Coming from New Orleans, my interpretation of a dive bar is a no frills place that is loud, has cheap beer, stiff drinks, dim lighting, greasy food, seasoned regulars and absolutely no aioli. More importantly, they are places where you can check your pretensions at the door. Maybe the term dive bar has a negative connotation, but for the more open-minded denizen, these local joints can teach you a lot about the neighborhood. And not unlike dive bars, Albany itself is a place fraught with misconception and prejudgment.
All things considered, I assure you that a visit to any one of these places will reward you with not only a good time, but friendly people. In no particular order, these are my top four:
Chasers Bar & Grill
Simply put, Chasers is a classic small town bar with a wide demographic, steady stream of regulars, and cheap food and booze. From the street, the building doesn’t look like much – just a modest sign, a dated brick exterior, and fluorescent “open” sign that shines like a beacon against the dark and utter quiet of the residential street. Once inside, it’s not much different. People drink from pitchers of beer on card tables with folding plastic chairs. Leslie, the jovial bartender is attentive, smiling and quick to get you served.
At a table in the corner sits an older gentleman with a bright white suit, black fedora and black and white spats. Since no one else seems to be dressed up, the man seems a little out of place, but suddenly a name is called over the microphone and the old man is roused from his chair. Draft beer in hand, the man is cheered by the crowd to his spot at the top of the karaoke line. Clearly, it’s not his first rodeo.
The joint is packed. Food spills out of a small opening in the wall between the bar and karaoke room. Bryan Adam’s “The Summer of 69” thunders out of the wall mounted jukebox. Shoulder to shoulder, a line of hardy gaming warriors with faces aglow play their luck at the bank of video poker machines.
As she tends to one of the jammed machines, Leslie laments the evils that Fireball possesses over her patrons. A pool cue slams on the ground and she turns to the culprit and barks: “Hey that’s a new stick you ****sucker.” Despite this, she works diligently to keep everyone happy like they are all her children in a weird sort of way.
Chasers is a lot like other bars with Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights, digital jukebox, a late night menu of fries, sliders and sandwiches, gambling machines, a lone pool table and flat screens playing national sports. But also of note is their Paper Rock Scissors Tournament, really tasty 50-cent wings on Wednesdays and Mexican Food Fridays. “It looks shadier than it is,” as one online review puts it best. It is also hard to not admire the honesty of its people and well-used spaces. And believe it or not the bathrooms are immaculate!
Chasers Bar & Grill is located at 435 SE 2nd Avenue in Albany and is open daily from 11am to 2am.
Linger Longer Tavern
This truly is a throw back tavern as it was first established in the 1930’s. The Linger Longer is a much quieter, smaller and cozier neighborhood bar with decorative mirrored backsplash, wall-hung mementos and all. The clientele and staff here are also noticeably older but all the more personable and accommodating.
Decked out with pool tables, video poker, 25-cent popcorn, and cold draft beer, this historic dive tavern is an Albany staple. Owner Ruthie Tribur, once lived above the bar, but can be seen occasionally hanging around the LL. It will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary in the current iteration of its storied career.
The Linger Longer also is a little less boisterous as some other Albany bars, and as we step in at a quarter after eleven, only a handful of middle-aged dudes sit at the bar and shoot pool. Our gang of grad school-looking tourists might stand out like a sore thumb, but nonetheless we quickly strike up conversations with a red-eyed, staggering gentleman who proceeds to jump in our selfie. He challenges me to a game of pool and I proceed to whoop his tail, but we are welcomed with open arms in less than 30 minutes of our arrival, which is pretty indicative of this place.
The Linger Longer is intimate and warm, and its atmosphere is much more tempered than some of its bar counterparts. Something to note is they do close early and sometimes earlier than they advertise. Also, if you are expecting to find microbrews and a diverse array of food, go somewhere else! They also do not serve liquor.
The Linger Longer Tavern is located at145 Main Street SE in Albany. It is open daily from 7 am to 1 am.
Ma’s Dairy Farm Tavern
If you are looking to find Chinese food and drink Rolling Rock in a barn-looking structure, Ma’s Dairy Farm is the place to be! Intentional or not, the barn-like appearance could easily be confused for a feed and hardware store as you roll down Pacific Highway. The cramped parking lot fills up quick but the larger interior accommodates quite a bit of people.
Sitting at the bar, I am given a robust bar menu of not only Chinese food but your favorite hearty American options as well. The bartender, less talkative and more to the point, dishes out bottled beers in lightening fast pace. The food we ordered arrives pretty quick as well. The gracious interior allows for four pool tables with plenty of elbow room. Small seating areas surround the perimeter.
Ma’s is more widely known to outside crowds from Corvallis to Lebanon and possibly more accessible because of its location, but no less quirky in personality. With probably the youngest of crowds, Ma’s still has its regulars, but as a result of its mixed crowd, you can enjoy an assortment of IPAs or classic Milwaukee-born drafts if that is your thing. Whether it’s your pregame spot or the place you want to end the night, Ma’s is something to be witnessed in person.
Ma’s Dairy Farm is located at 3411 Pacific Blvd. SW in Albany. It is open daily from 9:30 am to 2am.
Humpty’s Dump Bar & Grill
As the name implies, Humpty’s does not worry over appearances. Known far and wide for its “broasted” chicken and jojos, which is a chicken that is broiled and roasted with a side of wedge-like potatoes. The actual bar area is quite small compared to the surrounding booths and pool table areas.
When we perched on the well worn, padded bar stools to watch the College Football Championship, the small tv screens at the bar had annoyingly garbled reception, but as we drank the pour-heavy mixed drinks Dee served us, it became less apparent. For such a large place, the crowd was very light, but as you might notice from I-5, the parking lot is often packed. The pink exterior and a muralized humpty dumpty character grace the road frontage.
Other than the broasted chicken, fried mushrooms are a popular appetizer, but in many respects Humpty’s is a place that many locals or interstate travelers use as a diner. It has a full menu with everything from Rib-eye steaks to burgers. Children are even allowed in a portion of the space.
Like Ma’s there are plenty of pool tables and gaming machines for the regular crowd to enjoy. Did I mention this place is known for pouring a strong drink? I am not sure if I would bring my kids here, but it has been known to host many bachelorette parties over the years.
Again, using online reviews to epitomize this establishment, one user aptly explains it is a “classic s**thole with greasy food and broken down pool tables—oh, and poker machines that remind me of a glory hole book club.” Yes, that sounds like a compliment to me!
Humpty’s Dump Bar & Grill is located at 916 Old Salem Road NE in Albany.
By Chris McDowell