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Need a dive bar with really good food in Downtown Boston

Any recommendations? Have a loud New Yorker coming in for a business lunch - need to stay in walking distance of Financial District. Thanks.

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  1. Business lunch and dive bar? I'm mildly confused.

    How about something like Kingston Station? Is that too fancy?

    1. Do you really want a dive bar (are there any left in downtown Boston?) or just as casual bar?

      19 Replies
      1. re: LeoLioness

        The only real dive bar in the Financial District is Biddy Early's on Pearl Street. If you have a business lunch there, it will be the first ever.

        1. re: mhead

          What about Sidebar, JJ Foley's, Hub Pub, Corner Pub, The Times, Littlest Bar, The Tam?

          1. re: Beachowolfe

            Don't see anything divey about any of them (well, maybe Sidebar). Just standard pubs.

            1. re: LeoLioness

              At some point in the last 10 years or so the term "dive bar" seems to have been morphed to just describe any "standard pub". I blame the hipsters and their incessant need to claim some sort of coolness to what they're doing but not wanting to go to a *real* dive.

              1. re: jgg13

                I'm glad to have this explained and confirmed by a native, as I've never understood how bars which merely don't have a lot of windows or have some kind of history are "dives".

                1. re: chickendhansak

                  OT but has anyone been to the Crow's Nest in Gloucester; featured in the Perfect Storm?

                  In the book, they explain the small windows,,,,hard to throw someone out through them..:)

                  Hank's Tavern..now Barracuda? was a true dive bar. Not someplace for a business lunch, unless you're in a shady business.

                  Tam qualifies. I wouldn't do a business meeting there.

                  1. re: 9lives

                    I've been to the Crow's Nest! No one was thrown. It was not as bad, in my experience, as that place near the Revere T stop, or even the Tam. More along the lines of Beacon Hill Pub, in dive-ness (without the throng of 21 year olds, obviously).

                    I'm not sure what brought "hipsters" into the mix. And I disagree with jgg's explication that somehow they are behind the "faux dive" movement. Love 'em or hate 'em, and mock-worthy as they sometimes can be, they are behind some really good food.

                    1. re: Alcachofa

                      No aspersions on hipsters, but I doubt many of them would be comfortable hanging out at the places that meet my real-dive definition.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Possibly, but that's not what I was saying.

                      2. re: Alcachofa

                        My experience at Crow's Nest goes back some years. Looking at their website, looks like they've been gentrified. commercial fisherman's bar.. In a similar genre, TK O'Malley's nee Grog Shoppe in Scituate has a similar feel at their inside bar. Outside and the DR are more family friendly

                        1. re: Alcachofa

                          The crowd that I associate with hipsters seem to be the ones that first started loving "dives". It's long since moved into mainstream culture, but their self-professed (and not really accurate) love of all things cool & unloved drove them to these places, IMO.

                          Not that I ever viewed it as a dive, but I'll point to Newtown Grill again. For a long time it was mostly just townies. All of a sudden there was a growing hipster crowd there. After a while there was just always a crowd of mainstream non-townies (the hipsters have largely moved on). Yet it's still a "dive", bleh.

                    1. re: phatchris

                      The Tam doesn't serve food, but you can bring in pizza from next door. That sounds rather divey to me.

                      1. re: gini

                        Not really--any bar that doesn't serve food usually allows this (see also the cozy, non-divey Brendan Behan in Jamaica Plain). But bars don't open without serving food any more and the classic "just bars no food" bars are going by way of the dinosaur, so the practice is a lot less common.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          Can you provide some examples of what you'd consider a dive?

                          1. re: Beachowolfe

                            I really can't think of many (any?) these days....The late Bernie's Pub (on Beach St) was my gold standard.

                            1. re: LeoLioness

                              Mine too. Mirrors but no windows iirc.

                              1. re: Alcachofa

                                Plus hookers, pimps, a filthy bar of soap in the bathroom, cheap drinks, and a definite feeling that anything could happen in that joint.

                              2. re: LeoLioness

                                Bernie's and Weggie's both fit. Weggie's is now the Corner Pub..not so divey. A few years back I wandered into Bernie's witha fellow CH, who shall remain nameless and we got the distinct feeling we were not welcome.

              2. Not a dive bar, but jm Curley has really great food and a very good drink list.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                  I agree it is a great spot. No frills, just good drinks, beer and a nice looking burger (which I have not yet tried).

                2. Your post is a bit confusing (dive bar vs good food for that part of town). That said, how about Silvertone, JM Curley's, JJ Foley's, Kingston Station, the Good Life?

                  1. I don't think you want to eat in a real dive bar. But even at what most people think of as dives in the FiDi, the food is usually forgettable when it's not downright bad: interchangeable Sysco-truck menus, lots of deep-fried stuff, mediocre burgers, bad nachos, etc. Beware.

                    If by "dive" you just mean "casual", I find the downstairs bar at Marliave to be useful for meetings. It's a cool old-looking room, basic American / Italian / French but well-executed menu, spacious booths for a business meeting. The upstairs dining room is a bit fancier-looking, same menu. Decent raw bar and drinks, too.

                    Another one I like but is often busy at lunch is Silvertone. A quality comfort-food menu in a noisy basement setting. Notable for ridiculously good wine by the bottle prices, cheaper than retail at some stores. Also excellent drinks, if you get to that, but you may have to wait for a booth at peak times.

                    If you avoid the bad German food, Jacob Wirth is a cool 19th-century tavern with just-okay American food. Loud and casual, pretty good beer, too.

                    The newish jm Curley is a great suggestion, and until it got reviewed in the Globe yesterday, was always nearly empty at lunch. Quality food and drinks in a casual setting, though the lunch menu is short. A good burger and an unusual, tasty pastrami sandwich, among other goodies.


                    5 Replies
                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Great suggestions, thanks! Will try JM Curly or Marliave.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Oh no. It got reviewed by the Globe? There goes the secret of a place that was well hidden without a sign on the street.

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I had Marliave in mind for a casual biz lunch today but the client was in the mood for Sam Lagrassa's. Not the ideal atmosphere to discuss biz but this was more social and their pastrami was great; as usual. The customer is always right..:)

                          I'm a big fan of JM Curley but I think Marliave would make a better impression on a client...just a nicer room..with some Boston history.

                          1. re: 9lives

                            Well, at least La Grassa's pastrami is amazing. Been eating more of that than I should lately.


                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              I had their pastrami last Thursday and it was oddly sweet ...

                        2. As a tourist, we had a great time at Lucky's Lounge with great food and drink...a step up from a dive...music was good too.


                          1. A dive bar would really only have something like bags of chips available behind the counter, or perhaps picked trotters.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jgg13

                              Also, pickled eggs, maybe some illegal salami sandwiches, bags of Andy Capp "fries", or they let you bring in styrofoam boxes of smelly takeaway fried fish from the joint around the corner.


                            2. Intermission Tavern on Tremont St. is pretty casual and has good burgers.

                              1. Clarkes in fanuel hall has surprisingly good food. Burgers and cocktail shrimp are great

                                1. What about the Corner Cafe in the North End? Or The Waterfront Cafe?

                                  1. What about Lucky's? That's within walking distance, the food's acceptable and it has that dive bar vibe in spades.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: misscucina

                                      Lucky's feels way too clean and safe to qualify as a dive bar, in my mind. But I like it for what it is.


                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Yes, I realize it's a faux dive bar, but as was said above, a true dive bar would not have "good food" and probably would not be interested in having "loud NYers" who come for a "business lunch." Lucky's offers the flavor of a dive bar ... which I think involves stale cigarette butts and warm PBR.

                                        1. re: misscucina

                                          Instead of simply going along with the misguided OP, why not educate them on their misuse of the term?

                                          1. re: jgg13

                                            It's debatable. I don't think it's a true dive unless there's an implicit threat of random violence, and preferably lots of grime. But some people include what I call Old Man Bars, quiet neighborhood places with some history. I tend to rule out any place that attracts tourists, hipsters or yah-doods.


                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              I think the implicit threat of violence is key to true dive bar staus..aka bucket of blood type of place.

                                              ex, Eddie C's in Maverick Sq...a few places near the beach in Revere off Shirley Ave.good for a cold 1 before Thmor Dat.

                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                I love the term "bucket of blood". The one I hadn't heard until a few years ago was my Somerville-native pal's term for a true dive, a "B & B", short for, "beer and a beatin'".


                                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                As you probably know, I concur with a place requiring some sense of imminent danger in order to qualify as a "dive".

                                                As a corollary to your Old Man Bar, it seems that typically "townie bars" are dubbed as dives. For instance, I went to Williams Tavern in South Boston not too long ago. It looked shifty outside, more like a bunker than a bar. There were just some local yokels there, the requisite bags of chips behind the bar. I could see a lot of people calling it a "dive", but really it appeared to just be a locals hangout, no frills.

                                                Sometimes the townie bars find themselves gussying up due to the newfound attention paid to "dives". As an example, every time I go into the Newtowne Grill in Porter it's noticeably nicer. This started a few years back once it got discovered by the hipsters & other assorted youngsters. This sets up a feedback loop where they have more money and thus renovate more, which causes it to cross over from "eww, sketch" to "yay! dive!" for the next group of people.

                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                  "No Frills" is a great way to describe Dirty Bills.

                                                  Sketchy on the outside but a bit to brightly lit inside, minimal tvs, plastic picnic tables bolted to the floor for seating.

                                                  A "dive" bar with good food is generally an oxymoron, though The Quiet Man might have qualified.

                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                    The Alumni Cafe in Quincy. My mom would send me over there to pick up the best bar pizza I've ever had. I would walk in there, broad daylight, in fear! Some seriously sketchy lookin' folks in there, back then. Well worth it for the pizza!
                                                    How about the Cape Codder Cafe in Brockton? Terrific feta cheese pizza. We stopped going when there was a shooting in the neighborhood during the day.

                                      2. Sully's and The Penalty Box are 2 Dives near the Garden, really only divey on non game nights.