There are two kinds of dive bars in Boston: the kind with live rock bands and the kind with Keno. Undergrads cram into the music venues—Boston and Cambridge support more than 250,000 students between them—while the local, working-class guys often described as “colorful” frequent the pubs.

Sam Treadway, bar manager and co-owner of backbar in Cambridge, perfectly encapsulates the Boston dive experience: “You get made fun of by the Irish bartenders, eat mozzarella sticks, get cut off way after you should’ve been cut off, stumble home… rinse, repeat.”

We asked 16 of Boston and Cambridge’s top bartenders where they drink and dive when they want cold pitchers of Narragansett and warm shots of Jameson. You’ll probably find them slumming at these watering holes after their shifts, watching a Sox game, playing darts, and listening to Irish folk music on the jukebox.


Co-bar manager of Hojoko
Favorite dive bar: The Tam (222 Tremont St; 617-482-9182,

Swisher says: “The Tam has exactly the type of eclectic crowd you would expect to find at a downtown bar, but with such an approachable price point. It’s the definition of unpretentious. There’s also the Brendan Behan Pub in J.P. [Jamaica Plain], which has a great beer selection, very reasonable prices and $5 shots of Chartreuse. What else do you need?” (Photos: Yelp/Chris M.)


Head bartender at Highball Lounge
Favorite dive bar: jm Curley (21 Temple Pl; 617-338-5333,

Misif says: “jm Curley’s is my local dive. The staff is always welcoming and friendly. It has dim lighting and brick walls, making it one of the coziest places to have a drink, especially in the winter.” (Photo: Yelp/Patrick M.)


Beverage consultant at Gold Bar
Favorite dive bar: The Drinking Fountain (3520 Washington St, Jamaica Plain; 617-522-7335

Gertsen says: “I love the well-scarred walls of The Sligo in Davis Square, Somerville. There is no better place to watch a Red Sox day game, drink a bottle of Budweiser, and catch up with Steve the bartender. When in Fort Point, I try to make it over to Biddy Early’s when I have the evening off. The best of the bunch is a bit off of the beaten path in Jamaica Plain. But for a great spot for a Sox game, three fingers of gin topped with a splash of tonic (you may want to bring your own lime; they often try to get away with fake lime), a scratch ticket machine IN the bar, and a really lively crowd, head to The Drinking Fountain. When you’re there, say hello to Josey and Jill for me.” (Photo: Yelp/Sara S.)


General manager of Drink
Favorite dive bar: Biddy Early’s (141 Pearl St; 617-654-9944,

Star says: “Biddy Early’s is a small bar in downtown Boston. Its Jameson shots are epic. Despite being downtown, its proximity to Southie still has an influence. Locals and regulars are always priority, but they are welcoming in that Boston, in-your-face manner.” (Photo: Yelp/Laura K.)


Co-bar manager of Hojoko
Favorite dive bar: The Pub (682 Broadway, Somerville; 617-776-7373,

Cammarata says: “My favorite dive bar is The Pub in the Ball Square Neighborhood of Somerville. They have probably the best wings on the planet plus a great foosball table.” (Photo: Yelp/Ray G.)


Bar manager and co-owner of backbar, Study, Ames Street Deli and Journeyman
Favorite dive bar: State Park (Building 300, 1 Kendall Square, Cambridge; 617-848-4355,

Treadway says: “I rarely venture across the Charles, so my choices are all on this side of the river. Here in Kendall Square, State Park has all the charm of a classic dive bar straight out of a small town in the Midwest. But this basement bar also has damn good food, great cocktails, and ice-cold bottles of Rolling Rock. (It doesn’t hurt that they also have a pool table, pinball machines, and shuffleboard.)” (Photo: Yelp/Nicole W.)


Bar director and co-owner of The Hawthorne and bar director of Eastern Standard

Favorite dive bar: Irish Pub (51 Billings Rd, Quincy; 617-774-0222,

Cannon says: “The Irish Pub on Billings in Quincy has top shelf spirits for $5, a pool table, sports on TV, and a decidedly ’70’s soundtrack. ‘Summer Breeze,’ anyone?” (Photo:


Bar manager at Townsman
Favorite dive bar: Whitney’s Cafe (37 John F. Kennedy St; Cambridge, 617-354-8172,

Axtell says: “On a typical night at Whitney’s you’ll see seven out of twenty seats occupied by locals drinking Bud and Jameson. The room smells like cigarette smoke coming off the breath of men playing darts. This is a real escape from life, a relaxing place where you can unwind and laugh at the college kids outside on their scooters and longboards. I come here with the girlfriend because Big Buck Hunter is usually free on the nights I have off.” (Photo: C.)


Bartender at Menton
Favorite dive bar: Charlie’s Kitchen (10 Eliot St, Cambridge; 617-492-9646,

Ferguson says: “I love Charlie’s Kitchen in Harvard Square. They have a broad range of music from punk to hip-hop in the jukebox, and a beer garden that can’t be beat. If you’re drunk enough, try the burger.” (Photo: Yelp/Dave H.)


Beverage director of Wink & Nod
Favorite dive bar: Brendan Behan Pub (378 Centre St, Jamaica Plain; 617-522-5386,

Boughton says: “The dive bar I have taken the biggest liking to in Boston is Brendan Behan Pub in Jamaica Plain. I really dig their beer selection, they always have great music, and as an added bonus, a dartboard. It’s an Irish pub, so it even features live Irish bands from time to time.” (Photo: Yelp/Jason P.)


General manager of Ward 8
Favorite dive bar: Beacon Hill Pub (149 Charles St, Boston;

Wyatt says: “Who in the service industry doesn’t love a good dive bar? All you want after a long shift is an ice-cold cheap beer and a nice big shot of whatever. Beacon Hill Pub is the complete dive bar: cash only, no windows, cheap drinks and beer, a jukebox, and plenty of arcade games (although they really need to update their Golden Tee). The best part about it is that you wouldn’t really expect to find a dive bar in Beacon Hill next door to Mass General Hospital.” (Photo:


Lead bartender at Craigie on Main
Favorite dive bar: On The Hill Tavern (499 Broadway, Somerville; 617-629-5302,

Ficks says: “I’m not always looking for the next great cocktail. Sometimes a pitcher of Narragansett is just what the doctor ordered. There’s a dive bar near me called On the Hill Tavern in Magoun Square: pool tables, Keno, cheap pitchers, and most of the guests are north of 40 years old.” (Photo: Yelp/Mark A.)


Bar manager at Alden & Harlow
Favorite dive bar: Cornwall’s (654 Beacon St; 617-262-3749,

Freidus says: “My favorite dive bar is, and always will be, Cornwall’s in Kenmore Square. I used to go there frequently during my time behind the bar at Eastern Standard, and everyone who works there is amazing! (I’m looking at you Billy, Tommy, Ben, and Mis.) There’s pool, cold beer, warm whiskey, and good people. I left Kenmore to open Alden & Harlow, and a year later I walk into Cornwall’s and Billy already has my beer opened and whiskey poured before I even get to the bar. It’s pure hospitality.” (Photo: Yelp/Arik C.)


Beverage director and partner at Café ArtScience
Favorite dive bar: Eire Pub (795 Adams St, Dorchester Center; 617-436-0088,

Maul says: “The Eire Pub in Dorchester is my favorite dive bar in town. The owners use the tagline ‘President’s Choice’ because presidents Reagan and Clinton have been there, and apparently so have other politicians. It’s a straight old-school dive bar where all the servers and bartenders wear ties, and you camp out at the bar to crush Guinness. The door says ‘Men’s Bar’ and for a long time it was a gentlemen’s club. It’s the kind of place where they have drinks and food, but you really go to drink beer.” (Photo:


Bar manager at Russell House Tavern
Favorite dive bar: Paddy’s Lunch (260 Walden St, Cambridge; 617-547-8739,

Mitra says: “The best are Paddy’s Lunch in Cambridge, Anchovies in the South End, The Tam in the Theatre District, and Sligo Pub in Davis Square. They all have very different clientele, but the beer is always cold and the patrons are very talkative and have a lot of personality.” (Photo: Yelp/Phil D.)


Bar manager at Sinclair
Favorite dive bar: Great Scott (1222 Commonwealth Ave, Allston; 617-566-9014,

Avelar says: “I like dive bars that have consistent live music, and although it’s probably considered more of a rock club, Great Scott in Allston is a perfect combination of both. Great Scott has a certain character and feeling to it that most of these newer faux dive bars will never be able to replicate. It’s one of the few places left in the city where you can walk in having no idea what’s going on or who the band is that’s playing that night, pay a cheap cover, and have a mind-blowing experience. They’re cash only and have Keno, two essentials of any establishment considered a dive bar.” (Photo: Yelp/Matt R.)