Mention “Cheers” to a Boston bar lover and they will laugh you out the door without so much as a parting shot of whiskey or a cold one to make the exit more palatable. Boston is the city of a thousand bars (at least) and not only does every neighborhood have its favorite, but so does every bar-hopping group, from Red Sox fans and other Boston sports fanatics, to indie music seekers and, of course, anyone who is or at least for a night wants to be Irish. Boston has a bar for everyone, but here are just five of Boston’s Most Iconic Bars.
117 E. Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02118
No list of Boston’s most iconic bars would be complete without at least one Irish bar, and in a city with hundreds of Irish and Irish-themed establishments, J.J. Foley’s on East Berkeley Street is arguably the most authentic. The place reeks of Guinness – and in a good way, the way that only a true lover of Irish bars and Irish beers can appreciate. Family owned and operated for over a century – since 1909 – J.J. Foley’s Boston and Irish Boston credentials are as solid as any in the city. The food is mostly bar food – but bar food taken up several notches. There are the traditional burgers and sandwiches, but J.J. Foley’s also serves pasta, pizza and seafood, thus making it not just a bar or a pub, but a restaurant – or “café” as they proudly note. Despite the gourmet upgrade, J.J. Foley’s is still at heart a pub – and a Boston Irish pub at that.
The Lower Depths
476 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
There are “tap rooms” in name only and then there are true, authentic “tap rooms,” and The Lower Depths on “Comm Ave” as the locals abbreviate this key concrete artery, is that. With over 150 beers available and Fenway Franks to go along with them, The Lower Depths is a true Boston beer lovers bar. A short walk from Fenway Park and Kenmore Square, it is also a favorite of Red Sox fans – and with good reason. Any Yankees fan would be best advised to leave their NY caps, jackets or sweaters in their car or back in their hotel room, for The Lower Depths is not only a Sox bar – but a cathedral to the Olde Towne Team.
1172 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
In Boston, few things go together more naturally than sports and the Irish. There are sports bars and there are Irish bars in Boston, but there are very few that are both – and The Rising is one of those few, and proud of it. Although its present incarnation is brand spanking state of the art new (having opened up in Inman Square only a year ago January), The Rising is situated at the site of a long-standing neighborhood watering hole. That tradition is honored in the 150-foot-long reclaimed oak top bar, and in its Irish-inspired gastropub menu. There is a 100-inch television in the dining room, and it is all-sports, all-the-time. There is live music most Fridays and Saturdays, and on Sundays the bar becomes a comedy club. This may be one of the newest bars in the city, but it has an old and iconic soul.
52 Church St.
Cambridge, MA 02318
The Sinclair is more than just a bar – it is an “American” gastropub, a major venue for indie rock, and a legendary hangout for students – at least those old enough to drink. (Some events allow those beneath the drinking age entry with an adult, but to order an alcoholic beverage patrons must have a valid ID, as per Massachusetts law, showing them to be 21 or older). Although only a block from Harvard Square, this bar has none of the pretensions or stuffy atmosphere many associate with the fortress of learning in which its shadow this bar lies. This is more of a native Boston rocker’s than a transient Cambridge student’s bar. The Sinclair is famous not just for its music, but also for its craft cocktails. The bartenders here don’t go by the book – they make it up as they go along. The Sinclair also offers patrons a choice of enjoying the atmosphere in and quite literally above the bar, which has a rooftop terrace that is open in warm weather.
152 Dorchester Ave.
Boston, MA 02127
There are just too few places in the city where a working man can come off a late shift, order a beer and get a good, reasonably priced and filling meal at the bar. Moonshine 152 in Dorchester is that bar. This is no cutesy pseudo-Irish Leprechaun bar or put-on-airs kind of gastropub. Moonshine 152 is a no-nonsense, neighborhood bar – and that neighborhood like their clientele is not stuffy Copley Square or cool Cambridge but hard core Southie. The late night menu of oysters on the shell, spicy meatballs, chicken wings, steak “bomb” spring rolls and Korean BBQ tacos is hearty and affordable, and while the menu has an Asian flavor, it is the kind of Asian that a Southie can belly up to the bar, enjoy with draft or three, and still feel right at home.