The capital of the first state to legalize gay marriage, our city has a thriving LGBT scene, yet there are surprisingly few exclusively gay bars in Boston (though parties in some of the best Boston nightclubs, like the Estate, bump up the weekly options). Look hard enough, though, and you will find there are some great after-dark things to do in Boston for the LGBT set. From wild drag shows in Back Bay to a gay sports bar in South End, the possibilities for those seeking good times in gay bars in Boston are more varied than you might expect.
RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best Boston bars
Best gay bars in Boston
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.
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.
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.
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.
Less bar than club, the Fenway institution has long held court as the city’s definitive gay dance spot. Live music earlier in the evening gives way to a $10 cover and predictable but crowd-pleasing DJed tunes. The diverse crowd usually skews younger, and don’t expect many teetotalers (bar drinks are unremarkable—and cash only—but get the job done). Theme nights in the downstairs space include karaoke; downstairs is where you’ll also find the more chill pool area, with TVs and arcade games. On top of Machine is Ramrod, the iconic leather bar that has gotten a lot more staid in the past few years.
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.
When the legendary gay sports bar Fritz closed last year, there was brief panic among the flag football set. Thankfully, the nearby and more spacious Cathedral Station quickly took its place, absorbing a lot of the friendly Fritz staff in the process. The menu makeup is well-executed pub fare all the way, from the wings to the fish-and-chips; hearty brunch dishes are designed to absorb daytime beers. Cocktails are far more reasonably priced than at other places in the area (spring for the Irish coffee). When halftime comes, retreat to the enormous back patio for a hit of fresh air, or calm your nerves with a quick game of pool or darts.
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.