Food & Drink

A Guide to Southern Game-Day Dive Bars

Eleven time-tested college town drinking institutions

This weekend marks the halfway point of the college football season. We’re at game six, and by now, you’re either looking for a place to drown your sorrows—we’re not naming names, here—or you’re after a spot to celebrate a big win. So we’ve rounded up a few standout game-day bars in college towns across the South. These are the time-tested drinking institutions; some may be a little (or a lot) rough around the edges, but for fans that’s part of their appeal. If you’re looking for a fancy craft cocktail, think again. But if a cold draft beer will do, pull up a barstool.

From left: Esso Club in Clemson, SC; Egan’s Bar in Tuscaloosa, AL; the Dixie Chicken in College Station, TX.

(Bars are listed in alphabetical order by university.)

Auburn University
Auburn, AL

The 2015 football season is officially last call for the War Eagle Supper Club. The iconic bar on the outskirts of Auburn, which first opened 78 years ago, will close at the end of the season. But until then, the party continues. There’s still live music—everyone from Kenny Chesney to Widespread Panic has played here—and you can still order drinks from inside a decommissioned school bus out back. And if you’ve had one too many, the staff will drive you home in their free shuttle.—

University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL

On game days—especially the big matchups—Gallettes, which opened in 1976 and is the closest bar to the stadium, goes through close to 5,000 Yellowhammers. Served in 16-ounce plastic cups, the bar’s signature drink is a potent concoction of vodka, rum, pineapple and orange juices. Egan’s Bar, another Tuscaloosa institution and a classic smoky dive, is also a good bet. — / 

Clemson University
Clemson, SC

Housed in the hull of an old gas station, the Esso Club is Clemson’s oldest drinking den. During football season, there’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights. On busy evenings, navigate the crowds—everyone from college kids to their grandparents—to score a seat at the 1970s-era bar, which is made of cedar stadium seating, discarded during a renovation of Death Valley. Come kickoff, you’ve only got a five-minute walk to the stadium.—

University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

Built in 1914, the unofficial home of Gator Nation was once a UF professor’s actual home, complete with a white picket fence and shaded front lawn. When the Swamp Restaurant—one of the more dressed up watering holes on this list—took over the location in 1994, it kept all that. The new owners just added kitchen and bar service and opened the restaurant’s doors to several thousand tailgaters. Its location—a block and a half from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium—certainly doesn’t hurt the bar’s popularity on game days.—

Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL

The more than forty-year-old Palace Saloon isn’t much to look at from the outside—or the inside for that matter. But at this Tallahassee dive, just a short walk from Doak Campbell Stadium, the people are friendly and the beer is cold. There’s pool and darts and plenty of flat screen television sets. FSU fans flock here pre- and post-game.—

University of Georgia
Athens, GA

In Athens, the nightlife is such that you really can’t go wrong. But residents of all ages are fans of Nowhere Bar, a hole-in-the-wall pool hall and live music venue on North Lumpkin Street. The late owner, Craig “Sky” Hertwig, played offensive line for the Dawgs under Vince Dooley in the early 1970s. If you don’t have a seat in Sanford Stadium, walk across the street to the restored Georgia Theatre, where they project most games on the big screen. — /

Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA

A trip to The Chimes is part of the ritual for the LSU faithful. It’s just a fifteen-minute walk from Tiger Stadium and a great spot for lunch with a solid seafood selection and one of the most extensive beer lists in town. If you’re after cheap drinks, good live music, and a no-frills atmosphere, Bogie’s Bar, which turns twenty-one this year, is the place to go post-game.—

University of Mississippi
Oxford, MS

The Library—no, there’s not a book in the place—is located just a block off the Square and though there’s usually a cover, it’s always packed with Rebel fans on game days. Head to Proud Larry’s for great regional music and local labels behind the bar, such as Lazy Magnolia and Cathead Vodka.—

North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC

The very definition of a dive bar, the Players’ Retreat—“PR” to locals—is a Raleigh tradition. Open since 1951, it’s dimly lit with a couple of flat screens behind the bar and pool tables and vintage arcade games in the back. But the old-fashioned sports bar has a few surprises in its playbook, including way better-than-average food (Try the excellent chili cheese fries and Mimi’s Sausage Dip made with tomatoes, cream cheese, and locally sourced sausage) and an impressively long single-malt list.—

University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC

For diehard Gamecock fans, the Salty Nut Cafe in Five Points is the place to be on Saturdays. There’s a flat screen television at nearly every table so you won’t miss any of the pregame action or a single down if you’re ticketless. Best of all, roasted, crack-and-eat peanuts come free with any drink order. Toss the shells on the floor when you’re done. Why? Because you can.—

Texas A&M
College Station, TX

Opened in 1974, the Dixie Chicken, which claims to sell more beer per square foot than any other bar in the country, is an A&M classic. Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett are big fans of the College Station roadhouse. The wood-paneled interior is covered with the graffiti of patrons past and there’s old-school country on the radio. Grab a $4 Shiner pitcher before getting your photo with the bar’s live rattlesnake mascot. Don’t worry; he’s behind glass.—

—Did we miss your favorite dive? Chime in on Twitter using #CFBDiveBar.