Cheers to Nostalgia: Journey Into Pennsylvania’s Historic Dive Bar Scene

Dirty Franks

Dirty Franks in Philadelphia (Photo: Dirty Franks Facebook page)

By Lena Pothier

June 23, 2023

If you’re looking for a timeless, un-fancy place to grab a drink, the Keystone State is full of classic dive bars to quench your thirst.

The dive bar is something that will never go out of style. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax after a long day, hang out with friends on a Saturday night, or a spot to watch the game, a dive bar is the perfect place.

Many Pennsylvania dive bars have become an essential part of their neighborhood. This summer, we hope you’ll hit up some of our favorite spots on this list.

Bob and Barbara’s – Philadelphia

Serving up drinks in the shadow of Center City’s high-rise buildings in 1969, Bob and Barbara’s is known for many things. Its claim to fame is being the home of the classic Citywide Special: a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a Jim Beam shot for $4. The establishment is also home to Philly’s longest running drag show, starring Miss Lisa, and features live jazz. With great energy and cheap drinks, Bob and Barbara’s is a surefire fun time.

Dirty Frank’s – Philadelphia

Dirty Frank’s opened up as the Prohibition era ended, and has remained a beloved Philadelphia institution ever since. Its eclectic decor lures you in, from a mural of “Famous Franks” on the outside of the building, to the display of hubcaps from cars that fell victim to the state’s notorious potholes. With a great beer selection, the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere at Dirty Frank’s makes it the Philly favorite it is today.

Gooski’s – Pittsburgh

Located in Pittsburgh’s Polish Hill section, Gooski’s is one of the most beloved dive bars in the state. Gooski’s boasts a large beer list featuring microbrews, local, and imported beers. “The Rules” etched into a mirror behind the bar let you know exactly what type of place it is, so no crying allowed! In addition, Gooski’s is known for its outstanding pierogi and wings. The dim, red lighting, pool table, and conversational atmosphere makes it a local treasure.

Jake’s Bar – West Chester

A timeless college bar, Jake’s Bar in West Chester opens at 8 a.m and doesn’t close until 2 a.m. every day except Sunday. A nostalgic place for many in the West Chester area, Jake’s is known for its cheap beers and friendly staff. If you love a classic dive bar, it’s easy to fall in love with Jake’s. 

Lefty’s – Pittsburgh

Calling all Steelers fans: Lefty’s is the dive bar for you. Home of the $4 “strong island” iced tea and cheap drinks, Lefty’s is a surefire fun time. Lefty’s is in the heart of the Strip District, and is the perfect place to watch a game, grab a drink with friends, enjoy live music, or just hang out. This hole-in-the-wall dive has a great vibe with plenty of regulars and friendly staff.

Poor Richard’s Pub – Scranton

Poor Richard’s Pub is by far the most famous dive bar in all of Pennsylvania, thanks to it being the local watering hole of choice for Dunder Mifflin employees on “The Office.” Fittingly, the bar makes a few nods to the show, displaying a Dundie award and offering a drink called “That’s what she said.” It’s adjacent to a bowling alley, making it the perfect place to knock a few drinks back after knocking down a few pins. 

The Saucery Tavern – Erie

While many classic Erie dive bars have reached last call (let’s pour a little out for Norbs Bar and Bobby’s Place), they’re still serving them up at the Saucery Tavern. Known to regulars as “the Sauce,” this Erie mainstay is a favorite among locals for its cheap drinks, cheap eats, games (they hold dart tournaments), and laid back vibe.  

Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar – Philadelphia

Anthony “Ray” Capozzoli opened a saloon in 1938 where patrons were greeted with a “Happy Birthday” from the owner. Today, his son, Lou, carries on his father’s legacy with Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar. Located down the block from well-known South Philly cheesesteak spots Pat’s and Geno’s, Ray’s lives up to the hype and makes for a great dive bar. With karaoke, open mic nights, and a free Citywide Special (shot and a beer) on your birthday, it’s hard not to love Ray’s.


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