You Can Go Home Again – To See The Red Sox
By Chris Esslinger
” I want to tell you a story… “I want to tell you about my town… “Down by the river… ÒDown by the banks of the River Charles… “Well, I love that dirty water… “Boston, you’re my home.”
Six years before I was born, The Standells had written and performed that song, “Dirty Water.” But I might as well have penned it.
Having lived a good part of my life in New Hampshire, I’ve spent a lot of time in Boston and the city feels like home to me.
So it was with great anticipation that a friend and I left L.A. for Beantown to see my Red Sox play the hated New York Yankees and revisit the incredible array of Irish pubs, sports bars and eateries that Boston has to offer.
My first piece of advice for anyone raveling to Boston is to use public transportation.
The MBTA (or the “T” as locals call it) is one of the most efficient subway systems in America; you can get from anywhere to anywhere in the Boston area on it.
Day One: Friday
I wanted to start off with a sure thing. The Black Rose (160 State St.) has long been one of my all-time favorite pubs. An authentic Irish bar and eatery, the Black Rose has something for everyone.
It still serves a nice lunch and thereÕs nothing like a couple of mugs of Harp or Guinness to start off your day. Great atmosphere, great service (our waitress was a native of Ireland) and great beer have been trademarks of the Black Rose as long as I can remember.
Friday night was game night at the greatest ballpark in America Ð Fenway Park. The Yankees were in town for the first game of a four-game, early-season series. There is no better place to see a ballgame than Fenway.
The park is so small and intimate, you feel like you’re part of the game.
And I’ve always been in awe of the history of the park. Ruth, Williams, Pesky, Doerr, Fisk, Rice, Yaz, Foxx, Boggs, Clemens, and Tiant are just a few of the players who have played on that field for the Old Town team.
But an evening at the ballpark in Boston is never confined to the ballpark. Fenway Park, nestled between buildings near Kenmore Square, is surrounded by pubs on Yawkey Way, Landsdowne Street and Brookline Avenue.
I recommend arriving two hours before gametime to enjoy pre-game festivities, which is exactly what we did.
We began at Who’s On First (19 Yawkey Way), a sports bar located on the first base side of Fenway Park. Serving a variety of non-exotic brews and liquor, Who’s On First is a great place to have a few beers and get psyched up for the game; it gradually fills up the closer it gets to the start of the game. I
f you’re hungry, go back out onto Yawkey Way and sample some of the local cuisine off the vendor carts Ð hot dogs, Italian sausages, fried dough. It’s all bad for you, but nowhere have I ever had a better Italian sausage.
As with most baseball parks, beer and food are very expensive inside Fenway Park. But I do recommend having a Fenway Frank or two along with your $5 beer. The game itself was as good as billed Ð the Sox won in 10 innings, 3-2, on a Manny Ramirez RBI single Ð so we were in a great mood as we headed to our post-game activities around the third-base side of the park.
It’s not healthy, but the vendors outside Fenway serve the best Italian sausages.
Traditional places to finish a day at the ballpark off include The Atlas (3 Landsdowne St.), the Cask ‘n Flagon (62 Brookline Ave.) and Boston Beer Works (corner of Brookline and Yawkey Way). The Atlas is a pub similar to Who’s On First, and the Boston Beer Works is a nice bar that serves microbrews.
But I’ve been going to the Cask ‘n Flagon for many years now, and tonight wasn’t any different. This is THE place to be after a Red Sox game.
After negotiating the line to get in, we were surrounded by happy Sox fans, a few unhappy Yankees fans and a lot of people who wouldn’t have cared which team won the game, so long as they were able to get in to the Cask.
Here, it’s not so much the beer selection as the atmosphere and people that make it such a great place. If you like a big party, the Cask is your place!
The once championship-starved Red Sox have a very loyal following in Boston.
Day Two: Saturday
Our first priority on Saturday was to have lunch in Quincy Market. For those who haven’t been to Boston, Quincy Market is an experience unlike any other. Located in the heart of Government Center, Quincy Market is lined with shops and restaurants on its North and South sides with a food court-style area in a center building.
The best thing about Quincy Market is the food selection. You can literally mix-and-match lunch items from vendor to vendor. There’s everything from fresh fish to Mexican to barbecue to Greek, and all points in between. After you’ve got your lunch picked out, head for the middle of the market and eat at the stand-up tables. It’s a great way to meet people!
The activity on Boston’s streets – here ouside Fenway – is fantastic.
A Quincy Market lunch wouldn’t be complete without cookies from The Chipyard. Oddly, this is a company started by two brothers in Newport Beach, California. The original Chipyard in Newport is long since gone, but the franchise is still putting out great cookies in Quincy Market. All their varieties are good but for my money, there’s nothing better than the original chocolate chip. Get at least a dozen.
Then it was off to the nearby Dockside Saloon (Central Street) to watch some Red Sox baseball on television and enjoy a few “adult beverages.” The Dockside is the closest thing to a sports bar you can find in Government Center. The Dockside has plenty of TVs, lots of Sam Adams on tap, a good crowd and good service.
After a brief respite, we went back out for a night on the town. There’s nothing better than a pub crawl in Boston, especially in the Government Center area. A wide variety of bars, all within close walking distance, always make for a great night.
Among the notable places we went was Marshall House (15 Union St.). According to the bartender, Marshall House is not a historical sight, although its name would certainly lead one to believe otherwise. Marshall House has a nice selection of beer, a great atmosphere and, in an unusual twist for a pub, it serves lobster. Marshall House is a prototypical East Coast bar, which means it has lots of wood trim, wood beams, a wood floor, etc.
A busy Yawkey Way borders one side of Fenway Park.
After a few drinks, it was time to continue our crawl. Naturally, we started to get hungry after thinking about the lobster back at Marshall House, so we hit Kingfish Hall (Faneuil Hall Marketplace South), a combination pub and restaurant specializing in seafood. Kingfish Hall is much more modern-looking than most places in Boston. It almost has a California feel to it. Nevertheless, the fish was excellent and the calamari appetizer delicious. It has a decent selection of beer and prices were a bit high, but we enjoyed our the visit.
Another pub we hit in Quincy Market was the Black Horse Tavern (340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace), a downstairs pub like Who’s On First. Above the Black Horse is a restaurant (which I hear is good), Durgin Park. Compared to the other bars we visited Saturday night, the Black Horse had a slightly older crowd, but we both enjoyed the atmosphere. Featuring friendly bartenders and an excellent drink selection, the Black Horse is another recommended stop.
But the biggest surprise may have been Mr. Dooley’s Pub and Restaurant (77 Broad St.). Between the Black Rose and Mr. Dooley’s, you won’t be wanting for an authentic Irish pub. Mr. Dooley’s might as well be in Dublin; the detailed decor, lighting and accouterments were authentic, the beer selection and service was good and the food was first-rate (we came back to Mr. Dooley’s for breakfast Sunday morning!).
Day Three: Sunday
Sunday was essentially a half-day for us, so we decided to make the most of it. Our first destination was Boston Common, the Old Town’s version of Central Park. There’s plenty to do here and lots of history to absorb.
The first thing I recommend seeing is the Old Granary Burying Ground (on Tremont St. Adjacent to Boston Common). Old Granary dates back to 1660 and is a stop along Boston’s Freedom Trail, the route Paul Revere took when he rousted the Boston militia with his famous “The Redcoats Are Coming” warning. Some very notable figures are buried here: Revere himself, the parents of Ben Franklin, victims of the Boston Massacre (which took place near Faneuil Hall), Robert Treat Paine, John Hancock and Samuel Adams (the guy, not the beer). If you’re a history buff, youÕll love Old Granary. Heck, you’ll probably want to walk the Freedom Trail and retrace Revere’s ride.
If you’re looking for a genuine tourist location (and a photo op), the Bull & Finch pub (84 Beacon St. on Boston Common) is the place. This bar was the inspiration for the popular TV show “Cheers.”
As a result, it is relatively expensive and always crowded. The owners have even gone so far as to plaster “Cheers” on everything inside the bar, put a replica statue of Tecumseh inside the door (a la Sam Malone’s bar) and have all their employees wearing “Cheers” shirts.
Not a bad place to go for a drink, but it doesn’t compare to most of the bars we’ve already mentioned.
We then decided to have lunch in Boston’s famous North End, home to a lot of nice Italian restaurants and some amazing seafood bistros. I recommend eating in the North End at least once during your stay. I haven’t had a bad meal there yet, but be prepared to pay a little extra. Don’t worry; it’s worth it.
As we went back through the Callahan Tunnel to the airport to catch our flight back to L.A. we wished we could have stayed a few more days. The three-day trip was far too short. To do Boston right, plan on staying at least a week.
Boston truly is a great party city and yes, it still feels like home to me.