Dive bars are like a boxes of chocolates. Or slot machines. You never quite know what you’re going to get.
By definition, dive bars are all rough around the edges on the outside. Often though, they are warm, welcoming, and some of the most genuine establishments in the world on the inside. But you never know for sure, so you just have to take a chance and walk through the door of a dive bar; and in a city famous for games of risk, Las Vegas happens to be home to a handful of darn good dive bars.
My favorite is the Double Down Saloon.
The Double Down Saloon. Just look at that name – I mean, you really couldn’t come up with a better one for a bar in Las Vegas, could you? It was the name that attracted me to the bar in the first place. One night while I was living in Las Vegas, I was strolling the streets near The Hard Rock when I spotted it. Based on the name alone, I figured there had to be something good hiding behind the rough-and-tumble facade. While the door guy working that night looked a little intimidating, my roommate and I decided to take a chance, and we hit the jackpot.
The Double Down Saloon dubs itself the ‘happiest place on earth’, and while some places would get a letter from Disney’s lawyers for such a nickname, they manage to get a pass. I’m guessing it’s because you’d never in a million years confuse the two.
No, the Double Down Saloon is no Disneyland. It’s a cave-like space with walls that feature ‘Day of the Dead meets Animal House’ type murals and signs with irreverent declarations like ‘Shut Up and Drink’, among others not fit for print. And if you hear ‘It’s A Small World After All’ being played, it’s being thrashed out by a live punk rock band.
No, the Double Down Saloon isn’t for the faint of heart, but don’t let that scare you for a minute.
While it may sound like a place that’s standoffish, everyone is welcome here, as long as you’re cool. And by cool, I don’t mean in the latest fashions or with a swollen bank account, I just mean down-to-earth and, well, just not a jerk. No, the staff at Double Down treats everyone like a king while they are shaking up cocktails, pouring beer, straining shots, and keeping an eye on the video gambling machines.
None of those things, however, are the reason why this place is the king of Las Vegas dive bars. What makes this place special is that even though it only opened in 1992, it manages to feel like a genuine throwback to Old Vegas. And when I say ‘Old Vegas’, I don’t necessarily mean the Vegas of Sammy, Frank, and the rest of the Rat Pack. I mean Vegas before it became sanitized, Vegas before it became an ‘Approved For All Audiences’ Griswold backdrop, Vegas when it was still a bit rough, and a little bit risky. The owner of the Double Down Saloon is so passionate about keeping this spirit alive, he’s even authored a couple of works of fiction on the subject, and trust me, you’ll feel it surround you the second you walk in.
The Double Down Saloon: go on, roll the dice and check it out, and tell ’em I sent you. Actually, don’t tell them that.
This post originally appeared on TravelPulse