A Guide to Bars Around Fenway Park

It’s still hard to believe that spring has come to Boston. I still will not tempt fate by putting my shovel away, and while I have (hopefully) retired the winter coat for the season, I’m still sporting my winter hat. Such is life up here in Boston this year.

landsdowne

It must be spring though, because Opening Day is here for the Red Sox. Yes, I am one of those obnoxious diehards who watch every game I can, who curse at the TV and offer deep insights into batting orders and pitch counts to my barmates. Yes, I’m one of those guys.

Fenway Park is more of a piece of history now than an actual place to go watch a ballgame.   I don’t mind so much that it’s now a place for the tourists and rich people rather than actual Sox fans, but I do sometimes lament the fact that I can’t really afford the place much anymore. The neighborhood itself has gone upscale with the ballpark. This isn’t really a bad thing, since my days of slam dancing at the Rathskeller have been over for a while now anyway.

There are so many good bars around Fenway, a full list would be terribly exhaustive. Instead, here are just a few notes about places I get to often enough. Not ranked, just listed in the order that they popped into my head.

Be warned, however, that on game day every one of these places is likely to be filled to the rafters, often with many inebriated people. If, like me, you are past the point of throwing elbows at drunken bro’s to get a drink, or have no patience for the pinkhats, go on a day when the Sox are out of town. If nothing else, the staff will be happy to see you on those days.

Fenway Bars – My List

Cask ‘n Flagron – One of the oldest places in the neighborhood, with probably one the best location of any bar in the world. They renovated it from a stick-to-the-floor beer place to a more respectable pub a few years ago. The food is pretty good, and the menu is a bit more expansive than you would expect. There are a few good beers on tap, I can always find  a pint Jack’s Abby, which makes me happy enough. A friend of mine says they make good cocktails, which is surprising when you remember what the place used to be.

Cask & Flagon

Cask & Flagon

Loretta’s Last Call – Loretta’s opened last year with a southern food theme and a rather weird accusation of menu stealing. I wrote about Loretta’s when it first opened here. Think barbeque, pulled pork, moonshine cocktails. Try the fried chicken if you are hungry enough. They have live music regularly, and they do a nice job with the southern theme without getting too cutesy about it.

Loretta's Porch

Loretta’s Porch

Game On – Located right on the ground floor of Fenway Park itself, Game On is a big, popular place. It is a fun place, if a bit touristy and generic. If it weren’t actually part of the park itself, you could easily imagine this place being in a suburban industrial park. They have a great TV setup, and enough screens to watch a couple of different games at once. Food is good enough but quite forgettable. Some real hardcore fans show up here, but there are also a good number of Pinkhats. They have a separate ping pong bar in the basement called Blazing Paddles if that’s your thing. I can honestly say it’s the best ping pong bar I’ve ever been to.

Game On

Game On

Bleacher Bar –If you only have time for one stop, you should probably go to Bleacher Bar. Like Game On, it’s built right into the stadium. Bleacher Bar has what no other bar has in town, a window to the stadium. A big glass wall opens right onto the outfield of Fenway Park. Any time of year it’s really cool, but when the Red Sox are playing, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Bleacher Bar is a small place, so it gets crowded fast, go extra early on game day for the best spots. Menu is bar snacks and sandwiches, but it’s pretty good and portions are large. I like the pretzel sticks and gravy fries myself, but if Beef on Weck is more your style, this is the place to be.

Bleacher Bar

Bleacher Bar

Bleacher Bar window

Bleacher Bar window

Boston Beer Works – This place is part of a local chain of brewpubs in the Boston area. A bit pricier than other spots, they serve good fresh beers, styles change with the season. Beer works is a nice place and the food is pretty good. The crowd here skews a bit older and more mellow. Honestly, if you’ve been to a brewpub before, Beer Works is pretty much what you would expect. It’s a good spot, but aside from the location, rather forgettable.

Yard House – Yard House is part of a national chain. It’s a big place, and very nice, if a bit soulless. Yard House has a huge beer selection, good food served in big portions and a really nice outdoor seating area. The service there has always been good, but it does suffer from what I’ve dubbed “Too Many Taps Syndrome” where selection is so huge it’s tough for the staff to stay on top of it. They do have a well-managed rotating tap program though, dubbed the Chalkboard Series. It’s a great place for groups, and it’s a good pre-game option if you have the kids in tow.

Landsdowne Pub – Landsdowne is an Irish-themed pub, with all that entails – dark wood, Guinness on tap, so on. I’ve always liked the food here, the menu is pretty much what you would expect from a casual Irish spot. I’m a big fan of the corned beef and cabbage spring rolls, and the sliders are only a buck on Mondays. They have live music regularly and schedule a lot of special events there, particularly off-season. Landsdowne is a big place, they have a good TV setup and bring out the big screen for games – including the Euro soccer games, if that’s your thing.

Landsdowne Pub - Irish Spring Rolls

Landsdowne Pub – Irish Spring Rolls

Baseball Tavern – The name sounds touristy, but this is much more of a neighborhood bar than anything else. Yes, like other places, it gets packed on game day, but other days you are likely to see a crowd of locals, college sports fans, or BU kids hanging around. Baseball Tavern has some divey aspects to it, like a rickety staircase to the basement bathrooms, but I wouldn’t call it a dive. More of a blue collar spot in a neighborhood that’s losing them. Baseball Tavern also has a kickass roof deck. They food menu is mostly pub snacks, but they do have fried clams. They might not be the best you’ve ever had, but they ain’t bad.

Baseball Tavern

Baseball Tavern

Jerry Remy’s – Last month I wrote that Remy’s had closed, but my reliable sources (internet) have told me that they plan on being open and ready before the first pitch. I guess they changed management or something, so hopefully they will fix a couple of the problems I touched on. Basically, it was a great space and a great place to watch a game, but little else – touristy, overpriced, food a solid meh. I will make it a point to get to the roof top this year. It’s important to have goals in life.

Jerry Remy's

Jerry Remy’s

So enjoy your trip to the old bandbox, but be prepared to defend your choice of bar. And please don’t wear a pink hat.

Where to Watch Hockey in Boston

When the weather turns colder, the days get shorter, and the leaves fall off the trees, hockey comes back to me. I don’t really play anymore (the body doesn’t work like it used to), but I still do love watching the game. I find hockey, like baseball, to be a wonderful social game. I enjoy taking a seat at the bar, talking about lineups, complaining about the referees, all that fun stuff.  Alas, hockey country ain’t what it used to be here in Boston, where half the people come from someplace else, be it Texas or California or India, and are much more interested in watching European soccer (I’m an American, I say soccer, deal with it) than the Rangers/Kings matchup. Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to publish a short list of good spots to sit at the bar, and watch a game with a like-minded few who enjoy a good beverage as well as a good penalty kill.

Sullivan’s TapJust steps away from the TD Garden, Sullivan’s has a very long bar. It has a very long bar. It serves beer and has a pool table and dartboard. Any questions?

Sullivan's Tap™

from twitter

They also have a very honest advertising pitch: “Where Real Fans Meet, Your Grandfather Drank here.” Both are pretty true. Yes, Sullivan’s is divey, but not hipster divey. People come here to drink beer and watch hockey. Just like my Grandfather used toAnd like my Grandpa, they only accept cash.  What to eat: Bring a bag of chips, they don’t serve food here.

168 Canal St. Boston, MA 02114 

www.twitter.com/sullivanstap

The Fours – The Fours is right next to Sullivan’s, but only in terms of geography. It’s everything Sullivan’s isn’t, bright, cheery, with good food and a decent if not terribly creative beer selection. Sports Illustrated says it’s one of the best sports bars in America. The atmosphere can be a bit touristy and pink-hatish, but overall there is a good, somewhat upscale crowd. What to eat: Forgo a bit of your dignity and try the Buffalo Chicken Nachos. They are so good.

166 Canal St Boston, MA 02114

www.thefours.com

McGreevy’s – McGreevy’s is a sports bar that gets just about everything right, good food, good beer, great staff, and a very good TV setup for watching a game. The crowd comes early here, and can get loud at times. Although it’s in the toney Back Bay, McGreevy’s is unpretentious and reasonably priced. And yes, this is the place owned by one of the guys from the Dropkick Murphy’s. What to eat: Try the Guinness Braised Short Rib Poutine, because poutine is good hockey food.

911 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02115

www.mcgreevys.com

The Banshee – I don’t get to the Banshee often enough, but when I do I always have a good time. The Banshee is a well known place to watch European soccer, but they do all sports right there. The crowd gets into it, but the nature of the place keeps the rowdiness down to a minimum. The Banshee is something of an old-school Irish bar, where people talk to their barmates. Tweeting from the bar won’t get you kicked out, but it is bad form. Pretty good beer selection, always includes a couple of small local brews. What to eat: People swear by the Mac and Cheese, I really like the potato skins.

934 Dorchester Ave Dorchester, MA 02125

www.bansheeboston.com/

Jerry Remy’s – Fenway – yes, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, it’s a bit overpriced, and the food is just plain average, but boy did they got the TV setup right. It’s a nice big bar, with a huge screen in the middle and a whole bunch of smaller ones around, so you can keep an eye on every game playing. Beer selection is pretty average, but they do keep the seasonals from Harpoon, Wachusett, and Sam Adams. You will find something you like here, but it’s not a place to test your beer palate. Or your food palate for that matter. Menu is standard pub food served in a standard way. The staff here has always been friendly and fun, and the crowd does bring in a good share of hockey fans. What to eat: Try the Kobe beef sliders, can’t go wrong.

1265 Boylston St Boston, MA 02215

www.jerryremys.com

Avenue – Allston – A smaller place, and a bit hidden away.  Nice TV setup over the bar, and a surprising number of hockey fans find their way here. Given the transient nature of the Allston neighborhood, there are a good number of people who follow teams other than the Bruins, but it’s a pretty good natured crowd. They have a nice beer selection here, and they rotate taps, so it’s a good spot try something new. The staff, like the crowd and the place itself, are unpretentious but not unfriendly, and always willing to help you out with choosing a beer. While they do get a bit of the Allston Hipster crowd, this is not the “cool place to be” in the neighborhood, and it doesn’t particularly try to be. It is, however, a good place to drink a few beers and watch a game with like-minded fans, and isn’t that the point? What to eat: Try the Cry-Baby burger, possibly the best cheap burger in town, and don’t miss the sweet potato tots.

outside the avenue bar

from website

1249 Commonwealth Ave Allston, MA 02134

www.avenuebar.com

What other good spots are out there for watching hockey?  Let me know.  And save me a seat.

@seanbeh3

 

Where I’m Drinking – The Pour House – Back Bay

I recently had some business in the Back Bay. It was hot, I was tired and a bit frustrated, so I wanted to de- stress for a minute or so. I thought about places I knew in the neighborhood, I chose the Pour House.  

fZi9EFkK_400x400 (2)

from twitter

The Pour House has, like myself, been in Boston for a long time. I haven’t been there for quite a while, and it was comforting to see that not much has changed. In fact, I can’t think of a damn thing that’s changed.

The Pour House has a very standard beer list, which seems to fit the character of the place. I ordered a Harpoon IPA, which is pretty much my go-to beer these days. Unexpectedly, the beer came in a twenty-two ounce mug.

Pour House

“Wow, it’s a man’s drink” I said.

“That’s how we roll here.” The bartender said.

Let me be a beer nerd for a second. I prefer my beer in a pint glass. Sixteen ounces works just fine for fine for me. Judge my manhood if you must, but I just don’t drink fast enough for a twenty-two ounce beer. It often gets warm by the time I finish. This, however, is really my only complaint about the Pour House, they gave me too much beer. If that is my biggest problem of the day, it’s a good day.

The bartender was cute, engaging, and efficient. The whole staff seemed to be having a good time, which makes for a fun atmosphere. I was digging the 90’s music they were playing.

The Pour House is certainly the most dive-like place in the Back Bay, which means it isn’t very dive-y at all, but it attracts a diverse crowd of after-work people and students. There were a bunch of people down the bar caring musical instruments, I’ll go out on limb and guess they were Berklee kids. The other end of bar seemed to have a business meeting going on.

I sat towards the front area of the bar, the TV setup there was not very good for watching a game. It seemed the back part of the place was better set up. There were signs behind the bar claiming it was the place to be for Syracuse U. football games, so go Orangemen.

On a side note, I could not get a decent cell phone signal inside. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because although I do it all the time, I don’t really like being the guy sitting at the bar on his cellphone.

The Pour House is a good time. I don’t know if I would go too far out of my way to get there, but when in the neighborhood it is a good, comfortable place to stop in for a beer.  The staff is friendly and fun. There is nothing fancy or pretentious about the place, which makes it a welcome break from so many other spots in the Back Bay. Most importantly, the place has a soul and a character to it. It’s a place worth a stop.

The Pour House

907 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02115

@pourboston