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When it comes to pubs, taverns, breweries and nightclubs, Superior and its Twin Port of Duluth rank among the top metro areas in the US for bars per capita. And between these two towns connected by bridges, bays and stunning Lake Superior vistas, “Supetown” has long been considered the undisputed champion for a wild night out. Or, for that matter, sipping away a day in spots that feel like a throwback in time. Chalk it up to the unique history of a city where sail meets rail. Drinking establishments sprang up catering to the industries, immigrants and favorite activities of the day. That’s still true, only the activities have changed, drawing folks who say stuff like “go Pack go!” “bingo!” “Rock on!” or “yas, Queen!”
What’s a Superior dive bar like?
Expect quirky decor and even quirkier patrons. A lived-in feeling that draws neighbors and travelers alike for cheap drinks, comfort food and a casual vibe. Often, it means dim lights, bar games, meat raffles and outdoor patios. Some have jukeboxes, DJ’s or live music. Many are set in vintage buildings with tin-covered ceilings, warped wood floors and antique bars. Most serve up atmosphere with a splash of honest Northwoods charm. Tell ya like it is. And let you be you.
Start on Tower Avenue
Locals have their favorite watering holes in every neighborhood, but there’s one stretch of town that packs a Superior punch—and towers above the rest of the Twin Ports dive scene. Tower Avenue, with so many legit options, is a true destination for drinking, dancing and shooting the breeze—especially along the one-mile span between Belknap and North Third Streets.
From cozy to campy, hip to hole-in-the-wall, loud to LGBTQ-proud, here’s a list of some places to pull up a stool. Play games. Jam out. And discover the personality of some cherished Wisconsin watering holes.
Locals know it for serving “Malort,” the infamously bitter 70-proof liqueur more commonly associated with Chicago dive bars. But this tavern has a distinctly Superior history. Look for the “Molly’s” sign, which pays homage to the former bar owned and operated for decades by Superior icon, Molly Spaun, whose famous tavern spanned 60 years—welcoming characters of every background: from sailors and bikers to police and prostitutes, teachers and the LGBTQ community.
The city’s classic nautical-themed hole-in-the-wall is crammed with more nods to Superior’s sailing history than you can toss a tow line at. Featured on the show “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives,” it’s got undeniable charm. But does it have the best burger and home-cut fries in the Twin Ports? Locals arm wrestle over the answer to that question, but this dive gets lots of praise—thanks to ambiance and affordability.
Known as a trailblazing pioneer for the LGBTQ community in the Twin Ports, it’s home to more than drag and burlesque shows. Today, the region’s original “gay bar” has evolved into an inclusive, welcoming hot spot for all who like weekend music, creative entertainment or chillin’ at the bar.
It has some of the vintage vibes of many Superior drinking establishments — a wood bar, tall ceilings, brick exterior — with a clean space for modern conveniences like pool, ping pong, darts and cornhole, which make it one of the best “game night” spots.
Home to “the coolest bar sign around,” the bar name might have you questioning who goes here. That’d be locals and folks who like chili and big burgers—especially the cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy—served with their drinks, pool and gaming machines.
A great nightcap spot with some of the best homemade apple pie moonshine, a staple in the local dive bar scene. With an outdoor fire pit area in the warmer months, this friendly spot features daily drink specials, outdoor bean bags, ladder golf and live music.
Located in an 1886 building and former dentist office, 7 West is less dive and more modern burger bar with a wide variety of craft brews and ciders on tap.
Like all the bars on this list, Jack’s is a classic local hangout — for all the dive bar reasons.
For live music and butt-shaking beer garden parties on a killer outdoor patio, this place is a must. It’s a little further south on Tower Avenue, but worth the hike on a night with live tunes or if you just want to chill on the patio amid an array of old-time murals on the walls.
So many more
Tower Avenue is famous for dives, but there’s much more to explore in Superior. Here are a few more unique spots to sample around town.
Want a morning nip? Come here for a loaded bloody mary and country-fried steak. The bloodies are “loaded” with shrimp, bacon, pickle spear, olive, mushroom, onion—and a side snit of beer. It’s not just for people who want to get drunk at breakfast (hey, no judgment). The East Side spot for all-day food, darts and pool is set inside an old rail car. Located beside a trainyard and across the street from Allouez Bay and Wisconsin Point, it’s a charming reminder of Superior’s railroad history.
This place is a champ for people on lunch breaks or study breaks. Located across the street from the University of Wisconsin Superior, TJ Champion’s features affordable cooked-from-scratch meals. It’s not all home-smoked meats and TLC, however. Most people come at night for the cheap drinks and dive bar vibe.
Locals rave about the upsidedown burgers, wings and other daily food specials. Visitors might be drawn to the ridiculous 5-pound and 8-pound burger challenges. Oh, and yes there’s also a bar with a beer bottoms-up tap system.
Whether you’re here for the tender smoked meats or the thumping weekend DJ party, there’s definitely some unique dive vibe going on with a nice Southern and island flavor.
The vintage sign in South Superior formerly said “Les Bird’s” to reflect the owner’s name, causing some to think there was a French theme. No. Instead, you’ll find cheap drinks, horseshoes and nights dedicated to live music, karaoke, motorcycles and meat raffles.
If you like your bar no-frills—as in dark, dirty and truly divey—then this could be your Valhalla. Appropriately located off the main drag, it’s got what so many Superior bars have: cheap beer, strong drinks, penny slots and friendly people.
Don’t do dives?
Some locals lovingly say “all our bars are dives,” which really just means they’re authentic, welcoming and full of character. That said, here are some newer, shinier options to consider:
Home to amazing craft cocktails, this chic lounge is located in the old Superior City Hall
Gourmet pizza and craft beer is served up in a brewpub located in a stunning 1908 Soo Line train depot.
As the official Earth Rider Brewery tasting room, you can sample locally brewed creations or get something to go. Plus, enjoy live music inside or outside on the festival grounds.
Superior’s first self-pour taproom with beers, ciders, seltzers and wines. Plus a full bar.
Don’t drink? No problem. Superior’s famous for its libation scene, but the bar scene is about more than making memories that last a nighttime. There’s live music, karaoke, cabaret, roller skating, comedy, dancing, bingo–you name it. Just come as you are: characters are welcome. Every day of the week.
Hungry? Maybe you hanker for more than a pickled egg from a jar on the bar. There are plenty of options for libations served with the perfect pizza. Burgers and home-cut fries served with a side of attitude. Fresh salad and classic surf and turf. Check out these options.
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