Dive-ing into Sanford

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About last night . . .

For several years we had been mulling the idea around of doing a bar tour. But we wouldn't be touring the newest, the best, the most talked about. We'd be visiting some of the places most of us just drive by without giving them another thought. Read on for a look at four of Sanford's most eclectic and long-lasting dive bars.

Before we reveal which bars made our tour list, let's go ahead and put some context around what makes a dive bar a dive bar since the definition has changed over the decades.

According to Wikipedia, "dive bar is a colloquial or informal American term for a disreputable bar or pub. Such bars may also be referred to as neighborhood bars, where local residents gather to drink and socialize."

We ultimately (and with a sense of relief) found that the bars we visited embraced the latter part of that definition.

Additionally, all of the bars we visited are located outside Downtown Sanford. Three of them are in what we like to call "Uptown" - outside the historic district, generally south of 13th Street.

So without further ado, let us introduce you to . . .

The Park Dive 

2601 Park Drive, Sanford

Our first stop was the new The Park Dive on Park Drive (get it?), previously known as Tin Lizzie, Paradise Lounge, and other questionable iterations.

Although we hadn't visited here under any of its former names, we were completely impressed with what the new owners have done with it. It's clean, non-smoking, has a GREAT back deck, and the bartender/owner was very kind and talkative. We appreciated the creative sign decor (obtained legally) and little homages to the establishment's past.

Standards are on tap, but there's also a good case of bottled imports and crafts, with a small selection of wine and wine coolers. And they're all VERY fairly priced.

Starting this week they will be hosting "Food Truck Fridays" from 4-10 p.m. The owner also mentioned bringing in a food truck and serving mimosas for Sunday brunch.

In retrospect perhaps this should have been our last stop because we definitely wanted to spend more time there and we look forward to them breathing new life into this corner of Sanford. But we had to move on to . . .

Lies & Alibis

2605 Park Drive, Sanford

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Conveniently located right down the street from Park Dive is Lies & Alibis. This full liquor neighborhood bar is probably one of those you've barely noticed and never think about.

We will warn you that smoking is allowed inside here so if you're sensitive to that then feel free to skip a visit. But I do give kudos to the friendly bartender for asking us if the smoke bothered us and she promptly set up a fan nearby to make us more comfortable. 

The interior is meh, but let's face it, you don't come here to look at pretty decor and sip a sparkling wine. You grab your alibi, do a Hot Applesauce (a shot of Fireball Whiskey with a pineapple juice chaser), and shoot some pool.

While it may not look like much, one of the cool things about Lies & Alibis is that it seems to be in the flight path of most planes taking off from the Orlando-Sanford International Airport. Hearing the roar of a plane's engines overhead while sipping on a Fireball shot seemed so right for a Friday night in this part of Sanford. 

Rhonda's - A Neighborhood Bar

2617 South Orlando Drive, Sanford

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Formerly Rockin Rhonda's, this bar was recently made-over and renamed by Bar Rescue. If you missed that whole story last year you can get a summary here. You can also watch a clip from the Bar Rescue episode here.

Unfortunately we hadn't been to Rhonda's prior to the make-over so we can't compare. But we did have a great time and the interior was well done! They've even made improvements out back with a tiki bar, sand volleyball court, tetherball, and music stage.

It became a non-smoking establishment after the make-over which angered some long-time patrons, but this was the right move.

We started off with a jello shot (whyyyyyyy) and stuck around to enjoy the karaoke. Extra fact: Rhonda actually got her start working karaoke at The Barn.

Our lovely bartender had us try one of their signature cocktails (this is the only bar on our tour with cocktails on the menu). The "Call My Mom" was an easy drinker: Dewar's Blended Scotch Whisky, Pineapple, Lemon, Ginger Beer, Cherry and Mint.

Rhonda's also has flatbread and nachos to keep your stomach well-padded.

We are not usually fans of karaoke, but the vibe at Rhonda's is so comfortable and homey, we were soooooo close to belting out Love Shack after our second drink. Next time, Rhonda, next time!

On the Rocks

3640 Sanford Avenue, Sanford

Saving the dive-iest for last, On the Rocks hasn't changed in years. Ok, actually we've never been there before either. but it seems that it hasn't changed in years. The pours are doubles and smoke billows from some unknown location, yet the friendliest staff and free pinball evened that out enough for us to stay for a bit.

The Mr. attempted to order a Martini. Just don't. Get a whiskey double, people watch, and pretend you're good at pool.

You feel like things could get weird at any moment, but we loved it. It's too bad they probably won't be going smoke-free anytime soon.

Final Thoughts

  • Never judge a bar by it's exterior.
  • Jukeboxes aren't what they used to be.
  • Be sure to "support local" beyond the Downtown Sanford district!

Most Surprising

The bathrooms at each location were very clean! Kudos to @theshittybeautiful for making us take notice of such things.