On any given night, especially Thursday through Saturday, you will probably find big crowds at both Dino’s and No. 308, bars directly next door to each other on Gallatin Road in East Nashville. Anyone who has gone drinking on the East Side lately has probably been to the hot-shit, widely discussed No. 308 — and possibly also to the older, established dive bar Dino’s.
I have to admit that I never planned on going to Dino’s until the past year, when No. 308 became a regular stop with friends. But once I stumbled into Dino’s one night after a few of No. 308’s Brother Jons (their best cocktail with celery juice, vodka, and Chartreuse), I totally fell in love with Dino’s too.
What interests me about these neighborhood bars is the cross-pollination of patrons. You’ll see lots of people enjoy a nice cocktail with their significant others at No. 308, then mosey over to Dino’s for a cheap beer and a cigarette. With the addition of No. 308’s adorable AstroTurf-ed front patio, you’ll see plenty of people coming out of each bar, standing around on the sidewalk or patio talking shit with friends, usually about the people inside the “other” bar. The proximity makes the perfect setup for a large group who can’t agree on whether to go the high-end or dive-bar route, and no one has to settle for something mediocre.
These two bars are fulfilling their roles so perfectly, it makes me wonder if a marriage of two completely different bars like this has ever worked together so well.
From the outside, Dino’s resembles any common smoky, barfly-ridden dive that probably has cheap beer and greasy food — which is apt, because that’s exactly what it is. Opened in 1910, it’s a place where you used to be able to get a frosty Mason jar of PBR for $1.75, until their tap recently broke (and they aren't sure if they'll get it fixed), a $2 grilled cheese or a perfectly good burger, and sit among your friends as well as the guys who look like they have been in Dino’s for at least half of its 101-year existence.
The barflies are definitely drunk, and the place is definitely gross/greasy/cigarette smoke-stained, but it somehow has a much less intimidating vibe than other dives in town. The room is tiny but still manages to have local rock shows squeeze in once in a while. And a PBR on the roof of Dino’s is something everyone should probably enjoy at least once. (P.S.: Is it legal to let drunk people on a roof?) The service is friendly and fast, and the jukebox is loud and usually obnoxious. It’s the perfect dive bar.
Except for the good service and loud music, Dino’s obviously contrasts with the sparkling addition of No. 308 next door. Although you can manage a Miller High Life for $3, most of the meticulously crafted cocktails are in the $8 to $9 range, and damn well worth it. Vintage mid-century furniture, dark paint colors and industrial-chic lighting make for a relaxed atmosphere (though watch out for the rape-y bar stools — some of y’all know what I’m talking about).
The snacks are great, and reasonably priced too. Highlights include the cheese plate and the Cuban sandwich with plantains. Trashy Tuesdays feature “Happy Meals” of two sliders and a High Life for $5. They even have “brunch” on Friday and Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Think about a green-eggs-and-ham chimichanga or vanilla French toast with homemade pecan-bourbon maple syrup. Now think about those things at 1 a.m. on a Saturday night. Yeah.
Compared to other high-priced bars in town serving artisan spirits and original cocktails, No. 308 is probably my favorite in terms of quality and value. And compared to other dive or sports bars in town, Dino’s is quickly becoming my favorite place for a late-night cheap beer and crinkle-cut fries.
What do you guys think? Do you usually hit one of these, or both? Any Dino’s purists out there? Do you think the vibe has changed in Dino’s since the opening of No. 308?