Food & Drink

The 12 Best Dive Bars in Boston

Published On 01/26/2016 Published On 01/26/2016

Sometimes you come home from a three-figure night of cocktailing and wonder why the hell you didn’t just drink a couple of pitchers and call it a night. Enter the dive bar. Dive bars don’t care how you’re dressed or what you do for work or what your bourbon of choice is. Instead, the dive bar invites you to escape your narrative. Drink a few domestic beers. Hang with a decrepit regular. Kick back while kicking the sawdust on the floor. Fortunately, we live in a town with no shortage of no-name drinking establishments. Here are 12 of the Hub's most classic dives serving up booze instead of pretension.

Flickr/CityRover Media

Charlie's Kitchen

Harvard Square

Looking for a bar with a neon sign… on the inside? Search no further. This multi-floored Harvard Square institution has a damn fine beer garden, and, more relevant to cold weather drinking -- zero windows. Slide into a booth and make sure to get one of their double cheeseburgers and waffle fries (or if you're feeling fancy -- a still-economical double lobster roll!), to soak up the reasonably priced brew lineup.

Trina's Starlite Lounge

Somerville

By far the classiest dive the city has to offer (but not SO classy as to be excluded from the category), Trina's is the place to get a bucket of ponies and a chili cheese dog (or three). They have all the usual suspects in cans, all local beer on tap, and a sneaky good lineup of cocktails.

The Silhouette

Allston/Brighton

Much like Nicolas Cage, this hole-in-the-wall has been around since 1964. Home to an assortment of well-used arcade games, a pool table, darts, and most importantly, free popcorn, the Sil has some of the cheapest pitchers around, and top flight people watching. Hence the popcorn.

Flickr/Jessica "The Hun" Reeder

Bukowski Tavern

Back Bay

Looking for a bar that really feels like your home away from home? Bukowski's Mug Club gives drinkers six months to cycle through a whopping 136 beers to earn a house mug. It may be a bit on the fancy side for a dive, but the low-key atmosphere and steady flow of regulars that keep it busy at all hours make it so.

Cantab Lounge

Central Square

The Cantab plays host to everything from poetry open mics to bluegrass to punk shows. Sometimes there’s a cover and sometimes there isn’t, but there’s always going to be something interesting going on inside this two-floor, dual-staged temple of glorious divehood.

The Lower Depths

Kenmore

You'd be hard pressed to find a better spot in Kenmore to grab a dog and a beer before the game. Better yet, tater tots. The solid beer selection's refreshingly priced (Pro tip: they're cash only), and you can't put a price on telling your friends you're at The Lower Depths and having them think it's a cry for help.

Sullivan's Tap

Sullivan’s Tap

North Station

Don your finest Marchand jersey and enjoy the blue collar bear hug that is Sully’s. Not only is it “Where Real Fans Meet,” but it also boasts the “Longest Bar in Boston” and packs everything -- as in, two pool tables, two pop-a-shot hoops, and five arcade games!!! -- into a narrow, neon-lit hall. Go for the $3 'Gansett tallboys.

Old Sully’s

Charlestown

We were pretty pissed at Ben Affleck for swooping in, pre-Batman style, and filming scenes for The Town here. Luckily, B-Aff didn’t sully Old Sully’s anti-frills charms. What makes this place a dive bar among dive bars? For starters, there’s no sign outside. No credit card machine inside, either, and nothing that could be mistaken for atmosphere. Instead, it’s all about cheap beer, cheap shots, and the photo of JFK on the wall, and not much else. Which is exactly how and why we like it.

Punter’s Pub

Fenway/Kenmore

This might be a Northeastern undergrad hangout, but it deserves a PhD in dive bar-osity. For starters, the dark, low-slung spot pours cheap, cash-only pitchers by the dozen. Entertainment-wise, you have the dive bar trifecta: darts, pools, and Buckhunter. But it might be the pizza window that tips this place into the dive bar hall of fame: order a slice from its neighbor, University House of Pizza, through a literal hole in the wall.

Flickr/Scott D

The Tam

Theater District

While folks at the Tam like to think of it as the bar time forgot, the only thing forgotten after a night of drinking there is your name. Best/worst dive bar feature: no door to the men’s room. As in at all. Transparency is the word of the day.

Sligo Pub

Davis Square

Peddling cheap beer and a jukebox stocked with ass-kicking rock, every surface of this Davis Square dive's been carved up with whatever sharp object patrons can get their hands on; one bar-top message proclaims a deep affection for bacon. Plan to slam a dozen $2.50 PBRs while talking loudly and openly about your feelings.

Croke Park/Whitey’s

South Boston

Assuming you muster the courage to step into one of Boston’s most notorious dives, you'll be rewarded with strong booze, free pool, and just enough dim lighting to not accidentally look a local in the eye showcase all the graffiti. With no sign out front, keep said eyes peeled for an unassuming Kelly green facade dotted with two tiny windows.

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Meaghan Agnew is a Boston-based writer who pets strange dogs with impunity. Follow her on Twitter @meaghandeth

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1. Charlie's Kitchen 10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (West Cambridge)

Charlie's Kitchen is the place to go for American eats, an awesome outdoor space, and killer waffle fries.

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2. Trina's Starlite Lounge 3 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143 (Somerville)

This 1940s/50s-style diner is acclaimed for their brunch, burgers, and dogs, but don't be shy about picking through their craft cocktail and beer list or ordering one of their pressed sammiches.

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3. Silhouette Lounge 200 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134 (Allston Brighton)

Free popcorn, pool & darts, $8 pitchers of 'Gansett or PBR, and a jukebox. Welcome to Silhouette Lounge, your go-to dive in Allston.

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4. Bukowski Tavern 50 Dalton St, Boston, MA 02115 (Back Bay)

Ditch Newbury and the bastions of distraught twenty-something foreigners asking you what happened to Armani Cafe, and hit up this bastion of barley to take down a peanut butter burger while making a sizeable dent in your Dead Author's Card, a running tally of all the beers you have to drink within six months to earn a spot in their exclusive mug club.

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5. Cantab Lounge 738 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139 (East Cambridge)

Cantab Lounge is a Central Square dive with a country vibe. If the Tuesday bluegrass isn't your scene, come back on Wednesday for the Underground Poetry Slam.

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6. The Lower Depths 476 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215 (Back Bay)

Backed by a substantial food menu that includes five different kinds of tots (FIVE DIFFERENT KINDS OF TOTS!), The Lower Depths' giant craft beer selection, both in bottles and on tap, makes sure that everyone in your party will find something they enjoy -- unless they don't like beer, in which case you're probably not hanging out with them, anyway.

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7. Sullivan's Tap 168 Canal St, Boston, MA 02114 (North End)

Sullivan's Tap is a Bruins bar with plenty to offer. Boasting the "Longest Bar In Boston," Sully's is stacked with pool tables, pop-a-shot hoops, and arcade games to keep you entertained well after the game.

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8. Old Sully's 56 Union St, Charlestown, MA 02129 (Charlestown)

Once you leave this locals' haunt, if you're not convinced of its charm, you're probably the only one. The throwback pub-like atmosphere charmed even Ben Affleck who shot it in his film The Town, the Irish-influenced accents of the characters matching up with the Irish-American heritage of the venue.

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9. Punter's Pub 450 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02108 (Mission Hill)

This unpretentious Mission Hill haunt has pitchers a plenty, pizza, and pool. The college dive bar atmosphere makes it a great place to go with groups and drink the night away, or hang solo and watch the game on one of their many flat screen TVs.

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10. The Tam 222 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116 (Chinatown)

A quintessential Boston dive, The Tam delivers heavy-handed pours that are perfect for beginning, ending, or completely forgetting your night out on the town. $3 'Gansett cans and the complete lack of a men's room door complete the vibe.

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11. Sligo Pub 237A Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144 (Somerville)

Sligo Pub is a narrow, no-frills Davis Square dive. The pub features cheap beers, a jukebox, and patrons' carvings on every wood surface.

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12. Croke Park/Whitey's Pub 268 W Broadway, Boston, MA 02127 (South Boston)

Croke Park/Whitey's Pub is an unassuming and unmarked bar in South Boston. This Irish dive serves up dirt-cheap draughts and a notoriously friendly local clientele.

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