What we perhaps love the most about Mumbai’s dive bar culture is that they are great equalisers
There's nothing like a good dive bar to make you feel right at home—and Mumbai has plenty of them. These are the spots where you can find a drink, a bite to eat, catch up on the latest gossip and maybe even make some new friends.
While we love our quirky indie coffee shops and boutique cocktail bars, we also want to celebrate the dive bars that have been standing for decades—and still serve exactly what you need: cheap beer, something greasy on the side and good old-fashioned fun.
From the suburbs to the centre of town, dive bars are everywhere. They’ve been the perfect post-workout haunts and a place to drown your sorrows over a bad breakup, where the waiter knows your order before you can say a word and just how spicy you like your masala papad.
So the next time you're looking for somewhere to spend your evening away from home, or even when you just want to unwind after work, these are the spots where everyone goes.
Pre-game at Gokuls, Colaba Causeway
Gokul still has all the characteristic elements of our favourite dive bars from the 90’s - wooden tables and chairs laid out in a dark, dimly lit room, the smell of cheap beer and food deep fried in cheaper oil, permeating the atmosphere. A small TV screen in a corner plays old Bollywood movies or cricket matches on repeat. The pegs are large and you’ll never stop at one, because it won’t hurt your wallet.The food is hot, fresh and unpretentious. All-time favourites include chicken lollipop and paneer chilly and their rolls are to die for.
From college kids on a shoestring budget to travellers waiting to catch the next local from CST, it's a mixed crowd here. You can pay only in cash - yes, it’s as old school as it gets. If you have a Saturday night out planned at one of the sleeker, upmarket SOBO clubs, it's a good idea to pre-game at Gokuls. The bar & restaurant is open till 3am. It also helps that it's located a stone’s throw from the iconic Taj Mahal hotel and famous kebab eatery Bademiya.
Address: Gokul Bar & Restaurant, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001
Unwind after work at Ambience
Located in the heart of Mumbai's business district in Lower Parel, Ambience has been a favourite post-work (and sometimes mid-work) haunt for office-going folk in the city. The interiors have had a bit of a face lift in recent years, and it's one of the more female-friendly dive bars around. Its proximity to the workplace is still the biggest draw and the relatively affordable rates on booze and grub don’t hurt either.
While Lower Parel has become a hub for upscale restaurants, quarter bars like Ambience are still a great option to get your daily or mid-week fix and catch up on all the office gossip. Catering to the LP crowd, the bar menu even features some premium whiskeys and an entire cocktail menu to choose from.
Address: 162/D, Jagdamba Bhavan, Senapati Bapat Marg, opposite Kotak Mahindra Bank, Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013
Catch up with old friends at Totos
Bandra’s favourite garage-themed pub, Toto’s was the ultimate place to hang out a few decades ago. While it might have lost some of its sheen with the new generation of kids thanks to the plethora of swankier pubs mushrooming in the city, Toto’s still has its share of loyalists. It may no longer be as easy on the wallet as some of the other names on this list, yet Toto’s has got all the things you want (and need): good food and drinks, fun music, friendly wait staff and a jovial atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome.
Remember the good old days with your college gang while you enjoy some excellent retro and classic rock in a chill atmosphere. The waitstaff in their orange overalls add to the vibe of the place and are efficient, friendly and attentive, serving up everything from fries to cocktails a la minute.
Address: 7/8, Lourdes Haven, Pali, Junction, 30th Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
Thrash out your next big idea at Madira
A stone’s throw away from some of the city’s top advertising agencies, Madira has probably fuelled more than a couple of award-winning ideas from Mumbai’s best creative talent. Guzzling down quarters of rum with plates of chakna or greasy chinese and puffing away as they brainstorm for the next big campaign, this is one place you’ll find the curious creatures of the city’s ad community.
A copywriter barking at an unsuspecting client servicing executive might not be unusual in an ad agency, but all frustrations are forgotten over large mugs of beer and bowls of steaming hot fried rice and paneer chilly. Can’t find the right creative talent on Linked in? Madira might be your next best bet.
Address: Gurukripa Building, Dr E Borges Road, Parel, Mumbai - 400012, Near ITC Grand Hotel
Knock back a couple of drinks at BKC Dive
Even the upscale commercial hub that is BKC needs an affordable neighbourhood dive bar and BKC Dive delivers. The place has a classy ambience and great drinks that will instantly put you in a happy mood. They even offer a Sangria buffet and you know no girls’ night out is complete without unlimited sangria. If you’re looking for a hip crowd, fun vibes and peppy music, this is a must-try.
The reasonably priced buffet brunch on weekends is also a great idea for a relaxed time out. With four veg and non veg starters on offer and flowing alcohol, plus a salad bar and chaat corner, what more could you ask for to set your weekend off on a high note.
Address: Pinnacle Corporate Park, next to Trade Centre, MMRDA Area, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400051
Belt it out at Soul Fry’s Karaoke nights
We have another one from Bandra on our list, just because it's still the most fun destination to hang out. Soul Fry is an old favourite that is particularly buzzing on a Friday night. Tucked away in Pali Bazaar, the bar-restaurant comes alive on karaoke night. Contrary to what you’re probably thinking, this is not your typical karaoke with off-key, screechy, talentless singers who make your ears bleed. Bandra has no dearth of musical talent and karaoke night at Soul Fry sees a line up of some truly great vocal talent and even better camaraderie.
Get ready to be transported back in time with crooners belting out iconic hits from 70's, 80's and 90’s pop as you throw back a couple of beers and feast on some traditional Goan-Mangalorean fare. Take your pick from bombil fry, reichado prawns with pao, chorizo fry and more to tantalise your tastebuds. There’s a long lineup of singers and plenty of cheering from the crowd as the pegs get larger and the jokes get louder.
Address: Ground Floor,Silver Croft, Pali Market, Pali Mala Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
What we perhaps love the most about Mumbai’s dive bar culture is that they are great equalisers. From CEOs to college dropouts, blue collar workers and everyone in between, a Mumbai dive bar is where you’ll meet people from every segment of society and truly feel the pulse of maximum city.