Seven Iconic Dive Bars in Encinitas

What is a dive bar? The debate about what constitutes a dive will never be settled, not even in a bar brawl.  Everyone knows Encinitas has plenty, but what binds them all together? Are there organizing themes? Or is it more like pornography—you know it when you see it.

Much like hipster bars, there are certain generalizations you can make—filth, Christmas lights, cheap drinks, undrinkable drafts—but there are exceptions to every rule. For every time you say no dive could possibly serve macaroni and cheese, there’s a dive that just happens to make incredible lobster. Touche.

But let’s get off the dictionary tip, and get to the list. These bars are all dives. Ultimately, what do they have in common? They’re great places to drink. Here are the 6 Best Dive Bars in Encinitas.

Daley Double SaloonSweet baby Jesus, it’s cheap. Traditionally, that’s a key component of recognizing a dive, though it’s not always the case in Encinitas, but at Daley Double Saloon it is. Your well drink will cost less than $5 and you will want a well drink, or at least you’ll want something not from a tap (again, this is another hallmark of a good dive). Maybe the bartenders can be gruff. But, as is the case with many dives, you have to earn your spot. Walking in and ordering a pitcher and then tapping your foot when things don’t quite speed along is just one way to show you don’t deserve this bar. 

Mr. Peabody’sLocated in a strip-mall, this Encinitas institution is known for its solid jukebox, reasonable prices and being generally welcoming to newcomers who behave themselves. Some people knock Mr. Peabody’s for its strictly measured pours, but Mr. Peabodys location in the heart of the downtown business district, sporty decor and iconic sign mean that no list of Encinitas dive bars is complete without it.

Bar LeucadianIt’s impossible to talk about dives in Encinitas without mentioning Bar Leucadian. This dive bar is an institution in Encinitas with so much history they have a BC and an AD. Honestly, someone could probably write a book on Bar Leucadian and the bartenders have been keeping notebooks about all the crazy stories.  For instance, one guy took a shot of vodka through his eyeball; they once painted the entire establishment pink to raise awareness about breast cancer; and who is going to forget the undercover cocaine sting that temporarily shut them down. This bar is the quintessential dive bar, because it’s drenched in nostalgia and stories of local legends.

The Shanty Cocktail Lounge: The phone’s been disconnected and from the street outside it looks closed. But The Shanty Cocktail Lounge is open, though not necessarily “alive” in the classic sense of the word. The bar is in a coma. Everything has slowed down inside this dive. Everyone’s drink has been set in stone since they first started coming here, decades ago. Order your beer and settle in. Give your resting heart beat the opportunity to hit the bar’s level. Just don’t succumb to heavy drinking and late night sorrow parties.

O’Hurley’s Beach Bar: O’Hurley’s Beach Bar is not a dive bar one goes to if friends are seeking out a “dive bar.” O’Hurley’s is a place where you go to drink with clientele that will be completely foreign to you. Boozebags drink alongside CEOs and misdirected tourists wander in from their hotels, looking astonished by the scene. The apathetic bartender could care less if there are any customers or not, but there always happy to serve anyone who walks in the door (with a smile I might add). There is absolutely nothing special about this bar except for how randomly awesome it is. A refreshing and dingy change of pace for times when you really don’t care to see a familiar face.

Captain Keno’sLast time I was at Captain Keno’s, I talked to a woman who, based on her familiarity with the bartender and other patrons, seemed like she’d spent every weekend since the Clinton administration at this decades-old bar. Turned out she’d been drinking her white Russians there for only a couple weeks. Another month, and she might as well be another patron who sings “Come and knock on our door, We’ve been waiting for you,, Where the kisses are hers and hers and his, Three’s company, too…”! It’s hard not to feel at home when you surround by the eclectic company, that frequents Captain Keno’s.

Have an amazing Dive Bar to share? Let me know in the comments.


By Jessica Krantz ; Originally written and posted for

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