text saying FM Dive Bars with cutout images of dive bars
text saying FM Dive Bars with cutout images of dive bars
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Fargo-Moorhead Dive Bar Tour

A Tale of Beers Cheers Small Town Atmosphere

Meet Dave and Brenda Helland—two Fargo locals who love exploring the less traveled. For the past three years, the couple, along with another set of friends, Terri and Gary Pattison, have traveled the FM area, up and out in all directions to the rural towns, through lakes country, and beyond to find the best dive bars.

The dive bar adventurers—Gary & Terri Pattison (left) and Dave & Brenda Helland (right)!

In a delightful twist on local tourism, a Fargo couple has transformed their fondness for dive bars into an extraordinary adventure. Their journey, has become an exploration of the region’s small-town culture, one bar at a time.

 The idea sparked unexpectedly three years ago.

“We happened to be around Fergus Falls or somewhere,” Dave said, “and we were coming back with the Pattisons. We stopped in Earhart and thought we would eat at this old train depot. From there we thought, ‘Hey, this would be cool, we should do a dive bar tour and pick places like this.'” 

Armed with a spirit of adventure and a love for a good ‘ole burger and beer, they began marking dive bars within a 40-mile radius of Fargo on a homemade map.

Their “dive bar” criteria Includes things like: 

“Bar too appealing from the outside?”
“Beer specials?”
“Enough crap on the walls?”
“Popcorn or pull tabs? & more!

“There were different grading points that we would give the place,” Brenda said. “[Like] if they had popcorn, if they had neon lights, cold beer, was it clean or a real ‘dive,’ and it was fun.”

On a particular visit to a bar in Abercrombie, the couple noticed that the bartender knew everyone by name, and newcomers were welcomed with the same enthusiasm, not without some curiosity-driven ‘who are yous,’ of course. Whether it was sharing stories with locals or just observing the evening unfold however it did, each bar visit became a way to peek into the small town’s story and charm.

They remember a bar in Buffalo that made them feel like they were in an old Western, with the booth partitions rising well above their heads, Brenda said she felt like she was in an old saloon.

The map they carried evolved into much more than a guide; it became a snapshot of their adventure. Each dot and scribble represented not just a location but a narrative and a memory. Pointing to a cluster of markers, Brenda and Dave reminisced about the best burgers, the craziest encounters, and much more, making the map more of a diary than just a chart.

The map, speckled with notes, stands as a display of their dive bar adventures, with what they describe as plain “fun,” found in the most unassuming places. We chatted about how these bars often serve as the social hubs of their towns, where news is shared, friendships are forged, and the day’s worries are eased away with a cold drink surrounded by (mostly) familiar faces.

While they don’t always utilize the report card at each bar anymore, they still update their map.

“We could get a little better on the report card,” Dave said. “But, truthfully, there wasn’t much to report on other than that it was really was good everywhere we went for the most part.” 

We were inspired by the Hellands and Pattisons and decided to take our own tour through the Fargo-Moorhead dive bars. Using a similar “report card,” we visited a handful of the local dives, noting everything from the popcorn, the pull tabs, and even the pop art on the walls to get a taste and feel of yet another layer of the Fargo area.

Join us as we take our own tour through the area’s dive bars!

Check out the local dives here!

Rick's Bar
If you're at all familiar with the area, you've probably seen "the boot" on Main Avenue...
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Mick's Office
Tucked in Moorhead’s downtown, Mick’s Office has been a home to many in its six decades of operation...
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The Zone Bar
Over in West Fargo, or maybe we should refer to it as the land of the dive bars, The Zone stands as a staple...
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Slammers Sports Bar
Slammers Sports Bar, part of Red River Lanes, is a historic and beloved spot in north Fargo...
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