Ships Lounge reopened its doors earlier this month after a too-long hiatus, and I’ll tell you right now: It’s not the same. There are new owners, a (mostly) new staff, and a brand-new upstairs seating compartment. But take heart: It’s still totally low-key, it still has a jukebox, and that musty, old-dive smell isn’t going away anytime soon.
Atmosphere: Ships is, and always has been, a quintessential dive bar. When I walked in, “Red Red Wine” was playing on the jukebox, and there was a vat of chili sitting on a table near the bar. There’s a beach mural along one wall, plenty of fluorescent beer signs, and a pool table. There’s also an upstairs all-wood seating area that’s meant to look like a ship cabin, with an iron pipe railing complete with pressure gauge and visible steering wheel. There are shelves of old hardcover books and a glass cabinet containing seafaring-esque trinkets (among them: an hour glass, a compass, and a novel called Sextant). The vibe difference between the upstairs and downstairs is stark: Ships is part divey-dive, part nautical-themed lounge.
In an area where dive bars are being driven to extinction by trendy craft cocktail dens and “boutique spas,” Ships is still a dive.
What to Order: They no longer sell mixers, and if you remember old Ships, you know what I mean by this. Still: Do not walk in here and ask for a cocktail with bitters and liqueurs and egg whites and mint sprigs. You will look like a fool. If it’s between 5 and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, you should be ordering $3 wells or $2.50 drafts. If it’s Tuesday, you should be downing a $2 shot of Old Grand-Dad. Any other time, you should be drinking a beer or well whiskey.
Who’s There: When I visited Ships, I found a mostly well-dressed crowd: a few guys still in their collared shirts from work; ladies wearing sandals and tank tops. (One woman had even set her designer purse on the bar top beside her Bud Light.) I also noticed an old man in a dusty ball cap sitting near the door, talking to a familiar blond bartender (the only one left of the original staff, the ponytailed younger bartender explained). It was an interesting mix of new and old for sure, but no matter what, the crowd seemed happy—like everyone was having a genuinely good time.
What I Didn’t Like: Obviously there’s a bit of a “contrived dive” feeling.
What I Did Like: It’s not too clean or neat, the jukebox cranks out just what you want to hear, and the drinks come uncomplicated and stiff. And consider this: the businesses surrounding Ships (most of them still “coming soon”) include a gym, a boutique spa, and “Toasted Coffee + Kitchen.” In an area where dive bars are being driven to extinction by trendy craft cocktail dens and “boutique spas,” Ships is still a dive. And that’s worth quite a bit.