing gear that's covered with signed dollar bills from patrons (seriously, if it caught on fire, it'd be a stripper's nightmare). The locals are friendly, and the ladies will gladly regale you with made-up local folklore in exchange for beers... possibly about the origins of the human skull behind the bar.