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The Glorious Dive Bars of Astoria 

Four dank spots one eventful night

Beers, shots, and even cake highlight a dark tour of Astoria taverns.

Beers, shots, and even cake highlight a dark tour of Astoria taverns.

What makes for a good dive bar? A pool table helps, as well as a lack of light. The more graffiti in the bathroom stall the better. And the floor also has to be sticky and grimy, but not too sticky or grimy, or else it'll ruin the buzz generated by the "Tuesday night shot and Mirror Pond" deal.

Central Oregon has quite a few good ones—JC's, the Westside Tavern, the M&J and its conveniently attached laundromat. But when it comes to Oregon's best dives, the coastal town of Astoria (itself a little dark and sticky) takes the prize.

To see why, walk down Marine Drive to the Uniontown neighborhood, originally populated by Finnish immigrants who came around the turn of the 20th century to work the local fish canneries. They built their homes up on the nearby hills—the colorful Queen Anne-style places that give Astoria much of its signature look—and when work was done for the day, they drank at places like Mary Todd's Workers Bar & Grill, beneath the end of the Megler Bridge connecting Oregon to Washington.

Going through the door to Mary Todd's is like taking a trip to old Astoria, the Astoria of fishing and freight hauling, long before the coffee houses and "The Goonies" tourists came along. Bottles of booze are strewn haphazardly on a table surrounded by the bar, creating a sort of Sunday-morning-after-the-frat-party feel, and the walls are festooned with art, signed dollar bills and old Polaroids documenting the highlights and lowlights of local history. Mary Todd herself works there most of the time, doling out cans of Busch and swapping verbal jabs with the ancient-but-still-smiling locals. Her cheap, enormous prime rib steaks also help the liquor go down just right. It's all perfect. (The place is up for sale with Todd's impending retirement, so head over before things change too much.)

The Triangle Tavern across the street, meanwhile, is just as divey and locals-oriented. A stranger going inside is likely to be rewarded with stares at first, but grab a Vortex IPA from Fort George and start BSing with them about the Seahawks and they'll warm right up. (During one recent visit, the regulars were hosting a surprise birthday party for one of their own and giving out slices from their cake, shaped like a pair of breasts, to customers. It's that kind of place.)

Looking for a slightly better beer selection in a dive? Head closer to downtown and visit the Voodoo Room, a dark pit with occult stuff on the walls, Buoy beer on tap, and what must be the grossest johns in coastal Oregon. The nearby Chart Room's also worth a visit—it's run by the Astoria Brewing Company and offers a wide selection from them, including the night-ending Bitter Bitch Imperial IPA.

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