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Viva la Dive Bar!

In celebration of the comfortable squalor and cheap-ass booze of Atlanta's dive-iest bars

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Other dive-y must-do's

The Rusty Nail
2900 Buford Highway. 404-634-6306. rustynailpub.com.

The barbecue smoker shaped like a giant Colt revolver out front may scare some folks away, but on the inside, this 36-year-old watering hole is invitingly rustic, with wooden booths built into the walls. The bar itself is round, occupying the center of the hexagonal building. Aside from its age and unself-conscious down-hominess, the Rusty Nail is probably too clean to qualify as a genuine dive bar. But the vibe is right.

Faces Lounge
138 Powers Ferry Road, Marietta. 770-579-3801. faceslounge.com.

This 40-year-old pub is a little frayed at the edges — worn vinyl barstools, missing linoleum tiles — but it keeps plugging on. For several years now, it's held its own "Shooting Star" singing contest with weekly eliminations, as well as pool tournaments and karaoke four nights a week, emceed for the past decade or so by the same hostess. Explains a waitress: "People who come here tend to stay."

Nik's Place
645 Whitlock Ave., Marietta. 770-792-6666. niksplace.com.

Occupying a sprawling old bungalow on the edge of Marietta's historic district, Nik's is really several places in one. It's a dive bar, of course, with plywood floors and a gnarly fiberglass drop ceiling. There's even a blow-up doll tastefully displayed atop the beer cabinet. But it's also a restaurant serving a full menu of gyros, moussaka and other Greek specialties. Finally, it's a high schooler's dream of what a frat house should be, with ratty thrift-store couches, pool tables and video games.

Tucker Saloon
3766 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker. 770-864-1985.

Graffiti covers every inch of the walls and ceiling. Cigarettes litter the floor. The video games don't work. Natty Light costs $1.75 a can. This former 1940s farmhouse has had six different names in the last few years, including the Shack, the Other Bar, the Outhouse, the Sea Shanty and, aptly, the Shack is Back. But don't worry: It's still a dive, only now catering largely to gays, bikers and gay bikers. The owners also say they've purged the drug dealers and ne'er-do-wells who helped the saloon achieve near-legendary status as a place to look for trouble. Consider that a challenge.

Club Smokeys
243 McDonough Boulevard. (Phone unlisted and perhaps non-existent)

I admit to long being fascinated by Club Smokeys, with its windowless, cinder block exterior painted hunter green and adorned with lively if amateurish representations of burgers, chicken baskets and pool tables. Is it a bar and grill, as the hand-lettering promises? Is it really open 24 hours? When I tried to stop in on a recent afternoon, some guys hanging out in the parking lot assured me the place was closed, even though the parking lot was full of hoopties. Here's what I do know: Smokeys was busted a few years ago for hosting illegal gambling and serving liquor without a license, yet somehow still attracts a busy daytime trade. Earlier this year, its kitchen failed a county health inspection.

Could Club Smokeys be the most hardcore dive bar in Atlanta? Tell you what: You check it out and get back to me.

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