NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Sometimes all you need is a cold pint of beer, a raggedy barstool and a good jukebox.
Sure, downtown New Brunswick’s chic bar and restaurant scene has few rivals in the area, or even the state. Where else can you hear jazz four nights a week, eat kangaroo or catch a first-rate theatrical performance?
Yet there’s something equally charming about a good dive bar. Unpretentious and sometimes unsavory, these watering holes tend to pour heavy and charge light. While you won’t find any Michelin stars in these joints, you will find good conversation and interesting people. And you might leave with a story or two.
TAPinto New Brunswick compiled a list of the city’s quintessential dive bars. Here they are, in no particular order.
Ale ’N Wich, 246 Hamilton St.
From the pool table to its fenced-in patio, this bar’s amenities make it among the best places in New Brunswick to grab a pint or a pitcher. Since 1974, the ‘Wich has served as a meeting ground for punks, Rutgers students and just about everyone else. Its low lights, wood furnishings and tin ceiling make for a cozy place to hide out. You can usually get Rolling Rock and Miller Lite on the cheap, but there’s also plenty of craft beer, if that’s your thing.
Patrick’s Pub, 309 Somerset St.
Step below the street and into this barroom, and you’re likely to feel as if you’ve traveled back to a time when neighborhood shot-and-a-beer bars were still king. Patrick’s mostly attracts working-class Latinos, with a few artists and the like. Mugs of Budweiser cost $1.75, no matter the time or day. But this place really shines in the late afternoon, as its quiet, dark atmosphere wipes away the stresses of the workday.
Kelly’s Korner, 75 Morell St.
Does it get more New Brunswick than Kelly’s? This Irish neighborhood joint draws cops, firefighters, construction workers and college students—all of whom come for the affordable drinks and friendly people. It also offers free hot dogs on Fridays, in addition to its regular—and shockingly inexpensive—menu of typical bar fare.
Corner Tavern, 111 Somerset St.
A stone’s throw from the train station, the Corner Tavern is another establishment that has taken in a diverse crowd. It has since 1933. The Inzano family, the owners, always post agreeable drink specials. They also have a ton of good stories, from the evolution of New Brunswick to barroom lore. Plus, drinkers can play pool, shuffleboard and darts.
The Hub, 123 French St.
A controversial choice, this small bar lives in the shadow of an attached liquor store. It only has a handful of stools, and sometimes you might find the bar covered in packaging or supplies. But as far as holes in the wall go, The Hub is unique. A seemingly never-ending stream of customers to the liquor store provides bargoers with a show to complement their drinks. The store also stocks any number of libations for when it’s time to go home.
Court Tavern, 124 Church St.
There’s little that needs to be said about this fabled rock-’n’-roll club. Sweaty and covered in stickers, the Court Tavern has given rise to some of the state’s most notable bands—most recently, The Gaslight Anthem—and welcomed punk, indie and metal legends from across the world. Come for the history and stay for the bargain drinks.