@PicturesofDives is the @NonstandardMcDonalds of dive bars

a bartender inside El Rio in San Francisco
Photo: Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle (Getty Images)

If you’re one of those people who spends their life on Twitter and needs a respite from the continual outrage (hello!), may we recommend you follow @PicturesofDives?

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The account is exactly what its handle promises: a stream of pictures of beloved dive bars, sometimes with stories. In the past year of its existence, it has attracted 35,000 followers and posted pictures of 900 bars from all 50 states. In that sense, it’s similar to the beloved account @NonstandardMcDonalds, except that it’s not so much about architecture as it is about nostalgia.

SFGate has an interview with Brandon Hinke, the account’s mastermind. Hinke started the account after moving to Chicago last year (he was in D.C. and his girlfriend, whom he met in a dive bar, was in Oakland, and they decided to move to the middle). The pandemic had started just after he arrived and he was unemployed and didn’t know the city well, so he started driving around at random. On one of his excursions, he came across a joint called the Windy City Lounge in Humboldt Park. He took a picture and posted it on Twitter with the caption, “Saw this spot while out today and this is like the platonic idea [sic] of what a bar should look like.”

The photo immediately went viral, and other people began posting photos of their own favorite dive bars. Hinke took this as a sign that, in the time of quarantine, there was a powerful need for dive bar content and started the @PicturesofDives account (it’s also on Instagram, where his mom, Nancy, faithfully comments on every post). His standards for diveyness are fairly relaxed, and he posts almost every picture he receives unless it’s blurry or the bartender is obviously wearing a tie.

“It’s been fun,” he told SFGate. “People love to send me stuff and tell me stories about the old crusty guy at the end of the bar or about a bar in Philadelphia where they had their wallet stolen the day the Eagles made the playoffs, and the guy who stole it felt bad, so he mailed it back and the owner got it the day the Eagles made the Super Bowl.”

Hinke has made many online friends through the account, and he has since found work as a janitor. Now that bars are opening again, he may finally meet them in person, “if anyone wants to have a cheap beer it’s someone who does physical, cheap labor and doesn’t get paid well.” (He also has a Ko-Fi account if you’d like to buy him a beer.)

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The SFGate article goes into greater depth about what @PicturesofDives meant to people who were cut off from their family and friends and favorite dives for more than a year. It’s worth a read.

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.

DISCUSSION

brickhardmeat
Brick HardMeat

I went through a nearly 5 year period in my twenties where I essentially put all career ambition on hold and just basically focused on playing music, drinking, and getting high. It was great.

The physical center for this period of my life was the Wonderland Ballroom, in DC, a wonderful dive bar where I don’t think I paid for a drink for that entire time span. It helps when you’re basically the resident band and hosting a weekly live music night.

The bar itself was small and dark, and adorned with all manner of local paraphernalia. Its history was checkered (it had been held up at gun point at least twice during my tenure) and organic - decades prior it had been a “Black” bar, then a gay bar, and by the time I rolled around it was early 2000 hipsters. But the vestiges of earlier clientele remained - old queer men still thought of it as there bar, moms and their adult children from the surrounding Black neighborhood still visited because it was the most convenient place, and then a diverse mix of transplants who came to DC for all sorts of reasons, some political, some advocacy driven, some just because it was a city, and none of us really comfortable at the K Street steakhouses or crowded clubs in Adams Morgan or U Street. What a beautiful mix of people.

The highlight of the year was the sundress festival, when all bar attendants were expected to don a sundress and raise money for local women’s shelters. We often had sundresses on hand, purchased in bulk from Goodwill, and for sale for $5 a piece, with the proceeds going towards those donations. The owner - a somewhat slimy but ultimately good dude - would break out cases of tiny 7 oz High Life bottles at the peak of the party, typically after the “fashion show” where buff (mostly) straight dudes would do a cat walk wearing nothing but these too-small sundresses. So you’d have this crazy mix of people, shit faced, laughing and dancing and spraying each other with cheap beer.

Man I miss my 20s.