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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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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.

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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.

Jerry Remy's

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 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