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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.

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Where I’m Drinking – The Tap Trailhouse – Government Center

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An unusual work thingy brought me to Government Center last week, and I decided to take the opportunity to try a new spot. I had heard some good things about both the food and the beer selection at Tap Trailhouse, so I stopped in to sample both.

Given the location right near Fanueil Hall, and its semi-hokey Paul Revere logo, I was a bit afraid that the Tap Trailhouse would be too touristy. When I first walked in, I was greeted by a very friendly gentleman in a suit and tie, so I became afraid that the place might be too upscale. My suspicion of upscalery seemed to be confirmed by the fact that the TV behind the bar was tuned to the Fox business channel, my worries about it being touristy were reinforced by the fake old-timey printing on the menu. Both of these fears were soon put to rest.

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The Tap Trailhouse is not a brand new place, but a remodeled, upscaled version of a semi-crappy beer bar named the Tap. I can’t remember a damn thing about the old Tap.  If I ever went in there, it didn’t make much of an impression. The “new” space is quite impressive, however. The bar is not too big and just a wee bit fancy. The theme of the place seems to be local craft beers and modern spins on traditional New England food. The beer list is pretty impressive, they have about twenty-five taps and feature smaller Massachusetts and New England brews. They promised me that they would be rotating the taps regularly, both for seasonal brews and to keep the variety. They don’t serve Bud, Miller, or any other national brand either on tap or in bottles, the closest they have to a “big beer” is Sam Adams. For a place in the heart of tourist country, that’s kind of brave. I chose a Slumbrew Happy Sol Hefeweizen, which was refreshing, light and a bit citrusy.  The bartender was nice enough to offer me samples of a couple of others. I do wish the beer menu would include the location of the brewery and alcohol content, but I’m nitpicking.

I was starving when I walked in, so it took me about two seconds to order the Country Rabbit Sausage, served with pickled cranberries and served on a johnnycake. It was delicious, and much more filling than it looked. Whille that was all I ate there, the appetizers look much more interesting than the rest of the menu – Harpoon venison chili, oyster tacos, blue crab nachos. I don’t see those kinds of things every day.

As to my fears of the place being pretentious and touristy, neither one proved true. The well dressed gentleman who greeted me was the manager covering the hostess station, he stopped by and asked me how my meal was and we talked beer for a few minutes. The Fox business channel soon gave way to football highlights. My neighbors at the bar were, like me, locals who were in the area on some type of business, we talked football and a bit of politics. It wasn’t busy at that time, service was quick, friendly and polite.

As much as I like a routine, and my regular haunts, every now and then it does me a bit of good to get out there and try something new. I don’t know when I’ll end up in Government Center again, but when I do, at least now I know a good place to stop.

pictures from Facebook

The Tap Trailhouse

19 Union Street, Boston, MA. 02108

 (617) 367-0033

 

Where I’m Drinking – The Corner Tavern – Back Bay

The other day I told a friend to meet me at the Corner Tavern. I sat at the bar for fifteen minutes and got a text saying “Where IS this place?” He was across the street.

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The Corner Tavern is a tiny spot tucked into the basement of a brownstone in the Back Bay. It’s terribly easy to miss this place, even if you are looking for it, and it would be terribly easy to dismiss it a dingy basement bar. Looks, however, can always deceive.

The Corner Tavern is a humble, unexpected bright spot in the Back Bay. Despite its location, in the shadow of Boston University, this is a bar for grownups. Maybe it’s because the place is too small to fit a huge crowd of “bro’s”, or maybe it’s because they don’t serve the cheap beer and nacho’s that are the siren call of the college crowd, but the Corner Tavern is a lot more adult than many of its neighbors. That is a good thing.

The crowd here skews older, more laid back, and friendlier. The small confines, combined with the flowing spirits, make it the kind of place where people have conversations with their barmates.   You’ll find yourself chatting with an old friend, an eccentric local, or, as on my most recent visit, an Australian tourist who was trying to understand the baseball game.  I’ve always had great service here, the bartenders are running a small bar and, as a group, are engaging and funny. They also produce what look like really good cocktails. As a beer man, I have no idea how good they actually are, but they sure do look pretty.

Jen K. on yelp

Jen K. on yelp

The food at the Corner Tavern is an example of what can happen when you get a good chef and let him run. Like the spot itself, the menu is small, but they seem to get everything right. I have been there a few times when the kitchen folk have come out to ask about my meal and talk about the menu. The place takes pride in its food and it shows. The menu is slightly upscale bar/comfort food made with fresh ingredients and something of a modern spin. Try the Tavern Tots, topped with a bit of fresh parmesan cheese and a nice spicy aioli, or one of the flatbread pizzas. If you are hungry enough, and not feeling too healthy, go for the meatloaf burger, served with bacon on top.  Check the specials, I had a rabbit stew there once that was outstanding.

The beer selection is nothing special, I think they have a total of six taps. They do have both Harpoon IPA and Dogfish Namaste on tap though, both of which work for me.

The Corner Tavern is a relaxed neighborhood place, with great food and an excellent staff. It’s a great spot to hide out after work. Or, perhaps, during work. If you can find it.

 

The Corner Tavern

421 Marlborough Street

Boston, MA

617-262-5555