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The best gay bars in Boston

Discover where to hit the town in style with Time Out's guide to the best gay bars in Boston

The showgirls of Jacque's Cabaret, the grande dame of Boston gay bars

The capital of the first state to legalize gay marriage, Boston has a thriving LGBT scene, yet the city has surprisingly few exclusively gay bars and clubs (though parties in nightclubs like The Estate bump up the weekly options). Jamaica Plain has a growing lesbian population and a prime hangout, Bella Luna Restaurant & the Milky Way Lounge, which hosts the regular Dyke Night bash. In summer, the LGBT party migrates to Cape Cod’s Provincetown—quite possibly the gayest seaside enclave in the world.

RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars

Club Café

A touchstone, a punchline, a cultural institution, Club Cafe has been ground zero for Boston Gay socializing since 1983. A glossy but friendly combination of restaurant, bar, lounge and dance club, Club Cafe provides full-service fabulousness for all occasions—from after work cocktails to post-Pride shenanigans. Offering everything from cabaret acts in the evening to pop-heavy dance parties on weekends to Sunday morning mass, Club Cafe remains a reliable social standby for a wide cross section of the city’s LGBT community.

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Jacque's Cabaret

The peaceful little Back Bay neighborhood of Bay Village may be known for its charming, lamp-lit streets and modest brick townhouses, but it's also home to the wildest drag shows in town. Seven days a week at Jacque's Cabaret, you can see the most glamorous showgirls from New England and beyond. Watch as they cajole, charm and, if necessary, blackmail dollars from the audience with virtuosic displays of glamour, talent and double-sided tape. You'll find the crowd equally compelling: On a recent night attendees included a group of Harvard grad students, off-duty strippers, rowdy suburban bachelorettes, and a drunk couple from Lowell who passed out at the bar. It's an insider's legend and a helluva good time. Just remember to get there early, because this neighborhood bar closes promptly at midnight.

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The owners of Dbar took over a grubby little Irish pub and installed a dark wood interior, a lengthy martini list and an upscale menu that rivals most of its downtown cousins. After 10pm on weekends, the smoke machines, lights and rib-shaking subwoofers come on, and suddenly the night belongs to Mariah.

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The Eagle

The decor is straight out of Cher's attic. Televisions screen Technicolor missteps from the golden age of Hollywood, and a life-sized cutout of Michelle Obama grins coyly at patrons from behind the bar. Yet underneath these campy trappings, the Eagle retains the lawless spirit of a Wild West saloon. This is largely due to the distinctive brand of hospitality practiced by Jack, the notorious barman who dispenses bracingly fierce commentary along with inexpensive drinks. A favorite last call destination and the site of many a storied evening, The Eagle is the stuff of legend.

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Paradise Bar

Located just off of Mass Ave in the no-man's-land between Central Square and MIT, Paradise provides adventurous gays from Cambridge and beyond the kind of raunchy good times you simply cannot find in the city’s classier joints. With sociable go-go boys and televised porn, the first floor bar offers a myriad of titillating visuals (not to mention reasonably priced and unreasonably strong mixed drinks). Meanwhile, the newly-expanded dance floor in the basement provides minimal lighting for maximum scandal.

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Sister Sorel

This tiny gem on Tremont Street is the Swiss Army Knife of gay bars—compact, well-designed and capable of helping you out with any romantic fix: Looking to meet someone new? Sidle up to the beautiful marble-topped bar; the cozy confines and friendly clientele make conversation between strangers a near certainty. Ready to take your new acquaintance on a relaxed first date? The booths in the back provide just enough distance from the bar to get better acquainted over a few well-prepared cocktails. And when the love affair is over, finish things off like grown-ups over a bottle of wine at one of the more intimate tables up front. From there, it’s just a few steps back to the bar, where you can start the whole cycle anew.

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The South End