Best Dive Bars on Cape Cod
When you’re not looking for frills, just a round of darts and maybe dollar drafts on game day, you’ll be in good company at the Cape’s favorite dive bars. Well-worn by regulars hiding out from the crowds and well-loved by vacationers in search of local color, these 16 watering holes are home away from home. It’s fine if you’re wearing your whale-print pants––as long as you’re down to go with the flow, you’re always welcome to dive right in.
These local hangouts may be low-key, but they know how to step it up in the kitchen. In Provincetown, the Irish-owned Squealing Pig is a cozy Commercial Street nook where Wellfleet oysters are a dollar at happy hour and the menu runs the gamut from superfood salads and grass-fed burgers, to farmhouse breakfasts and Guinness stew. More down-home than dive, the Kettle Ho in Cotuit stands out for its red-barn exterior and stuffed local quahogs, plus a cheery bar scene where you’ll feel among friends the moment you spot your alma mater’s pennant on the wall. At the Lost Dog Pub in East Dennis and Orleans, ice-cold beers and scratch-made pizzas are points of pride. “Come, sit, stay” for a chilled pint, the local raw bar, and late-night, hand-tossed pies fresh from the brick oven. Local color is on permanent display at Land Ho! in Orleans, whether in the parade of license plates and hanging signs that crowds the ceiling, the daily cast of characters chatting at the bar, or a plate of local scallops fresh from the dayboats. Finally, someone had to do it: The Quahog Republic Dive Bar in Falmouth is literally scuba-themed, which makes the seafood favorites doubly on point. Take note of the Quahog’s modus operandi to “live, give, relax” as you settle in for a signature cocktail, play some Keno, and give the award-winning chowder and “monsta lobsta” roll your undivided attention.
Time to get down to business. The aptly-named Bomb Shelter in Wellfleet serves no-nonsense drinks in a setting that could be your neighbor’s basement; never mind that it’s across the road from Mayo Beach and one of the best views in town. Also classic, the 19th Hole Tavern has been a Hyannis hangout since 1930, wearing its Irish pride on the ceiling (look up) and its local heart on its sleeve, especially when it comes to raising a glass to those in uniform —police, fire, and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. In Osterville, five bucks buys your annual membership to cheap drinks and free popcorn at The Fox Hole, patron saint of the Osterville Veterans Association, home to a crowd of loyal followers, and last call for your entire wedding party after the rehearsal dinner ends. When you’re ready to drink like a sailor, you’re as good as seaborne at the Old Colony Tap in Provincetown. Hunker down with a pint among ship-inspired surroundings (read: dark) and find your sea legs on the famously skewed floors. Back on familiar ground, go for pool, jukebox, Keno, and kitsch. You’ll find barroom basics and eclectic clutter at the Quarterdeck Lounge, which somehow manages to be a roadside hideout along one the busiest strips of Route 28 in Hyannis. The postage-stamp sized Canal Cafe may be your “last beer on the Cape” as you head over the Sagamore bridge, but the party isn’t over. You’ll find bumper pool, local seafood specials, and a reliably warm welcome all packed into this tiny outpost.
Local bands and comedy nights are best enjoyed in laid-back style. Get into the groove at Grumpy’s Pub in Falmouth, hallowed haunt of local bands, from blues to classic rock, in a take-it-or-leave-it setting that washes down well with anything on tap. The impressive collection of police badges from departments all over the country are worthy of salute at Jack’s 28 Club in Dennis, as are your own karaoke stylings after a few rounds. Long-timers will swear the place has hardly changed in decades; first-timers will take one look at the brick-and-wood surroundings and be glad it hasn’t. When you’ve seen it all, you’ve probably been at Zachary’s Pub in Mashpee, either for the most tried-and-true bachelor party on the Cape or for a cheeky date night (sure, pun intended) to spice things up. On the Lower Cape, ignore all fresh-faced evidence to the contrary — you’re never too old for the Woodshed in Brewster. It’s loud, it’s fun, and it’s right downstairs from the namesake chowder at the Brewster Inn and Chowder House. Last and never least, you’re likely to land at the Chatham Squire for killer fish and chips and the best spot in town to see-and-be-seen. But live music nights, featuring hometown bands and Sunday night fiddling, are one more reason to love this Main Street mainstay. We’ll say it again: Dive right in.