Ah, the nightclub: hot cars and fast women, flashing lights cascading off the walls, and a pulsating beat running through your veins.
It’s enough to make you puke.
For those who wouldn’t be caught dead shelling out a $15 cover, there are the places known as dive bars: simple neighborhood institutions where you can relax, have a beer, and avoid all that pomp and circumstance. Boston’s full of ‘em, including these ten that you shouldn’t miss.
The Banshee (934 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester). About as close to an authentic Irish bar as you can get without actually going to Ireland. Lively crowds make this bar a good spot for dancing on weekends and a chill place to grab pub food during the week. The Banshee is also one of the best spots in the city to watch simulcasts of rugby and football/soccer matches.
Brendan Behan Pub (378 Centre St., Jamaica Plain). An homage to the famous playwright/IRA member/severe alcoholic from whom the bar derives its name, the Behan is a hole in the wall that’s worth visiting. The pub offers a superb drink selection and friendly staff, along with some pretty good music on the stereo. And to top it all off, they allow dogs.
The Burren (247 Elm St., Somerville). With good food and a solid set of drinks on tap, The Burren is probably the least divey dive bar on this list. This meat-and-potatoes Irish pub is also a great place for live music.
Galway House (720 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain). Inexpensive (but tasty) food, dangerously cheap mixed drinks, and more tacky crap on the walls than a Friday’s. Galway House is a Jamaica Plain institution that’s been serving the neighborhood for decades. Free popcorn and a cheap jukebox make this place a must-visit next time you find yourself in Forest Hills. Also, order the Pearl Harbor -- yes, that’s what it’s called; no, it’s not too soon.
Murphy’s Law (837 Summer Street, South Boston). Murphy’s Law posits that if something can go wrong, it will. In some sick way, this truism applies perfectly to this Southie pit stop because Murphy’s Law is a great place to have way too much fun. While it’s reputation precedes it, rest assured that this bar’s bark is worse than its bite. Murphy’s is always hopping on a weekend, sometimes featuring live music. Fun fact: The bar was the site of a crucial scene in the 2007 Ben Affleck thriller Gone Baby Gone.
People’s Republik (876 Mass Ave., Central Square). If Vladimir Lenin were to rise from the dead, move to Cambridge, and open a bar, it would be People’s Republik. In addition to enough Soviet kitsch to make Marx himself do backflips in his grave, this Cambridge institution offers darts, a good draft selection, and a brunch menu that goes far beyond the traditional Communist meal of rice and cardboard. Unfortunately, they are not so socialist that the house buys your drinks.
The Silhouette (200 Brighton Ave., Allston). If you want to go to a dive bar but also ensure your safety, The Silhouette is the place for you. Right in the heart of Boston’s hipster mecca, “The Sil” has cheap pitchers, pool, darts, and quite possibly the gnarliest bathroom of any bar in Massachusetts -- which is saying a lot.
The Tam (222 Tremont Street, Theater District). On Friday around midnight, this area’s a sea of hoity-toity nightclubs slam-packed with Euromulleted men in Ferrari jackets. Those are the guys who wouldn’t be caught dead in The Tam, which is exactly what makes it so enticing. The Tam has a straight-up old-man-bar vibe but caters to a varied crowd. Cold beer, martinis stronger than an ox, and some of the coolest doormen in the city make The Tam a great spot to escape the faux-Studio 54 atmosphere that swallows up the corner of Tremont and Stuart.
T.C.’s Lounge (1 Haviland Street, Fenway). A stone’s throw from Berklee, this fine establishment features one asset that you probably won’t find anywhere else: a claw-grab machine filled with porn. They’ve also got Big Buck Hunter, a nude photo hunt game, and a signature shot called the OxyContin. In a section of the city filled with bars where you have to basically climb over co-eds to get a drink, T.C.’s is a great place to relax.
Whitey’s Pub (268 West Broadway, South Boston). Southie has changed a lot in the last few years; Whitey’s hasn’t. In addition to all the friendly regulars, this place with no sign, which is named after local legend Whitey McGrail, offers free popcorn, free pool, $1.50 drafts, and t-shirts proclaiming the establishment “The Best Dive in Boston.” Be sure to say hello to the owner, Danny, a down-to-Earth gentleman crackling with Irish wit. You can usually find him not too far from the door.
Photos by The Tam (top) and Murphy's Law (bottom)
By Matt McQuaid -- I'm a lifelong Democrat and writer of a politically-oriented column, "Banned in D.C." Hobbies include watching TV and listening to super-intense bands with mad-scary dudes that have tattoos and stuff.
The author is solely responsible for the content.