Where I’m Drinking – Harry’s Bar and Grill – Brighton

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Brighton is an area that certainly doesn’t want for drinking spots. Harry’s Bar and Grill, however, is in a bit of a dead spot, about halfway between Cleveland Circle and Allston’s Union Square. Like Brighton itself, the crowd at Harry’s is a nice mix of hipsters, young professionals, working people, and shady quirky locals. Also reflecting the neighborhood, Harry’s is a bit of a hangout for the industry folks, I’ve run into many staff and kitchen folks from other local places while hanging out here. In a way, the crowd at Harry’s is Brighton in a box.

This is a neat little corner bar. Harry’s sells itself as a neighborhood bar, and although it’s owned by one of the bigger restaurant groups in Boston, they get a lot of things right here. Harry’s works pretty well as a typical “neighborhood bar”.

Harry’s is smaller than it looks, but it has a nice big bar. The dining area is raised, and hey, there’s a pool table. It has a nice T.V. setup no matter where you sit, and for a big game they bring down an old-style movie screen behind the bar. There are also enough T.V.’s spread out so they can show a couple of different games at once, which is nice if you want to catch, say, a Euro football match rather than the Red Sox. I always appreciate that in a bar setup.

The menu is somewhat elevated pub food. You can’t go wrong with the pulled pork or Cubano sandwiches, do yourself a favor and upgrade to the sweet potato fries for an extra buck.  The mac and cheese is pretty good and quite filling. The fresh ingredients they use really lift any dish. Some folks love the flatbread pizzas, I’m partial to the veggie quesadilla myself. They also have daily lunch specials, which always is a sign to me that a place lets a chef run a bit. Good things tend to happen when you let a good chef stretch his legs..

I really the food here, but what really keeps drawing me back is the rotating taps. I’m a sucker for rotating taps. There is nothing I enjoy more than walking into a place and spotting a new seasonal beer on tap, and a barman who knows what to recommend.  Many beer bars have tried putting in taps without taking the time to educate the staff about what they are serving. That just doesn’t work. Harry’s does not make this mistake, the barmen always know what they are serving, and will be happy to give a sample or two. Last time I was there, I had an Anderson Valley Winter Warmer, one of my favorite winter ales. Next time I go I will look forward to trying a new spring beer or two, I’m confident I’ll find something.

Harry’s is a place that is comfortable in its skin, a neighborhood spot with good food, good drinks, and the service here has always been great. It’s a very good place to watch a game. There is no place to park there, but maybe, the next time you are riding the B line, you should thing about hopping off for a pint.

Harry’s Bar and Grill – 1430 Commonwealth Ave

Brighton, MA 02135    (617) 738-9990

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A Grumpy Local’s Guide to Moving to Boston

You got the job, the internship, the coveted spot at your dream school, and you are moving to Boston the first of the month.  Congratulations.  Welcome.  

Your first day here will probably suck.  Boston is a funny town, in some ways, but it’s a good town. Here are a few tips to make it suck a little less, if not for you, than for me and my fellow locals. 

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  1. You can not drive your Uhaul on Storrow Drive.  You might think this is one of our funny rules, it really isn’t.  Every year, a few people ignore the signs and get their trucks stuck under a bridge on Storrow Drive.  It will be someone, if it is you the whole commuting world will hate you, and you will most certainly be mocked and humiliated, probably on local TV, most certainly on social media.
  2. There will be no parking. There is a good chance you will be sitting in your car with all of your belongings for a while waiting for a parking spot.  Try to be accepting of this.
  3. The traffic will suck.  One of the things about Boston that you will not realize until you drive here is that the streets don’t always make since.  Some streets change names. People park in the streets, people double park.  You share the lanes with bicycles (which may be moving faster than you).  Oh, and mind the city buses.  And try not to get hit by a green line trolley.
  4. People will drive like idiots.  Some will be lost, confused, or overly aggravated.  Many are foreign students who have never driven in the US before. Others are just idiots.  Please, please, please drive defensively, knowing you are in the right will not rebuild your fender. 
  5. If there is a no parking sign, DO NOT park there.  The tow truck  drivers wake up early.  They are ruthlessly efficient. We call it Allston Christmas, for these guys it really is like Christmas morning. Don’t mess with them.
  6. Don’t pick up a mattress off the street. Bedbugs.  Better to sleep on the floor for a couple of nights.  If you think that’s common sense, you are probably right, but it doesn’t stop people.

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     8. Finally, Be nice to the locals. We are not really as mean and scary as we seem, but we go through this sh*t storm every year. 

And welcome, one and all, to my city. 

The Tail End of Summer

Just the other day, one of my favorite local spots sent out a tweet that they were changing the taps.  This is, for a beernerd like me, good enough reason to stop by a bar in the middle of the week. 

Then I saw it, standing tall amongst the Belgian Whites and Double IPAs.  It was a skinny orange tap.  Slightly round at the top.

It was a pumpkin beer. 

Summer, I was reminded, was almost over.  I checked the calendar.  Yes, it seems there is only a week left. 

I live in Boston.  In Brighton, to be exact, and the signs of the end of summer are everywhere.  Uhaul trucks clog the streets, abandoned furniture fills the sidewalks. Around here we call it Allston Christmas, as much of the furniture is picked up as soon as it hits the sidewalk.  If you are into old lamps, this is the place to be.  And surely as New Years follows Christmas, Moving Day follows Allston Christmas.  Leases all turn over on the same day in this town.  Nobody is sure exactly why, aside from that the colleges are coming back, but that’s how things work around here.  Everyone moves on September 1.

I’m a local here.  There aren’t many of us in the Allston-Brighton are, but we are here.  In the summer, we have the run of the town.  There are seats at the bar, there are easy tables at the nice restaurants, there shorter waits at the deli.  Service people are more relaxed and chattier.  Even the cops are nicer.  We are like the night watchmen of the neighborhood, keeping an eye on things until the neighborhood comes alive again.  It’s a nice way to live for a while, and, like summer, it can’t last.

Soon the students will return.  They will have too much money and too few manners. Those that are newly legal will puke in the streets.  They will hassle the bouncers who don’t take their IDs.  Someone will fall off a porch.  At least one idiot will get their truck stuck under a bridge on Storrow Drive. 

Locals pretty much have two strategies for dealing with the madness.  We get out of town, or we hunker.  It’s best to treat the weekend like a coming snowstorm, buy your bread and milk, park your car, and wait it out.  This year, I am hunkering down. 

I have a plan.  I will be at a favorite pub, sitting with the regulars, enjoying a summer saison while I can, and watching the madness of moving day.  The inexperienced Uhaulers.  The semi-terrified foreign student.  The frustrated parents.  The many, many license plates from New Jersey.  All will be navigating the confusing streets of my town, fighting for a space at the curd.  Tired, angry, dealing with whatever weather New England throws at them.  And I will be sitting on my stool, laughing with the crowd, watching it go down, and lamenting the end of summer.

Welcome to Boston.  You can’t park there.

Goodbye, Joey’s


“I think you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” Randy Newman

Joey’s Bar in Brighton Center is officially closed.

A woman I worked with lived in Somerville, we were talking about places in my neighborhood and she told me her husband liked Joey’s.

“Joey’s?”  I said, “It has three barstools and a dart board.”

“That’s why he likes it.”

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That kind of summed up Joey’s.  It was a little neighborhood spot, taking up a storefront near the corner of Washington and Market Streets.  It was a dark bar, a good place to drink in the afternoon and avoid the sunlight.  There was no judgment from the crowd there, no one asked or cared why you felt the need to start drinking at noon.  I don’t think I was ever in there when there wasn’t at least one incident of someone who had been “banned” trying to come in.  Old time bartenders would politely request that they “Get the fuck out and don’t come back.”  It wasn’t a rough place, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a baseball bat behind that bar somewhere.

I can’t say that I was a regular at Joey’s even though it’s right in my neighborhood.  I did stop in from time to time.  It was a true neighborhood spot, you could go there after a hard day’s work and not worry about stinking up the place.  You could go wearing sweatpants, unshaven, wearing your ratty old sneakers.  You could show up still hungover from the night before, it was all good.  It was a good spot to pregame, sip a few cheap cold ones before you got went out for real.  The walk up the misshapen steps to the men’s room was always a good test of your general sobriety.  There was always someone ready to play darts, usually badly.

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Joey’s didn’t have food, they didn’t serve craft beers, it was what it was.  I don’t think I will miss Joey’s so much as I’ll miss what it represented.  Joey’s neighborhood watering hole that didn’t aspire to be anything else. Sometimes that is where you want to be.  Brighton used to have a lot of those.  I won’t waste time complaining about the colleges moving in or gentrification or the upscaling of the local bar scene, change happens,  but these places seem an endangered species.  Over the past month, I’ve heard rumors of three different local places that are about to be closed down and sold.  These are places that local working people go, and the college kids go to drink cheap, and the yuppies come to slum.  There are damn few of them left.

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Fare thee well, old friend