Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Diver Down

This post is way over due, but my philosophy of life has always been ‘better late than never’. Or is it ‘Bartender, another round’?

Either way, both fit in perfectly with today’s theme.

If anyone is coming to visit Boston this summer and want to enjoy the life of regular folks, here are some of my favorite bars in the city. Keep in mind that my zone tends to be the Quincy Market - Financial District – Theatre District areas of the city. Don’t get to the posh South End very often and when I do I’m not terribly impressed.

Since I fit in more with the lower end of the socioeconomic class system (I’m poor), I tend to gravitate towards the divier bars. I am who I am.

For the record, there are four things I look for in a bar.

1: Friendly, efficient bartenders (which are more difficult to find in this city than Whitey Bulger). If I have to choose one or the other, I’ll go with efficient. Nothing worse than waiting for another beer while the bartender chats away or pretends not to notice you waving your arms.

2: Televisions. Televisions that are tuned to sports. I hate coming into a bar and having to ask the bartender to put the Sox or Celtics game on. Automatically have it on. There should be no debate. If the local teams aren't playing, find another game somewhere. There's always something. Even if it's ESPN Classic.

3: Atmosphere. This is a bit complicated and I’m not quite sure how to phrase it, but I like an environment that stresses fun and social interaction but does not require it or shove it down your throat. If I want to sit quietly at a bar and watch a game people will respect that. If I want to mingle and chat and flirt, I can do that, too. The key is finding a place with that perfect balance so you could do either without much bother.

4: Beer selection. The more the merrier!

Let’s get to it. These are in no order.

Kitty O’Sheas: On the edge of Faneuil Hall is a place called Clarke’s where everyone and their brother goes to hang out. When it’s not too crowded, Clarke’s is a fine place to drink and socialize. Sadly, that isn’t often. Instead I head to Kitty O’Shea’s around the corner on State Street and belly up to an authentic Irish bar. This comes complete with an authentic Irish lass behind the bar most nights who will enchant me with her brogue while refilling my beer at a steady rate.

O’Shea’s is small, quaint and utterly charming. Stop in just to get the history of the bar itself, which used to be a pulpit from an old Irish Church. Even the pine floors are originally from Ireland. Haven’t been here in a while, but just writing about it makes me miss it. Might be time to stop by.

The Times: Down at the end of Broad Street, this has also been renovated to include an outside eating area. While that’s all well and good, it’s the interior I love. Especially on those cold winter days where you can grab an empty table, select from a healthy variety of beer and order some of the best goddamn nachos in the city. There is a center bar that you can access from either side of the dividing wall. Not sure why, but I find the setup immensely attractive.

The Times also earns a special place in my heart for once being so full of my friends and coworkers we took up the entire place. Purely accidental and unplanned, which is somehow the way most great nights start off. Just beware of using the men’s room. Not just nasty, but nearly physically impossible depending on which urinal you need to use.

JJ Foley’s: This is right around the corner from my office so I visit here often. Located on Kingston Street, JJs is the black sheep of the neighborhood. It’s also the oldest brother that doesn’t care what you think of it and will kick your ass if it felt like you needed it. Usually has a great selection of beer which can change on a weekly basis (check the blackboard behind the bar for new additions) and an old time, brusque and highly efficient barkeep who doesn’t have time for small talk or any semblance of tolerance for bullshit. And by bullshit I mean any of these fancy money brokers or finance guys who dress to the nines and style their hair. He’ll sell to them but the grimace when he does so makes me smile.

Foley’s gets bonus points for four things:

1: Their buffalo chicken tenders. Scorching hot goodness. They still refuse to carry ranch dressing for some reason and have on more than one occasion tried to pass off their Italian as ranch, but I can let this pass because it was so mind bogglingly funny.

2: They recently upgraded their TVs to wide screen HD and have placed them in the perfect spots throughout the bar. No matter where you are standing or sitting you have a good view of whatever game is ongoing.

3: Quite simply they own the best jukebox in the city. The sound system is great. Never too loud that you can’t carry on a conversation, but just loud enough you can hear the music over the noise.

4: Our Golden Tee tournaments take place here and they have always automatically upgraded to the latest version without hesitation. I thank them for it even as it makes my scores climb dramatically.

Grand Canal: On Canal Street by the New Boston Garden/Shawmut Center/FleetCenter/Whatever the fuck they’re calling it now Center. Great open floor design with an upper loft for those groups looking to carve a space for themselves. They have also added an outdoor deck which adds to the allure during the nice weather. Not as high on this list as it would be if they have a better beer selection. Last time I went they had run out of Stella AND Sam Adams Light. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy.

Still, I recommend a few hours here. Especially on a cool, summer night when they open up the front windows. Every now and then they’ll have lame live music so make sure things are quiet before you plan on stopping by.

Elephant & Castle: This one makes it purely for the beer selection (which is varied and yummy) and the bar staff (who are friendly, knowledgeable and are more than willing to suggest new beers). This is more of a restaurant than the others and the you’ll have to deal with a few banker douchebags, but still a mostly pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Those are my top five. Some honorable mentions:

CrossRoads: Over by the Fenway area. Friendly atmosphere and decent menu.

Ned Devine’s: Depending on the crowd, this can be hugely entertaining or down right obnoxious.

Beacon Hill Pub: Haven’t been here in years, but it was a favorite of mine from my single days. I’ll just leave it at that. Bonus points for being directly across the street from Mass General Emergency Room. If you ever visit you'll see why this merits mention.

BeachBum Bar Hall of Fame

Finn McCool’s: A shitty pub tucked into a back alley that sold dollar fifty drafts and was the site of more failed fights (including one that ended with a buddy of mine being sent to the hospital with a broken nose) and come ons than any place in Boston. Loved that bar. It’s changed owners and names several times since my prime, but I have yet to spend more quality nights at any other place. This would include one night where I hit on six girls at once as part of a bet, got all their phone numbers, then split the winnings with them. Then did shots with them. Then things got foggy and I woke up in a Bickford’s parking lot.

I miss my single life at times.

Today’s distraction: Be the bartender. Hard to get the drinks to pour sometimes, but still fun.


thepowerof10 said...

I need to come to Boston and have several beers with you. Several.

Hammen said...

I can't remember all the names of places I've been to. The Fours was pretty awesome, obviously Cask N Flagon....I'm really drawing a blank. If Internet French was still alive he'd back me up with some others we went to.

BeachBum said...

Cask N Flagon is nice, but on the pricy side. I don't like paying more than $4 a beer unless absolutely necessary.

Plus you can't get near it during game day which is the only reason to go to a bar in the first place.

Clayton Bigsby said...

I'm with you, I can't stand paying more than $4 for a beer. I'll pay it at baseball games and concerts, but not at my local watering hole.