Rough and ready but with an unspoken charm, these dive bars will sort you out with an abundance of beer, whiskey and rock tunes.
These well-worn but well-loved dive bars hold no airs and graces, but there’s a reason why they keep punters coming back for more. You can get your mitts on quality beer and hard liquor for a reasonable price while soaking up a cool, low-lit atmosphere that champions old school rock and roll. There’s plenty to check out, so without further ado, let us introduce you to the best dive bars in Leeds.
A somewhat under-appreciated gem, Wax Bar is stowed above the lively Sela Bar, but is certainly worth seeking out. It’s a down-to-earth hideout with music at its core. You can expect a slew of psych, rock and soul tunes that continue into the early hours on a weekend. The music obsession continues with cassette players and framed portraits of pop culture icons on the wall. For drinks, you can choose from cocktails and bottled lagers or go for their house Jever beer served in a frozen stein.
Wax Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Mean Eyed Cat Bar
A low-lit spot set in one of the city’s liveliest nightlife areas, Mean Eyed Cat is a no-frills bar with a vintage Americana vibe. Inside, you’ll find a mish-mash of neon wall art, raw wood furniture, US licence plates and murals, most of which are dedicated to Johnny Cash. Tracks by the likes of David Bowie and Blondie blare out the speakers and they have an enviable drinks menu. You can get craft beer on-tap or go for one of their iconic whiskey-based cocktails, all inspired by the Deep South.
Mean Eyed Cat Bar, 14 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.
Few dive bars in Leeds come with the reputation that Oporto does. And it still lives up to it week-in, week-out, even after 25 booze-filled years. This Call Lane icon is known for its all-out party atmosphere soundtracked by the finest indie disco anthems at night, but don’t hesitate to pop in during the day – it’s a calm oasis before the hedonistic evening storm. Knock back craft beers, order up the shots, and guzzle all the spirits, but make sure you leave room to tuck into the delicious vegan junk food of Knave’s Kitchen.
Oporto, 33 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
The East Village
The East Village teams the decor of a New York-inspired dive bar with a New Wave soundtrack from the 70s and 80s to create a laid-back spot to sink a pint or two. The poster-covered brick walls are draped with fairy lights, so expect an atmospheric set-up, where you can settle down on a soft, worn leather sofa with a drink in-hand. They do creative cocktails for an absolute steal, alongside an ever-changing selection of international beers.
The East Village, 47-49 Brudenell Grove, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1HR.
A low-key, laid-back venue on Vicar Lane, Howl is one of the city’s best bars to indulge in alternative rock, punk and goth music while you sip quality tipples at reasonable prices. You can get everything from Brooklyn Lager to Guinness, but if you want something stronger, they can whip up a Lemmy, their classic mix of Jack Daniel’s and Coke. It’s a great shout if you want a late one too, as they’re open until 5am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Howl Bar, 112 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
One of the city’s original metal bars, Santiago has been blaring out suitably heavy tunes and serving up quality whiskey for years. Don’t let their hardcore image put you off though, as it’s a really welcoming venue, perfect for a quiet drink during the day or a lairy one at night. Speaking of drinks, you can take your pick from the likes of Jameson’s, Red Stag and Benchmark whiskey on the back bar or stick with a craft beer from the fridge or taps.
Santiago, 1-3 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Call Lane Social
If you’re looking for a classic rock and roll dive bar, Call Lane Social is ready and waiting. Another lively hotspot on Leeds’ buzziest nightlife strip, it’s got all the hallmarks you look for – exposed brickwork, dark furnishings, banging tunes and an almighty booze offering. You can boogie away until the early hours, quaffing cool craft beers or classic cocktails as they run through an all-hits, no-misses soundtrack of rock, indie and soul. Want to know a secret? Head up the stairs at the back and enter the Tiki Hideaway, a cool cocktail paradise.
Call Lane Social, 38 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
A New York-inspired dive bar, Mojo has been on the scene since 1996 and has been key to Leeds’ nightlife scene ever since. Rum and whiskey-based cocktails are their speciality, but you can switch it up for one of their ice-cold beers from the fridge – they have everything from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Brooklyn. Head down for a chilled daytime drink and pair it with their iconic (and spicy) chicken wings or venture down in the evening to uncover a chaotic world of table-top dancing to rock and roll classics.
Mojo, 18 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.