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Best Dive Bar St. Louis 2002 - Maple Leaf Inn

From the outside, the Maple Leaf Inn looks grim, even forbidding: just a dirty Budweiser sign and a flimsy door covered with metal mesh. Inside, the walls are covered with snapshots of patrons, some with their dogs, some with fresh hunting kills. The scuffed wooden bar is lined with pickle jars and karaoke books. A happy-hour draft costs 85 cents. There's one dartboard, one pool table, a great jukebox (featuring Marty Robbins, ZZ Top and Alan Jackson) and a long vintage shuffleboard. The bar has been in the Thomas family for 30 years, and the Thomases never forget. Above the door, next to a sign that reads, "No Biker Colors Please," hangs a handwritten list of some 40 patrons who've been "barred out." Entire families remain in permanent exile from the Maple Leaf, though a few names have been whited out, as if forgiven. "A few of those folks died, so we crossed them off the list," the bartender explains. But no neighborhood bar could be less intimidating or more inviting if you just need a place to drink and play the jukebox. Buy the regulars a round, and you'll see.

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