Why would anyone go to Missoula, Montana? Well it was a work trip, but that did not stop me from doing some exploring.
In order to do my exploring I enlisted the help of fellow TGS member, Mr. David Graf. Being on his home turf and knowing my love for dive bars, he did is best to oblige.
Here’s the thing though, I don’t know if its the age gap between my cohort and I (17 years or so), or the fact that Missoula may not have my definition of dive bar, but we didn’t really find what I’m looking for. Let me explain.
To me, and this is my definition, a good dive bar should have certain properties. They are the following..
- An odor. It should smell like 10 year old cigarette smoke and decomposing spilled beer. I mean if it doesn’t smell a little funky how divey can it be.
- Poor lighting. It should be dimly lit. As in you can’t see from one end of the bar to the other in the first 10 minutes you’re there because your eyes need to adjust.
- Cheap drinks and heavy pours. Stuff like $1.50 draws and whiskey and waters that are basically the same color as the whiskey.
- An aura of danger. If you’re not at least a little bit worried a fight is imminent then keep looking.
Now David did his best and lets review the two places we visited. First off, a place called Flipper’s.
Flipper’s is in my estimation not a dive bar. For one, when you walk in it’s not very dark. This might be a product of Montana. You can’t go into a bar in Montana that doesn’t have slot machines. This in and of itself would change the criteria in Montana of what constitutes a dive bar. There are so many dang neon lights on the machines that it would be impossible for the bar to be the requisite darkness.
Aside from the lack of darkness it didn’t smell dank when we walked in. What it did smell like was fried food. We did eat there and the food was good. The fact that the food was good doesn’t disqualify it from dive bar status, but the lack of smell does. Two strikes and you’re out when it comes to dive bar qualifications. I would recommend going to Flipper’s for a good burger and a fun atmosphere however.
The next stop was the Town and Country Lounge. The bar appears as though it was a Village Inn in a former life. However, it has been a bar for quite some time apparently. So, we know it was too bright just like the other bar. After visiting two locations and seeing the slot machines again, I am definitely leaning toward Montana dive bars all having this issue. As for the smell it was very faint. Some research tells me that they recently replaced their carpet. So because of that they passed the smell test. I’m guessing that it will smell again soon enough.
The drinks were not cheap enough but I also didn’t drink PBR. Apparently, PBR is the drink of choice in Missoula if you want something cheap. However a domestic bottle was 3 dollars and a whiskey mixer was 5. I find these amounts acceptable for further consideration of dive bar status.
Our final criteria would be the danger quotient. I did not get a sense of danger in Town and Country. I do have to admit we did not close down the bar or even come close. Also it was a weekday. Given all of the mitigating circumstances and some local lore told to me by the drunks at the bar, I am going to give it a TBD status. I cannot in good conscience eliminate or promote Town and Country Lounge at this time to dive bar status. More research is required.
While we did not find what I would call a true dive bar on this trip rest assured I have boots on the ground constantly researching. A future trip would require a return trip to Town and Country and hopefully some new locations so explore.
If you have any recommendations I would love to hear them. Hit us up in the comments section or on Twitter @tgatesociety