Where I’m Drinking – Lower Depths Taproom – Kenmore Square

Drinking in a basement bar named the Lower Depths might bring up an image of a dive bar. This would be wrong. True, it does have some of the items on a dive bar checklist, they are cash only and have the required animal-head-with-a-hat, but anyone who calls this is a dive bar really hasn’t been to one. Lower Depths is a small place, but the space is used well. It is bright, the décor is artsy and fun, and the staff is first-rate.

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The Lower Depths is a very good beer bar. They only sport a few taps, but they are filled with craft beers, many of them local brews. The taps rotate regularly, which brings beer nerds like me back on a regular basis. Following their twitter feed brings announcements of  tap changes and new selections. I wish other places did this, as I pass through Kenmore Square regularly, and am easily enticed by a new beer. A tweet with a promise of something new is often all it takes for me to stop in for a pint and a bite. I appreciate that The Lower Depths puts in the effort to properly train their staff, bartenders and servers know the beers and their flavor profiles. The staff is helpful with choices and happy to give out samples. If, like me, you enjoy sipping and discussing beer, the Lower Depths is a fine choice.

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Taps at the Lower Depths

The kitchen, like the bar, is quite small, but they put out some damn good food. The menu isn’t extensive, but everything comes out fresh and tasty. They are a must-stop on any Tater Tot crawl, the Mexicana, with queso fresco, and pickled jalapeños is my personal favorite. The buffalo mac and cheese has a big following here, but I am always drawn to their foot long hot dogs. They are so good and pair so well with a cold pint.

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The Lower Depths has a small front deck, great for people watching on a sunny day. Be warned, however, that it is a small place and fills very quickly, especially when the Red Sox are in town. The crowd is a mixed lot, many students and tourists mix with the beer nerds and construction guys. Please keep in mind that they only take cash here, which perhaps keeps the crowd free of too many hipsters and the intense business types.

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Hey, I know that sign!

The Lower Depths is a small, casual place that squeezes a lot into a limited space. It is committed to good pub food and craft beer. A good relaxing spot in the occasional madness of Kenmore Square. If you can find a seat.

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.

Farewell, Jerry Remy’s – Fenway

Jerry Remy’s in the Fenway closed this week, and I’m not really surprised. Bars close all the time in Boston, for a million reasons, but I have to say I saw this one coming.

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Remy’s was a nice place to visit, but nobody lived there. Whenever my suburban friends come into the city, they would often say “Let’s go to Jerry Remy’s.” I would suggest someplace else.

The Fenway bar area, which is an absolute circus when the Red Sox are playing, can be a real wasteland when the weather turns. It’s actually a nice time to visit the neighborhood spots there. The crowds are gone, you can sit where you like, and the workers are happy to see you. If you like a quiet, relaxed spot to have a beer and a burger, it’s a nice area.

Jerry Remy’s was built and operated as a destination spot. It was a place to go for a game, an out-of-towners place, a place you could plan an event, and it was a pretty good one. Alas, that was not enough to put the asses in the barstools. It was too expensive to visit regularly, the food wasn’t good enough to draw you in. Even when I did visit with my suburban, old white guy crew, we would frequently have a few drinks and move on to a different spot. The Landsdowne, The Baseball Tavern, Cask & Flagon are more our speed. We fit in better there. Remy’s could get us in the door, but it couldn’t keep us. A good TV setup and the coolness of Jerry’s celebrity just wasn’t enough.

I’m sure some other place will open there soon. My guess is that it will be more upscale, and not afraid to appear so. It would fit in more with the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Remy’s wanted to be a sports bar and charge tourist prices. That might work in Faneuil Hall, but not in the Fenway, not year-round at least.

Eater.com – Jerry Remy’s Fenway Location Unexpectedly Shutters

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

 

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.

Where I’m Drinking – Loretta’s Last Call

 Many years ago, never mind how long exactly, I was visiting my brother in Memphis.  A very nice city full of very friendly people, only a few of whom took Elvis way too seriously.  I did the tourist thing during the day, he recommended meeting at a local bar near his work.  As is my habit, I sat at the bar and chatted up the bartender.  She got a kick out of my accent.  A very friendly middle aged couple at the bar asked where I was from .  “Boston.” I said, with a smile, politely as I could.  “Oh.”  the woman said.  They both backed away.  My adventures in southern drinking.

I don’t try to be a Masshole, but what can I do?

I recalled this story when I pulled up to the bar at Loretta’s Last Call, a newish place just outside Fenway Park.  Loretta’s is a “theme” bar, a southern-country thing.  Moonshine, mason jars, southern-style menu, and of course, a giant American .  Cause, you know, America. 

Lorettas%20Last%20Call%20-%20Chris%20Coe%20-%2003r

From eater.com

I am not a southerner, nor am I from the country.  I don’t drive a truck or own a dog.  Nonetheless, I will guess that any southerners who ventured into the place wouldn’t find it too authentic anyway.  The place reminds me of one of those “authentic” Irish bars where they can’t pour a decent Guinness. Like all of the places on Landsdowne St., this is a corporate venture,  I suspect everything in the place was ordered out of a catalog somewhere.  None of this means it’s a bad place, just that it is what it is. 

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From the Loretta’s website

                              lorettas

Overall, my general sense of the place is “A good time.”  Give those corporate honchos a bit of credit for at least coming up with something at least a little different.  It has a small stage and live music, including an open mike night, which I always have to support.  I tried the lobster grit cakes, my friend had the fried pickles, both of which were very good.  My friend enjoyed the cocktails, and she was quite excited that they had PBR tallboys.  The tap selection is not too extensive, but they have Harpoon IPA on tap, which is all I really need anyway. The band was just getting started as I was leaving, but the room sounded pretty good, and people were certainly enjoying themselves. 

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I love a place with a jukebox. From eater.com

The service was friendly and efficient.  We sat at the bar, bartenders were busy but happy to answer questions about the drinks and the menu.  And maybe I’m a cad, or a prude, but I have to say the bartenders were quite good looking, and a bit underdress.  I hope they won’t make those poor young girls to dress like that through the Boston winter, thy are likely to catch a terrible chill. 

Loretta’s is a nice place and a good time, it won’t be a regular stop for me, but it’s a good option when you need a change of pace.

Loretta’s Last Call

1 Lansdowne Street • Boston, MA