Boston's Best Dive Bars

By Jacqueline Cain
two pints from one of Boston's Best Dive Bars
The Tam

Dive bars are an essential style of watering hole, with unpretentious drinks and the eclectic type of decor that comes from years of acquiring beer memorabilia. This kind of no-frills neighborhood fixture is elusive among bars in Boston, thanks to rising real estate costs and other existential changes to the city, but each generation of new drinkers proves that dive bars have timeless appeal. Whether you need a cold beer, free popcorn, or a sense of community, check out Boston’s best dive bars to find it all.

Delux Cafe

Delux Cafe interior one of Boston's Best Dive Bars

Delux Cafe is a South End icon, lovingly kept alive by husband-and-wife owners who used to be regulars. The popular neighborhood bar is tucked into a brownstone on the corner of Chandler and Clarendon streets, and the vibe can’t be beat: Year-round string lights and vintage kitsch set the mood in the narrow barroom. There are cheap beers, but the Delux also deals in craft beer and creative cocktails, like an arugula martini called Shecky Greene. The miniscule kitchen dishes up surprising and satisfying food, such as homemade pasta specials and a Grilled Cheese with tomato jam and crispy shallots. This spot is still cash-only, but the ATM fee is only 99 cents. Never change, Delux.

The Tam

person in the bar of The Tam one of Boston's Best Dive Bars
Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

A tried-and-true dive bar, right down to the gross bathrooms. (Sorry, it’s true. You’ll be OK.) The Tam has many redeeming qualities, however, from the cheap drinks to the classic look of the place, which is lit for the mood by beer signs and bedecked in fading St. Patrick’s Day banners. Always lively due to its grad school-friendly location in the Theatre District, this is also a reliable sports bar with the TVs always tuned into Boston teams. The Tam is one of several Boston dive bars taken over by a real estate investment group in recent years, but the Greater Boston Bar Co. has pledged, and proven, to keep the spirit alive—even if it does accept credit cards now. 

Silhouette Lounge

exterior of Silhouette Lounge one of Boston's Best Dive Bars

Allston is the spiritual homeland of Boston’s twentysomething punks, and The Sil is the altar. It has everything a good dive bar needs: A pool table, Big Buck Hunter, a separate room for throwing darts, cheap drinks, vinyl booths, and—most importantly—free popcorn. Despite the vintage “cocktail” sign on the roof, Silhouette Lounge tends to keep things simple with shots and mixed drinks, but there are often craft drafts alongside the Narragansett cans, hard seltzer, and dive-bar bottles. A neighborhood favorite since 1965, sun-faded awards on the walls attest to its beloved legacy. The Sil is now also part of Greater Boston Bar Co. after its longtime owner retired in early 2021.

State Park

STATE PARK Kendall Square Cambridge
State Park

We know this Cambridge bar accepts reservations. But State Park is divey in the best ways, like featuring shot-and-beer combos and pitchers on the bar menu, and cramming a vintage jukebox with curated, Gen X tunes. State Park is a modern neighborhood bar from the team behind nearby Mamaleh’s and Vincent’s, with a nostalgic look that’s different from anything else in Kendall Square. It serves good food for lunch and dinner, including cult-favorite Nashville-Style Hot Chicken and bar snacks like Narragansett Beer Cheese and House-made Pickled Sausage. It has an awesome patio, validates parking, and frequently hosts free live local music.

Biddy Early's

Biddy Early’s sign

In the Irish pub sub-genre of Boston dive bars, cozy and inexpensive Biddy Early’s is an oasis in a concrete jungle. This spot attracts a fair share of tourists due to its downtown location not too far from the waterfront, but the folks who find Biddy’s are the type who appreciate cheap drinks, plump Buffalo wings, and a friendly pub atmosphere. Like any good neighborhood bar, Biddy’s is open most hours of the week, and the scene can vary from a low-key weekend afternoon to Saturday night reveling and weekday evenings when the place fills up with unwinding office dwellers. No matter when you stop in, you’ll be glad you did.

Irish Village

Irish Village

Not as dingy a dive as others on this list, Brighton’s Irish Village has gleaming brass fixtures on a solid wood bar, and black vinyl booths which have been replaced at some point in the last decade. Despite a little investment over the years (it is owned by the Grafton Group of Harvard Square, after all), the IV is as low-key as they come—and one of Boston’s favorite Irish pubs since opening in 1970. Pop over for a pint: Besides a proper Guinness, there are always a handful of local craft beers; and stay for a round of darts or two. If you’re feeling hungry, treat yourself to a Toastie.

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