Aug 19, 2022 - Food and Drink

Boston's dive bar deserts

A map of boston with red markers
Image: Nick Roy/Best Boston Dive Bars.

Boston is a drinking city, and it's also an expensive one. That's why the humble dive bar has been a venerable institution for generations, helping out folks without enough money for the good stuff or with too much sense to overpay for it.

Enter Nick Roy, a 30-something network security worker with a dedication to helping thirsty misers find their nearest watering hole. He drew up the "Best Boston Dive Bars" map.

  • The map features dozens of listings for affordable drinking and neighborhood conversation.
  • It'll pinpoint your nearest dive using location data, and give directions even a seasoned sot can follow.

Why it matters: Rising costs are making consumers think twice about a $16 cocktail when a $6 mixed drink may be waiting for them just around the corner.

What they're saying: "Most of these bars have figured out ways to keep their prices down, and who doesn't need a cheaper drink or two with the way things are right now," Roy told Axios in an email.

Yes, but: You have to know where to look. Large swaths of the city have become deserts for these bars, including much of the Back Bay, Mission Hill and the Seaport outside Fort Point.

  • There isn't a single dive on the map west of Dorchester Ave. through the entirety of Roxbury.
  • Brookline is particularly bleak, with no locations.

The intrigue: Roy said he's added some bars to the map in an effort to cover the whole city, even if those establishments are a bit classier.

  • He says a bar counts for his purposes if it "has the spirit of a dive bar, even if it's a little cleaned up." Having people downing PBRs at 10am on a Sunday is also a qualifier.

Some neighborhoods have managed to maintain their dives.

  • Downtown has its fair share, with the Hub Pub, Sidebar, Biddy Early's and the Corner Pub.
  • South Boston has too many to list, and college areas like Harvard Square, Allston-Brighton and Central Square are jam-packed.

Background: Roy started the project during the pandemic, and the map reached over 6,000 views in its first year.

  • Roy said people at dive bars are just friendlier, and he maintains the map to show Bostonians that even though many of the classics have closed, there are still establishments carrying on their spirit.
  • "I started an Instagram for the site and that takes most of the time, but I also get to go to dive bars so, I consider that a wash," Roy said.

What's next: Roy thinks it might be time to start planning the first Boston Dives meetup.

Steph's recommendation: The Tam is authentically low-key and grimy; the other so-called "dive bars" downtown are just try-hards with overpriced 'Gansett.

  • Head over to watch the Red Sox lose, but leave before the Emerson students take over.

Deehan's recommendation: I'm not going to tell you where I hang out, since it's not on the map and I don't want you to know about it.

  • But when downtown, I'll always be a Nelly's stan.
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