Do or Dive occupies a space that used to belong to Do or Dine, a bougie gastropub that landed itself on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list—but this was before my time. I have always known it as the cheap, scuzzy bar that blurs the line between kitschy and crusty. The bar has only been around for about four years, but the decor and ambience evoke the classic New York dive operated by James Franco’s character on The Deuce combined with a fratty tiki bar—flickering vintage Budweiser signs, cracked red-vinyl barstools, a mounted fake shark snarling from the wall above the massive retro cash register (supplemented by an iPad for running credit cards). Tiny black-and-white TVs show reruns of Jeopardy, and a shuffleboard table takes up about half of the available standing space. The identity crisis somehow adds to the place’s charm. Also, nearly all drinks—mixed or otherwise—cost less than $7, and they allow customers to bring their dogs inside and let them off-leash.
Without its back patio, though, Do or Dive would just be another mediocre Brooklyn bar. At twice the size of the interior, the patio makes it one of the best places to be when the weather’s nice. They recently repainted one of its cement walls, covering up the unintelligible jumble of graffiti with a bizarre mural of classic cartoon characters in sexual poses; graffiti has already started to obscure it. But you don’t go for the art; you go for a place to congregate. The picnic tables fill with people drinking, smoking, and talking, clustered both in groups that arrived together and strangers newly acquainted over a bummed cigarette or a borrowed lighter. When I was between gigs, I would sometimes order a Frozen Coffee Thing—basically a coffee-flavored slushie mixed with Evan Williams, one of Do or Dive’s signature drinks—and sit on the patio with a book, enjoying the weather and the dogs and the occasional conversation with a stranger. On one of these afternoons, an A-list celebrity offered me a hit of his joint.
Today was a beautiful spring day in Brooklyn—mid-60s, clear blue skies, a light breeze—what would have been a perfect day to hang out on the Do or Dive patio if it weren’t for the COVID-19 closures. Between that and the cold winter, it had been several months since I had been to the bar. But the weather was nice, and—partly inspired by a meme featuring Do or Dive’s interior—I craved a Coffee Thing, so I stopped by to get a drink to-go. They had cordoned off the back half of the bar, leaving only a small section of it open to order from; the rest of it was filled with boxes, presumably for their delivery service. My voice muffled behind my mask, the bartender wordlessly took my order and poured the Coffee Thing. I paid and left, drink in hand.
By the time I got back to my apartment, the Coffee Thing had almost completely melted. I de-masked and degloved, washed my hands, and went to my backyard to drink it. It tasted as good as I remembered—stronger than I recalled—but it didn’t seem right. My backyard, little more than a square of dirt with some decrepit lawn chairs and a decaying hammock, couldn’t match the ambience of the Do or Dive patio. No dogs, no lingering cloud of smoke, and, of course, no other people. Although, it wasn’t totally lifeless: a rat ran by me, almost scampering over my foot. Cheers to that rat, for being the only drinking company I’ll have until quarantine ends.