Boston's Best Bars: From Top Taps to Secret Speakeasies
By Jessica Polizzotti
Boston Local Expert
Boston's bar scene is diverse as the city's population. With a variety of sports bars, restaurant bars, trendy bars and historic bars there's a bar in Boston that's right for you.
Pop in for a drink at one of Boston's historic bars like like Warren Tavern or Doyle's where you'll find locals lining the bar and filling the tables enjoying good beer as well as good classic bar food. Hang around as the night wears on and the crowds increase in number and decrease in age turning casual spots into neighborhood watering holes that show their Boston roots.
For those who prefer their bar to be a bit more trendy, Boston has its share of speakeasy destinations that draw a crow. Wink & Nod, Drink and Backbar, are the slightly hidden hot spots channeling the showmanship of the 1980's movie, Cocktail, with a modern twist.
Baseball fans should not miss out of a peek onto the field at Bleacher Bar. Sitting under Fenway Park's bleachers this is the only bar in Boston that offers an on-field view.
But there's just one Boston bar that lets you sit under the stars and take in the waterfront while lounging on comfy lawn furniture and that's Legal Harborside's floor 3. Long lines often wrap around the building and the atmosphere here makes it worth the wait.
Publick House Beer Bar & Kitchen
Brookline's Publick House is a true beer bar where everyone feels at home, from the 21 year old out for his first legal drink to the 90 year old beer enthusiast who is paying for it. Publick House is home to an outstanding selection of international brews, local microbrews (from the New England area), pilsners from Germany and authentic Belgian ales. Food is equally impressive here, and is reminiscent of what you'd find in Europe's trendy gastro-pubs. The scene consists of savvy locals who want a quality brew in a cool setting, like those who are devotees of home brews, and you'll certainly get what you pay for because a beer at the Publick House is not exactly cheap. (617-277-2880)
Don't be tempted by the patio seating because that is the one place you can't enjoy Grendel's cheap eats during happy hour. Instead, make your way inside and head down the stairs to one of Harvard Square's well frequented bars. Students flock to Grendel's to stretch their budget on 1/2 off menu items from 5:00 pm-7:30 pm every evening, as well as 9:00-11:30pm Sunday- Thursday. A $3 minimum drink purchase is required to cash in on these happy hour specials. And Grendel's is thrifty because your order must be in their system before the end of happy hour or you'll be paying full price so arrive early, beat the crowds and enjoy! (617-491-1160)
Walking down the street past Bukowski's Tavern, you'd probably pass up entering, but this come-as-you-are, dive is well worth a walk inside. The interior is anything but upscale, and staff more on the alternative side, but anyone who walks through these doors is welcome. The beer list is staggering with well over 100 on tap options of local and imported brews. And the the beer wheel is a fun thing to spin as long as you're willing to drink any beer on there. The clientele is friendly, you could enter alone and easily find yourself deep in conversation with whomever plops down on the stool beside you. (617-497-7077)
Take a walk from the alleyway, through the door featuring the handmade 81/2 x 11 sign that simply says backbar, down the elementary school-esque hallway and through the unmarked door into the dimly lit room buzzing with cool to enter Backbar. There you'll be met by a smiling face wearing a prohibition era outfit (gray pants and matching vest, light colored shirt and red tie). Who will guide you inside. Seating comes complete with wooden stools that look like the empty shipping crates. The clientele is more hipster than flapper and the music more 1980's than 1920's but the ice comes in chunks in the creative cocktails they serve. (617.718.0249)
Warren Tavern is an historic Charlestown bar that still hosts a cool crowd. George (Washington) and Paul (Revere) may be gone, but you are what makes Warren tavern special now. Dark wood and small rooms, invite you to feel like you have taken a step back in time and entered a watering hole from the past. But the service, election and surroundings tell you something different, because everything about being here is a modern experience. Live music pops up at Warren tavern, and Wednesdays are a hot night for locals who flock to this watering hole to enjoy the casual bar scene and above average burgers. Warren Tavern is a perfect place for an American meal or simply a pint to end your night. (617-241-8142)
Wink & Nod
Wink & Nod brings new life to the cocktail speakeasy style that was popular during Prohibition Era. Although alcohol is legal; hanging out at Wink & Nod makes you feel like you're getting away with something. Move seamlessly between the restaurant and lounge where you'll find artfully mixed drinks. Their premium spirits are only given the best of treatments utilizing fresh ingredients in place of pre-made, packaged mixes. Add to that a cool concept in dining with a rotating pop-up food program and you'll find that this lounge never gets old. Decorated with deep reds and gold, the wood and marble finishes take on warmth making Wink & Nod a warm and magical spot for lounging until 2am when they close. ((617) 482-0117)
The Bleacher Bar
The coolest bar in Boston for sports fans is the Bleacher Bar. Situated beneath the centerfield bleachers of Fenway Park, The Bleacher Bar is one of the most unique and best places in Boston to watch a game because you can actually see it through the windows that overlook the field. The best thing next to having a ticket yourself, the Bleacher Bar's small interior creates close quarters when the Red Sox are in town. But the bar is open year-round so sports fans can come to watch any game or just enjoy the view. The Bleacher Bar has a small menu of burger, snacks, hot and cold sandwiches, soups, salads, and sweets so you can spend the entire 9 innings watching the Red Sox if you wish. (617-262-2424)
When you're tired of the same old cocktails, know what you like, but are not sure what it is called, make your way to Drink. The expert mixologists at Drink are here to help. Not your usual bartenders, Drink only hires those who know more than 100 cocktails by heart. No written menu is listed and brand names are nixed in favor of finding you something that is really good that you may have overlooked if actually offered. Simply describe your desires and rather than pouring typical libations from a plethora of ready made mixes, the bartenders here use their imaginations and your personal preferences, along with fresh fruits, potted herbs and hard-to-come-by ingredients, to concoct custom drinks. In addition to their noteworthy cocktails, Drink also has a solid selection of appetizers. (617-695-1806)
Legal Harborside Floor 3 is a rooftop lounge with a retractable roof that makes it a perfect place to spend a warm summer night sipping cocktails, or a cold winter one watching ships pass by below. With a very limited menu, it is best to find your meal elsewhere (the first floor perhaps) but ideal for a little nibble. This hotspot gets packed almost every night, and is a good spot to meet locals. No worries, when the roof goes up the fun does not end; views of the water remain amazing, and the crowds barely dwindle as most of the fun is from the crowd within. (617-477-2900)
Nothing fancy, not a frill to be found, Doyle's is just a perfectly plain Irish Pub and a fantastic find. Located in Jamacia Plain, Doyle's is home to a bit of Boston's political history (many Boston politicians have been seen dining behind these doors). It is the good, cheap eats that draw a returning crowd of Boston locals to indulge in their burgers, sandwiches and fried fish. Doyle's also serves a Sunday brunch that gets jam packed and has a simple children's menu that includes a 12oz soft drink. With entree prices below twenty dollars, Doyle's does not force you to drain your wallet for a meal at this pub. (617-524-2345)
About Jessica Polizzotti
Born and raised in Boston, Jessica knows her city like the back of her hand. Always looking to uncover something new, Jessica keeps up on the latest and greatest Boston offerings. Although Jessica has been a world traveler since her teens, her favorite trip may always be her Italian honeymoon. Living in a city that allows her to experience a change in seasons equals an opportunity to enjoy a shift in activities. As the old New England cliché says, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.”
Read more about Jessica Polizzotti here.