When a place tags “dive” directly on its name, it’s OK to wonder what kind of establishment it is exactly.
But dive bars are, generally speaking, much like today’s Times Square — safer than the reputations that may have preceded them in decades past.
That’s not to say self-identified dive bars have cleaned up their act to work around such standards as dim lighting, simple décor and inexpensive prices. It just means, as Playboy once described, that they’re “a church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities.
“It’s a place that wears its history proudly.”
That last bit best describes Sixth St. Dive, a decidedly unfussy corner spot with good grub and cold beer on downtown Lafayette’s outermost edge.
Under new management, the inside has been converted (and the food & drink significantly upgraded) from the Varsity Clubhouse days — although they do retain the Varsity’s signature “hand-spanked” cheeseburger and mammoth windows propped open whenever temperatures dip into comfortable. Out late and hungry? A full menu is available in all operating hours … even the Knucklehead Burrito for an early (or anytime) breakfast.
The dining room is separated into north (cozy booths) and south (tables) by a bar where macro- and micro-brews share taps — Bud Light, Shiner Bock, Abita, People’s, Yuengling. So, too, is cuisine divided into “Hoosier” and “Texican,” where you can test their tenderloin bona fides or sample super-fried superfoods.
There’s always a risk when frying soft-textured items, but Sixth St. Dive’s stuffed avocado finds a perfect balance between breaded crunch and the fruit’s delicate yield. Its flavor is complemented by chipotle sour cream, what looks to be a pork-and-pico mix, and warm tortilla chips. Other “Texican” recommendations: Gringo Tacos and any style enchilada. Be sure to try the “sneaky heat” house-made hot sauce – a chile de árbol concoction with a walloping (but flavorful) warmth … on a deceptive delay.
On the “Hoosier” side, the outsized tenderloin makes appropriate mockery of a bun tasked to contain it (and is flattened to perfect thinness) and the onion rings are the best kind — batter on the right side of sweet and thin, but not so wimpy that the onions fall out.
At Sixth St. Dive, the beverages come in jelly jars (mini-sized for those trying wine), the stage for live music is wide, pinball machines and arcade games flash brightly in corners, nooks call out for board game play or casual chatter, and TVs constantly stream contemporary classics — unedited from DVDs.
On this night, it was “Timecop” (arguably one of Jean-Claude van Damme’s best) … then Best Picture Oscar winner “The Departed.”
See? High and low, rubbing elbows … and having a good old time.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.