A Book For Those Who Really Love Boston’s Dive Bars

By Michelle McCormack
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Photo Credit: Gamble Guides (May 17, 2011)

Photo Credit: Gamble Guides (May 17, 2011)

BOSTON (CBS) – T.C.’s Lounge on Haviland Street near Fenway is the perfect setting for a book signing. Well, really only perfect if the book is called Boston’s Best Dive Bars (very inappropriate for most any other book signing, I guess).

On a day that saw temperatures inch above 70 for first time in months, TC’s was at least 100, and gloomy – the only real light falling like an afterthought from bar signs, pinball machines and a juke box. Natural light that might have had a fighting chance to hit the interior is instead being blocked by the gigantic bouncer who was carding people at the door and it’s was barely 6 o’clock.

The perfect dive bar.

And the place is slammed. ‘A nice day’ will not deter the self-respecting bar fly – I mean what are you going to do, have a picnic? Drinking in public is illegal…


Pushing through the crowd I find Luke O’Neil, author of Boston’s Best Dive Bars, a guide of the seediest spots in the bean, hunched over a fold up card table, signing books and drinking beer. “How much?” I ask. Instead of Luke, I get this big dude next to me bellow, “10 bucks you get the book, the signature and two Narragansetts.” Free beer? Nice.

Turns out the big dude was Jeff Lawrence (like the town, he said), one of the owners of The Weekly Dig, the funniest, coolest newspaper in town (in my humble opinion). Luke contributes to the paper and apparently the paper contributed to the book signing.


In the book, Luke, who also contributes to The Phoenix and Wall Street Journal morns the loss of the great dives of Boston due to raising real estate costs. And so, as a service to his fellow boozers, he took it upon himself to compile an archive of the remaining few – broken down by Boston neighborhood (plus Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline, of course).

So I ask Luke the laziest question possible, “Why a book on dive bars?”

“I feel like people are always saying, “I love dive bars”, and periodically newspapers and websites will post lists of the “top 10 dive bars!” but it’s always the same old places. At the same time I was traveling around the city reviewing nice bars for the Globe and Metro and Phoenix, and seeing all these really odd, out of place looking bars that I had never heard of, and I wanted to know more about them. I decided to find as many hidden dive bars I could in the immediate metro area (although I had to cut it off at some point or else it would’ve been 500 pages), and tell a little story about each one. Some I give the history of the place, some are more like reviews, some are basically vignettes, or just a collection of jokes about drunks.”

Fair enough.

Here’s a sneak peak of one bar from each neighborhood
For the complete list of dive bars, buy the book


The Model Cafe

7 N Beacon St
(between Brighton Ave & Cambridge St)
Allston, MA 02134
(617) 254-9365
website and reviews


JJ Foley’s

117 E Berkeley St
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 728-9101


The Cantab Lounge

738 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 354-2685
website and reviews


Corner Cafe

87 Prince Street
Boston, MA 02113
(617) 523-8997
website and reviews


The Eire Pub

795 Adams St
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
(617) 436-0088


Eddie C’s

34 Maverick Sq
East Boston, MA 02228
(617) 567-9395


Galway House

720 Centre St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 524-9677
website and reviews


El Mondonguito

221 Dudley Street
Roxbury, MA 02119
(617) 522-3672
website and reviews


P.A.’s Lounge

345 Somerville Ave
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 776-1557
website and reviews


Tom English’s Cottage

118 Emerson St
Boston, MA 02127
(617) 269-9805

Michelle McCormack is a strategist and blogger at LoveTheCool. LIKE her Facebook page Secret Boston and FOLLOW her Tweets @MichelleMMM

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