Food & Drink

The Best Dive Bar in 15 Boston 'Hoods

Published On 03/11/2015 Published On 03/11/2015

Great dive bars are things of bitter beauty, like rough-and-tumble ports in this storm called life. Sometimes you just need to take refuge in a place that has no windows, multiple cigarette machines, and an odd mixture of townies and non-townies. Take a break from the pampered world of bars with functioning taps and urinal dividers to check out these 15 hardworking neighborhood dives.

Silhouette Lounge

Allston            

Silhouette Lounge (address and info)
Even millennial hipsters deserve a dive bar to call their own, and the young Sil regulars unironically appreciate the gem they've got on their hands. You gotta love having free popcorn, a full-fledged “dart-drome,” a pool table, and cheap pitchers. When not playing Big Buck Hunter, the clientele chills in the mostly enclosed outdoor smoking parlor emblazoned with clever-ish graffiti.  

Flickr/rebuildingsince92

Beacon Hill        

Beacon Hill Pub (address and info)
Amidst the boutiques on Charles St, the seedy underbelly of BHP is there to keep things legit. Just as the posted review reads, “A bar scene straight out of Star Wars," it hosts a crew of affable rogues starting daily at 11am. A lone vending machine with Bugles and Cheez-Its serves as the kitchen, and the bartender will happily supply you with a thousand menus for nearby delivery places. But be sure your phone is charged, because there isn't a phone here. At all. Not even a number.

Crossroads Irish Pub

Back Bay        

Crossroads Irish Pub (address and info)
The once-shuttered Crossroads has returned from the brink thanks to new owners who thankfully didn’t change a single thing. A favorite of earthy locals, nerdy MIT frat guys, and Man U maniacs, this plucky Irish dive has two grizzled, dimly lit floors of taps and distractions including darts, board games, and skee-basketball (as awesome as it sounds). The whole operation is low-key and easy on the wallet. Be sure to stop by on Hump Day for a free cheese pizza with every pitcher.

Flickr/David Salafia

Brighton        

Mary Ann’s (address and info)
Mary Ann’s, where every night is Amateur Night, endures as the paradigm for all college dive bars for all time. BC students and alumni flock here for $1.50 Busch Lights, the signature aroma, and sloppy make-out sessions. The bar’s best attributes include the “industrial chic” boarded-up windows and the excellent chance that someone will barf on your shoes.

Erik Christensen/Thrillist

Central Square                       

Cantab Lounge (address and info)
The venerable Cantab represents the duality of man: hard-working by day, hard-partying by night. You can join the Dawn Patrol of gruntled/disgruntled folks when the doors creak open at 8am, or rock out to funky bands on busy Friday nights. Mixed drinks, like whiskey and cola or whiskey & cola, are potent fuels for the rant du jour. 
 

Charlestown              

Old Sully’s (address and info)
Super-extra-old-school, this fine establishment has been pouring booze since Prohibition when it was an Irish speakeasy. It still looks about the same and still doesn't have a sign, so you know it’s good. Jolly staffers, the friendliest anywhere, are quick with quips, $3 pints, and entertaining neighborhood stories. Grab a booth (complete with Formica tabletop) and open your ears; you just might learn something -- for example, that Old Sully’s made its big-screen debut in Ben Affleck’s The Town.

Flickr/Jill Robidoux

Chinatown/Leather District                

The Corner Pub (address and info)
Yes, it has $3 brown-bag shots dispensed from a screw-top bottle of surprise. When owners Pam and Matt Chin took over in early 2008, they spruced up the place and added a surprisingly impressive menu with gems like Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls and gigantor Turkey Clubs. But The Corner Pub didn’t lose its cozy come-one-come-all vibe or its fondness for good-natured debauchery. 
 

Davis Square             

Sligo Pub (address and info)
While Davis Square has slowly gentrified, Sligo has remained true to its 75-plus-year-old roots as a community watering hole. It’s an old, dark, musty, narrow shoebox, and every wooden surface has been “artistically” embellished with carved names and randomness, including a love for bacon. Bargain-basement drafts (Guinness = $5), a jukebox, and surly service make Sligo the dive bar of choice for townies and Tufts students who know better.

Flickr/Josh Michtom

East Boston

Eddie C’s (address and info)
From the outside, Eddie C’s resembles Al Capone’s vault: a grey, impenetrable stone block. Inside you’ll find a slightly softer edge courtesy of the genial bartenders (Donna rules!), budget pitchers (under $9), and free snacks (mini pretzels, Cheez Doodles). The old guard hunkers down in Maverick Sq all day on Saturdays playing cards, eating tripe (a specialty), and keeping track of the races. Best dive bar feature: a cardboard sign in the window that reads “Eddie’s Italian Kitchen.”
 

East Cambridge        

Courtside (address and info)
Like moths to a flame, East Cantabrigians flutter to Courtside for its raw simplicity (i.e., sticky plastic tablecloths), toaster-oven pizzas, and the NFL Sunday Ticket.  However, it’s the monstrously popular karaoke, Thursday through Saturday, that really packs ‘em in. The rowdy-crooner crowd is an amalgam of awkward twenty-somethings, costumed weirdos, and croaky voiced over-the-hill types. Order a bucket of Bud heavies, kick back in a booth made from duct tape, and enjoy the show.

Flickr/Scott Beale

Financial District          

Biddy Early’s (address and info)
It’s increasingly difficult to find a good dive downtown these days, but Biddy Early’s has your back. This zero-frills FiDi landmark is textbook hole-in-the-wall: cramped/dirty bathrooms, beer-soaked floor, a working cigarette machine, and labor union stickers on the walls (and also a two-man saw). Suits and scamps alike escape their troubles with $1.50 PBRs, Keno, and that nudie photo hunt game.
 

North Station         

Sullivan’s Tap (address and info)
Sully’s is more than an ordinary dive; it’s a Boston institution going all the way back to 1933. Firmly cemented stools line the excessively long bar that features laminated tickets and the old “quarter glued to the bar” trick (cutting-edge comedy in 1933). Neon beer signs, bumper stickers, fan art, and hometown sports memorabilia dominate the walls while the 21-101-year-old regulars dominate endless ‘Gansett tall boys. Best of all, the joint really hates out-of-state licenses -- so basically anyone not from the Hub.

L Street Tavern

South End        

Wally’s Cafe (address and info)
This family-run nightclub icon is a veritable time machine transporting you back to the days when smoke-filled juke joints reigned supreme. You won’t mind the aroma of stale cigarette butts and Aqua Velva once the incredible jazz jams fill the cramped, dingy room. There’s never a cover, but Wally's frowns upon teetotalers for occupying valuable real estate and charges them $10 for sodas. Leave your temperance at home, please.
 

Southie            

L Street Tavern (address and info)
L Street Tavern could be the cleanest dive around (it remodeled at some point), but it still maintains its dive credentials. It's also known as "that Good Will Hunting bar,” and Southie’s finest gather in the dark neighborhood spot to wet their whistles and play Lotto and Keno. There’s no food, no nonsense, and no questions asked. Depending on its mood, it may or may not be overly welcome to outsiders, because Southie.

Flickr/rebuildingsince92

Theatre District        

The Tam (address and info)
A relic from the look-the-other-way Combat Zone days, The Tam doesn’t guarantee any pleasantness, but it will pour you a very strong and cheap whiskey drink with a half-smile. It’s $3.50 for a Jack & Coke, so buckle up for safety. Good luck if you get “stage fright,” because the bathroom stalls don’t have doors. Professionals, Emerson students, and old-timers congregate here for one reason: low expectations.

Sign up here for our daily Boston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Hub has to offer.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. 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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Beacon Hill Pub 149 Charles St, Boston, MA 02114 (Beacon Hill)

A well-loved dive bar with everything you could ask for: cheap drinks, a jukebox, and foosball. Pull up a stool and have yourself a $3 'Gansett tall boy, neighbor!

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
3. Crossroads Irish Pub 495 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02215 (Back Bay)

The once-shuttered Crossroads has returned from the brink thanks to new owners who thankfully didn’t change a single thing. A favorite of earthy locals, nerdy MIT frat guys, and Man U maniacs, this plucky Irish dive has two grizzled, dimly lit floors of taps and distractions including darts, board games, and skee-basketball (as awesome as it sounds). The whole operation is low-key and easy on the wallet. Be sure to stop by on Hump Day for a free cheese pizza with every pitcher.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
4. Mary Ann's 1937 Beacon St, Brighton, MA 02135 (Allston Brighton)

Mary Ann’s, where every night is amateur night, endures as the paradigm for all college dive bars for all time. Period. BC students and alumni flock here for $1.50 Busch Lights, the signature stench, and sloppy make-out sessions. The bar’s best attributes include the “industrial chic” boarded-up windows and the excellent chance that someone will barf on your shoes.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. 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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. The Corner Pub 162 Lincoln St, Boston, MA 02111 (Chinatown)

Yeah, it has $3 brown bag shots dispensed from a screw-top bottle of surprise. Classy. When owners Pam & Matt Chin took over in early 2008, they spruced up the place and added a surprisingly impressive menu with gems like Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls and gigantor Turkey Clubs. But The Corner Pub didn’t lose its cozy come-one-come-all vibe or its embrace of good-natured debauchery.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
8. 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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
9. Eddie C's 34 Maverick Sq, Boston, MA 02128 (East Boston)

From the outside, Eddie C’s is a grey, impenetrable stone block. Inside you’ll find a slightly softer edge courtesy of the genial bartenders, budget pitchers (< $9), and free snacks (mini pretzels, Cheez Doodles). The “Old Guard” hunkers down at Eddie C’s all day on Saturdays playing cards, eating tripe (a specialty), and keeping track of the races. Best dive bar feature: a cardboard sign in the window that reads “Eddie’s Italian Kitchen.”

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Courtside 291 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141 (East Cambridge)

East Cambridge's favorite karaoke dive hides the mic on Sundays when the Chicago Sports Club of New England floods the joint to watch da Bears on 12 high-defs, meaning the only singing you'll hear will be fans homaging "I'm Jimmy Mac and I'm here to say..."

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Biddy Early's 141 Pearl St, Boston, MA 02110 (Financial Dist Waterfront)

Biddy Early’s has your back and then some. This zero-frills FiDi landmark is textbook hole-in-the-wall: cramped/dirty bathrooms, beer-soaked floor, and labor union stickers on the walls. (And also a two-man saw.) Suits and scamps alike escape their troubles here with $1.50 PBRs, Keno, and that nudie picture “spot the difference” video game. True Grit Award: it has a working cigarette machine.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. 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.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
13. Wally's Cafe 427 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

Wally’s is a veritable time machine transporting you back to the days when smoke-filled juke joints reigned supreme. And they still do at this nearly 70 year old family-run nightclub icon. You won’t mind the no frills vibes and aroma of nights long since past once the incredible jazz jams fill this cozy space.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
14. L Street Tavern 658 E 8th St, Boston, MA 02127 (South Boston)

Perfect for jukebox junkies, L Street Tavern's a South End dive known for its loud atmosphere, good drinks, and overall extreme Boston pride. It's equipped with a TV to watch the Bruins win (or lose... let the debate begin).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
15. 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.

Clickbait