Thanks to fellow dive bar enthusiast Lynanne for sending in this treasure! Even though it’s located just 9 miles east of Brookings, the small town of Bushnell only has a population of 65.
This all-American dive is set up in an old service station that just got running water 10-15 years ago. Until then, men would go pee on a rock (lovingly displayed now above the cooler), and the women’s bathroom was an old camper toilet that needed water dumped in it to flush.
Bushnell’s is open every day from 5pm-2am, except on Sundays when it opens at 8am. If someone in Bushnell says they want to go to go to “church” on Sunday, they probably aren’t talking about anyplace with a steeple—they’re talking about a beat-up brick building with picnic tables out front. The big garage doors still open up if weather allows!
The bar top and stools here are more reminiscent of a diner than a bar, so be ready for some cozy conversation. In the small bar area, there will never be much space between you, the bartender, and the regulars.
Bushnell Garage does not serve food, but most days you’ll find an impromptu potluck or something in a slow cooker to chow down on. As if you needed more reason to love these locals!
Some dive bars try too hard to look like dive bars. The cluttered atmosphere has become…shudder…trendy.The Dive Bar Tourist uses the terms “decorated” and “décor” often enough on this page, but these words just do not fit when it comes to Bushnell Garage. This place is the real deal!
The interior resembles something you might see on American Pickers, with old gas station signs, faded photos, trophies, and other Americana. It’s clear that this stuff was accumulated over the years. Everything is a conversation piece (like the Mobil Gas sign full of bullet holes), and it’s all fascinating to look at.
Bushnell Garage is owned by Gail and Dan Johnson, who took over just a few years ago. Someone will always complain about new management, but these folks aren’t trying to change the essence of this dive. The biggest complaint, in fact, seems to be that the place now closes at closing time!
Be sure to check out one of Bushnell Garage’s special events, like live music, karaoke, and their annual charity poker run. Grab a t-shirt, too, while you’re at it—just don’t wear it around your mama!
If you’re ever traveling around South Dakota, make it a point to stop in here. Look for a cheap Coors Light banner plastered to the front of an old service station that says “Kegs to Go!”
Location: Bushnell, South Dakota
Be sure to try: something from Wide Sky Wines, available only in South Dakota