Dragon Horn Tavern

 

Bar:  Dragon Horn Tavern

Address:  2906 Juan Tabo Blvd NE  #A

Dave found this little gem by using Google Maps.  “Did you know there’s a bar attached to the Albertson’s across from the gym?  It’s called Dragon Snout,” he said.

“You’re shittin’ me,” I said (or something to that affect).

Because what would a bar be doing attached to a grocery store? Let alone one called Dragon Snout?   Well, it turns out there is a small strip center attached to that Albertson’s, with things like Sushi, a nail salon, and yes, a bar.  Not Dragon Snout but Dragon Horn, you can see how Dave could get that confused.

For all the times I have tooled up and down Juan Tabo, I never noticed this bar.  It’s really tucked in there and I don’t think they have road signage.  To top it off they have camouflaged the glass door by covering it in the same type of advertising plastic as the windows.  This is great for keeping it dark inside, but this seems to be a theme with dive bars.  Can’t find the door?  Might be a dive!

It’s plenty dark in the Dragon Horn.  I squinted at the half full bar for a good thirty seconds before I was convinced Dave was not already seated. As a woman walking in alone I generated curiosity from the patrons, who stared boldly back at me.  And why not?  They knew I couldn’t really see them.

I ordered a $2.75 pint of Bud on draft and Dave did the same when he arrived.  Dave thought the beer was a tad stale.  It seems unlikely given the general popularity of Bud and the fact that it’s their Happy Hour draft.  But who can tell?  Not us, I’ve been spending all my beer tasting energy the last five years on craft IPAs, and Dave doesn’t care for Bud.  Our next round was Pabst in the bottle, and you know what?  It was light, clean, and crispy.  Perhaps I’ll make a PBR fan yet.

And btw Dave still insists on calling the place Dragon Snout.

So is Dragon Horn a dive?  With a 9 out of 10 it’s definitely a DIVE!

The Chart:

Cheap drinks $2.75 draft pints of Bud or domestic long necks
PBR Yep
Floor irregularities At least one bit patch of what appears to be missing tile
Dark No shortage of dark here
Bathroom deficiencies Bathroom wasn’t pretty but was in good working order
Forbidden Fru Fru Drinks “Ha, no, we don’t have anything chocolate. We don’t even stock vermouth!” said the very friendly bar tender
Regulars Definitely.  One patron even bought a round for the bar
Pool/darts Serious pool and darts, they have leagues here
Quiet We sat right in front of the speaker and still managed to talk
Questionable décor The place is FILLED with weird dragon art.  Dragon heads, dragon claws holding up shelves or lights, dragons with horns.  And what looked like a nautical figurehead copping a feel of her own left boob.

 

 

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Molly’s

 

Bar:  Molly’s

Address:  546 State Hwy 333, Tijeras, NM 87059

OK, so Molly’s isn’t technically in Albuquerque.  But only takes six minutes to book through the canyon on I-40 East, and it’s just north off the Tijeras exit.  You’ll find it nestled in among elms and cottonwoods with a dirt parking lot.  It functions as a bit of a catch all for the East Mountain area –bar, family joint, package store and music, lots of live music. There’s no kitchen, but you can get a Trail Rider pizza from the trailer across the parking lot and they’ll bring it in for you.

There’s a nice outdoor patio, but we dive seekers stayed indoors to try and soak up that dive feeling.  The cooling at 4pm on this hot summer day was tolerable but not good. Dave wanted to add “cool in the summer” to the dive bar criteria, arguing that the experience should be akin to visiting a cave.  I told him it was too much work to change the dive criteria.  Also I think it might be at odds with the idea that a dive needs to stay cheap.

Molly’s is also a little bright what with its big windows, at least in the summer.  I guess a place like this would increase in diveyness in the cold and dark of winter.

The patrons are definitely the East Mountain eclectic, cowboy hat wearing, no-fuss crowd.  Everybody seemed to know one another AND the bartender, a combination that always makes me feel heart warmed and left out at the same time.  Ah well, I’ve still got Dave.  I’m more of a sit in a (dark) corner and scribble in a notebook type anyway.

So is Molly’s a dive?  Despite being light, bright, and kind of nice, it scores 8 out of 10 on the dive scale.    It’s a DIVE!

 

The Chart:

Cheap drinks $3 beers
PBR Yep
Floor irregularities Duct tape on worn carpet
Dark A bit too bright with summer daylight
Bathroom deficiencies NOPE everything in good working order AND it was cute
Forbidden Fru Fru Drinks Not in here, baby
Regulars I think everybody in here might be a regular
Pool/darts Nice looking pool table
Quiet You can talk in here even if there’s a band outside
Questionable décor Faux grape vine over the bar with lit and glowing bundles

What Exactly is a Dive Bar?

When I told people I wanted to write a blog on dive bars I sometimes got the question: “What exactly is a dive bar?” This question confused me, being as opinionated on the matter as I am. Yet answering is not so simple. Nobody is satisfied with “Well, when you go in, it feels divey.” This has led me to assemble some criteria, and, since this is my blog, I get to decide what those criteria are.

First, it has to be a bar. That means a full liquor license, not just beer and wine. Also, while I may drink at Applebees (and I do) I’m pretty sure that’s a restaurant. If the bar part of a restaurant is cordoned off in some way, maybe that part qualifies as an actual bar. Maybe not. I’ll have to call those as I see them.

A dive should aspire to the following criteria (actually not meeting #1 might be a game killer):

  1. $3 must get you SOMETHING, at least during happy hour. Yes I know this doesn’t exist in many places in the country but that just makes me think that’s probably what’s wrong with those places.
  2. Pabst Blue Ribbon. I get that this seems arbitrary, but since my bar diving partner, Dave, is inordinately attached to this brew it gets a spot.
  3. The floor should be sticky or uneven somewhere. Doesn’t matter where. Duct-tape on the floor definitely counts.
  4. It must be dark. Anything from ‘dark enough to induce seizure-like blinking if coming in from the daylight’ to ‘so dark your friends can’t find you until they’ve sat at the bar for five minutes’ (this happened to me once, in Paul’s).
  5. The bathroom should have some deficiency. No hot water counts, but better if parts of the toilet are missing and replaced with cardboard from beer boxes.
  6. They must be incapable of making a chocolate martini. There are many fru fru drinks that don’t belong in a dive bar, this one just sounded the most terrifyingly wrong.
  7. Regulars! Every dive bar needs ‘em. Here’s how to ID a regular:
  • They order without looking around or asking questions
  • They know the bartender’s name
  • They opt for self service of napkins, lemon wedges, or coasters by reaching behind the bar
  1. There should be a pool table or dart board. Bonus if the pool balls are a mismatched set. (I used to hang out in a bar where half the balls were #2. We played a game we called 2-ball. I miss that place.)
  2. Unless there is a band playing it should be quiet enough to have a conversation in most areas, not just the bathroom.
  3. There should be something in the décor worth a double take. Like maybe a stuffed jackalope behind the bar.

I’m thinking seven out of ten to make the dive bar cut.  And yes, that is a completely arbitrary number.