BOSTON – Now here’s a restaurant concept you’ve never seen before: pizza, beer, burgers… and Ping Pong!
Attached to Fenway Park, is a brand new place called Blazing Paddles, where the combination of a great pub food menu, and a dozen championship ping pong tables, serve up a fresh spin on the standard sports bar.
“The energy, when you walk into a room where people are up, having fun, eating, drinking, dancing, it’s something that I haven’t seen before,” described Operations Director Barry Rafferty.
It takes a major league team to run this restaurant: from bartenders, cooks, and servers, to dedicated ‘runners’ who retrieve loose balls.
While it’s not a requirement that employees at Blazing Paddles play ping pong, it certainly doesn’t hurt. There just happens to be an All -Star line up, including Rafferty, General Manager Jake Nicholson, and Executive Chef Jose Lopez.
Just like any restaurant, you can come to Blazing Paddles just to have a great meal, but most customers eventually end up making the move from the dinner table to the ping pong table.
“You’re not necessarily coming to play a game of ping pong. You’re coming for a drink, or a cocktail, or something to eat, and you’ll find very quickly, you’re out of your stool, playing a game of ping pong, and wondering why you haven’t played ping pong all of your life,” said Rafferty.
“You’re socializing; you can play; I can still talk to my friends. I’m moving around, you’re not sitting down in a stool the whole time. In between points you’re always getting a drink or you can grab a bite to eat. I think just being able to move around and really get involved in the game itself gets the energy going for everyone,” Nicholson said between swings of the paddle.
While it is okay if you eat while you play, Chef Jose says as soon as you get a taste of what’s coming out of the kitchen, you’ll definitely be focused on the food.
“To be honest with you, anything that you get here – you’re gonna be more focused on the food than the game. So I would definitely try to eat before or after the game because you’re gonna be focused and you’re gonna forget about the game and really be into the food.”
To get your appetite going, Blazing Paddles serves Classic Buffalo Wings with plenty of blue cheese; house made meatballs smothered in sauce; and warm Pretzel Sticks with honey mustard and cheese sauce for dipping.
For the ultimate dippable delight, nothing beats the Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup.
“We get this sourdough loaf; we slice it in house, and we make the tomato soup in house,” explained Chef Jose. “But the thing about this is we use Gouda cheese for the grilled cheese. We try to change it up so you’ve got a nice smokiness, and then you get the nice sourdough bread with the tomato soup.”
They also slice up some pretty solid pizzas, from traditional toppings like pepperoni, to gourmet ingredients like prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and arugula.
Since the restaurant is attached to Fenway Park, the Fenway Pizza with sweet sausage is always a good choice.
“If you go outside, you could get a nice little sausage with peppers and onions, but we turned that into a pizza. So you can’t go wrong there, and it’s a very delicious pizza,” the chef said.
Blazing Paddles’ proximity to the park make it a great place to go before a Sox game, but its unique location also allows customers a once in a lifetime opportunity to take batting practice where the pros do. The restaurant shares a wall with the visiting team’s batting cage underneath Fenway. If you’re lucky, you might get to step up to the plate.
“Outside of game days, we have full access to this facility. Our customers and our corporate parties can partake in Ping Pong, and Fenway Park batting cage,” said Rafferty. “It’s very unique, and we’re very proud of it.”
Back inside the restaurant, burgers are being served just as frequently as ping pong balls, because the staff here worked hard to find the perfect patty.
“It’s organic. It’s hormone free. It’s hand pressed,” Rafferty described. “We take a lot of care and love to make sure that it’s not just a simple frozen patty that you find in so many places. There’s a lot of labor attached to that, and a lot of labor of love attached to that.”
There’s a Barbecue Burger topped with melted cheddar and crispy bacon; a Buffalo Burger smothered with blue cheese and celery; and a strangely delicious Hawaiian Burger with grilled ham, pineapple, onions, and teriyaki on a soft Potato Roll.
“You get the sweetness of the pineapple, and then you get ham and then you get the nice saltiness of the teriyaki sauce, and then just the potato bread is amazing bread. So all those actually connect together in some weird way and it just explodes flavors in your mouth,” said Chef Jose. “It’s just delicious.”
From the great food, to the incredibly fun atmosphere, Blazing Paddles offers a night out like Bostonians have never experienced before. As customers walk down the stairs to enter the space, they’re always blown away.
“I position myself at times, just in the middle of the landing before people turn to look at the room for the first time, and their eyes light up,” Rafferty said. “They’re astonished at the activity that’s going on around them.”
Nicholson said his goal, is for a memorable time. “You leave and you tell your friends, ‘that was the one-stop shop that I just had the best experience to watch a game, to have fun with my friends, and I just had a meal that I can’t wait to go back and do again.’”
Blazing Paddles is right next to Fenway Park at 82 Lansdowne Street. That’s downstairs from Game On. Their website is blazingpaddles.com.
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