Scouting locations for Dive Bar Tuesday is usually pretty straight forward. We listen to the readers, make lists, and visit the sites as time allows. More often than not when we arrive, there is no doubt we are going to a dive bar. The location is small and usually hidden, there is not lots of light, and the people we see know each other. The first one we attended, Miami Valley Sports Bar, was the only venue we visited where we started to question if it had jumped to the next level. There was good food, plenty of room, and they were in the process of expanding and making the place better. Is there an upper ceiling to what can be considered a dive bar? Where does “dive bar” end and “nice place to go for a night out” begin? This conversation continued even as we walked into Mack’s Tavern, ready to get some drinks and have some of their delicious pizza.
Mack’s Tavern (381 Miamisburg Centerville Rd, Washington Township, OH 45459, (937) 813-7217) failed the first test of what we have come to expect from a dive bar: difficult to find. It is just sitting there next to Big Lots on Miamisburg Centerville Rd., begging for you to pull up and visit. The place is well lit too. Not too bright, because no one wants that in a bar, but just enough light to see the vintage décor on the walls and the games that are lined up and waiting for you to play. There are still some nooks and crannies you can scurry off to for a private discussion or a first date, but the floor is set up, so it is easy to meet people. That is not by accident. MacKenzie Manley, the owner of Mack’s, wants people to come in as strangers and leave as friends. If that is something I have written before, there is a reason. It is one of the charms of the dive bar. Or, if you want to be politer with the naming, the neighborhood bar. It is working. Everyone was chatting and having fun. And MacKenzie knew every regular.
If you have not heard of MacKenzie, it is possible you have not been near a computer for a very long time. MacKenzie won the first annual Bloody Mary Showdown with a Barbecue Burger Bloody Mary. Media monolith BuzzFeed picked up a story about the tavern leaving coupons on cars left overnight for responsible drivers. She was a bartender at the Pour Haus for years and was voted one of the top dive bars in the city in her first year of operation. She understands both sides of the bar business: making great drinks and providing a comfortable environment for the patrons who show up. She was inspired by the venerable Cubby Hole and the Pour Haus from years gone by. Does your company need a place to have a lunch meeting? Call Mack’s. Do you want to throw that big party for the holidays, or maybe a small class get-together? Call Mack’s. Did your plans at a different bar in the city fall through? Call Mack’s. Talking with her, exploring the space, you start to wonder if you can call this a dive bar, or are we in a whole different place? This is a dive bar. MacKenzie was emphatic about it.
Their menu is filled with food and drink delicious options. Just recently she added ten more specialty pizzas and wings to go with the sandwiches and meal-sized plates of Mack and Cheese. There are many beers on tap and bottles she offers, and all of them at a reasonable price. Good luck finding any beer over $4 (but they do pop up from time to time). They offer cocktails as well, which they are happy to create to your taste. They do have some standards that they will pour for you, but for the most part that menu is a bespoke one. And after a meal and some drinks here, your wallet will not feel that much lighter. The philosophy that drives the atmosphere at Mack’s is that she wants you to have a good time without breaking the bank. The inexpensive menu and the really friendly workers there ensure that the experience will be a pleasant one. They have thought it out right down to the restrooms, which may be the cleanest, most attractive ones I have seen in a while.
When you head into Mack’s Tavern, you are heading into one of the best dive bars Dayton has to offer. From their mascots Chewy the Boar and MacKenzie’s pit bull Haze to the one-of-a-kind signs on the wall, you are going to have a unique experience. They offer pool and darts for entertainment on a daily basis with Monday being reserved for karaoke and Thursday being a trivia night. And come football season, have no doubt, this bar cheers for the Steelers. It is a dive bar by design, and the lead architect has done an excellent job. Head into the easy to find, spacious bar and spend the night enjoying the food, the beverages, and the fact you are likely to leave with more friends than you had heading in. And leave your car if you had a little too much to drink. They will take care of that, too.