You know it's a dive when: Signs warn "If you fight in here ... you are banned." Happy hour starts at 6 a.m. Natural Ice AND Light are available. So is Bud friggin' Ice.
Relics of a dive bar: This is Tom and Florence Ellis' second go-round at 1833 Hubbell. They bought the bar in 1989 and operated it for more than a decade before selling it in 2003. Late last summer, the couple reclaimed possession. A hodge podge of neon beer signs fill the walls, along with a giant television from the '90s that looks like it could weigh a metric ton. Tom, 70, still punches the clock three or four times a week, but it's his 62-year-old wife who handles most of the day-to-day business. The couple recently renewed their vows in front of a packed bar.
What we ordered: Bottles of Schlitz and a Pasquale's pepperoni pizza. The bartender will toss a frozen pie (made in beautiful Humboldt, Ia.) in the toaster oven, slice it, and deliver it to your table for five bucks and change. After a little needling regarding her "speciality drink," bartender Julie whipped up a Jolly Rancher, a mixture of various Puckers that tasted precisely like a grape Jolly Rancher. Two would have given us a too-much-Halloween-candy stomach ache, but one was delicious.
Local flavor: Lot of folks say they hang out at dive bars. Lots of folks think they hang out at dive bars. But Ellis Island is the real thing. This is a genuine D-I-V-E, and all the better for it. Tom and Florence know nearly every single person who walks in the door (though some newcomers wander in for live music on weekend nights), but they don't treat unfamiliar faces any differently. They also love their neighborhood, obvious by the Ellis Island T-shirts for sale ($12) that proudly declare "Eastsider."
Best deals: Booze is priced to move at Ellis Island. Beer specials are rampant Monday to Friday and, depending on the day, include $2 cans, $1 drafts, $2 small pitchers, and $4 large pitchers. The catch with the pitchers is Ellis has only Budweiser products on tap. Still, do the math, and that's roughly 60 ounces for less coin than one pint of your fancy-schmancy Belgian ale.
You'll be back for: Cheap, cheap, cheap drinks and a surprisingly varied jukebox. The regulars don't mind Dio or Faith No More, either. As long as you also spin some Waylon Jennings and Journey.
Find it: 1833 Hubbell Ave.
Hours: 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday
What you'll get: Try to get your hands on Florence's homemade enchiladas. There's not a soul at Ellis Island who doesn't worship them. For that reason, and the measly $2.50 price tag, they disappear fast.