Find your way to the end of the hallway.
Shotgun style dive bars have a way of ensuring the heat and beer and vibe stay well-captured inside, a dynamic that builds as an evening evolves. Sligo Pub is one such dive bar hallway, nested in a Somerville mini-strip just west of downtown Boston and part of greater Cambridge. And though the buildings that surround it don’t necessarily feel ancient, Sligo Pub has deep roots, opening in 1937 before changing names and owners, ultimately landing on its current Sligo incarnation.
The names have changed over the years, from Pat Connolley’s to Mahoney’s to Sligo Pub, the dive bar’s current name given by immigrant past owners paying tribute to their County Sligo Irish home. Outside, the dive bar looks just a touch too modern to make clear its 1937 roots, signage fitting in with some of the bar’s less exciting ‘normal’ neighbors. But inside is where the warmth of the wood-clad interior takes over, deep coloring stretching seemingly endlessly into the far reaches of the dive bar’s horizon.
While this reviewer couldn’t personally confirm whether the bar that runs along one side of the narrow space is original, the wood certainly seems to fit the bill, the kind of short lip, bump your knees against the wall orientation typical of vintage dive bars. Demonstrating the tight dimensions found throughout Sligo Pub, there is room here for only eight stools or so, a short stretch in comparison to the long bar behind it. A shallow, built-in bookcase of sorts provides the structure behind the bar to host liquor bottles, the classic dive bar mirror behind one section. It is easy to picture these shelves hosting bottles of all description over the decades, the wood the perfectly aged backdrop for the liquor.
With such a broad display of bottles, little room is left for other decorations, or even glasses. The narrow confines behind the bar make for creative space management, every inch behind, below and even in the window well attached to the bar utilized for the glassware and accessories keep a dive bar like Sligo Pub running. Opposite the bar, a handful of short tables provide the bar’s main seating area, a short stretch of stools and tables underneath a classic dive bar set of beer signs. Notable is the Budweiser Clydesdale display that resembles a short of ship-in-a-bottle approach, a vintage item among some of the newer Guinness and Harpoon signage nearby.
A trained eye is needed to hunt down of the other vintage items inside, including a framed sketch of the bar’s narrow exterior just behind the bar. Sligo Pub-themed items through the years can be found here and there, mixed in and around a set of newer objects, an example of the living nature of Sligo Pub all these decades later. In back, carving can be found all along the wood walls here, countless generations leaving a very tangible mark on Sligo Pub. In fact, though most of the bar itself has been spared, the wood surfaces through Sligo Pub bear some type of etched marking that lets some of Sligo Pub’s deep roots shine through.
In addition to some additional seating in the rear of the bar, you’ll find a Golden Tee and digital jukebox wedged into the narrow space. But while the bar area certainly contains its fair share of historical intrigue, the wood etched surfaces that surround this alcove of a space in the rear of the dive bar makes for the best drinking atmosphere at Sligo Pub. On a crowded weekend evening, the heat gets trapped back here, making for some slightly claustrophobic, sweaty surroundings. But for those doing a little day drinking, the promise of some Christmas light, scratched graffiti drinking is an attractive proposition.
Sligo Pub’s modern signage and harmonious mini-strip appearance bely the 1937 roots of this Somerville dive bar, a narrow hallway of a drinking experience that unfolds into wooden graffiti etched across the decades. And letting the experience unfold with every step further into the depths of the space is probably the best way to experience it, a sliver of a dive bar with the wood-lined interior that lives up to its length heritage.