City Paper is not for tourists
D.C. is full of watering holes serving Lychee-tinis and obscure microbrews with names like Two-Fisted Trouthammer IPA of Death, but dive bars? We’re not talking fake dives, recognizable by their yuppie accoutrements—wine lists, organic burgers, hipsters clotted at the jukebox punching in Johnny Cash prison songs—but real dives, ones where Bukowski might take a few punches and where characters from the Tom Waits songbook have spent a good part of their wistful lives. Simply put, a dive bar must never, ever sell beer that costs more than $5 a toss. Given that criterion, it’s almost inevitable the best dive is not in D.C. but in Maryland on Rockville Pike, that intestine leading to the pinched sphincter of the Beltway. It’s Hank Dietle’s Tavern, recognizable by its COLD BEER sign and its defiant slump next to the decidedly more upscale Addie’s. Unlike Addie’s, Dietle’s reeks of stale brews, and the only food in sight is a metal stand of Utz pretzels. So let’s review the dive-bar checklist: Cheap beer? Check: At the 4 to 7 p.m. weekday happy hour, a pint of domestic sets you back $1.75. Brainwashing by American lager behemoths? Check: Budweiser signs abound. Sense of joining a long line of dissolute boozers? Check: The building’s been here since the early 1900s and reputedly hosted church services and later served as a general store before finally slouching toward Gomorrah in the 1960s. There’s not a microbrew in sight, the giant beer bottle above the bar lights up when the phone rings, and the “wine list” simply reads WINE $3.00. It gets busy later in the evening, which is perfect. Around that hour of blue, dusky light, Dietle’s is the perfect dive to sip a pint and consider the life you’re wasting.