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Boston BrewPub/Restaurant Request?

I am in the Boston area next week for work and would like to know if there are any strong recommendations for any pubs/restaurants/brewpubs/etc where I can get a good local beer on tap and some good quality food. Willing to go to a "dive" or more of an "upscale", not tied to any type of place.

Two requests:
1. very good selection/variety of brews on tap
2. decent seafood (bonus would be cooking done with the beer)

I am staying in Newton but am more than open to travel into Boston or one of the other burbs. Two places that seemed intriguing based on the show Beer Nutz are Beer Works outside of Fenway and the Publick House. I know that it is a great beer city and area and I dont want to miss out on an opportunity for a great meal.

Thanks a lot.

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  1. The Publick House is my favorite, a wide variety of domestic and imported/Belgian beers. The atmosphere is very good, they cook with beer (try the seafood Waterzooi), but they don't brew beer themselves. It's in Brookline which is right next to Newton.

    Another favorite is Bukowski's, located in Cambridge and Back Bay, they have a very good selection of domestics and imports and decent inexpensive food. The Back Bay location is my favorite and sort of faux-dive, convenient to the T, no seafood, but the Summer Shack next door has it all.

    Cambridge Brewing Company isn't as close to Newton or to a T but I really like their beers, the food is typical pub food. There are two Beerworks, one at Fenway (mobbed if there's Red Sox game on) and one at North Station, their beers and food are ok. Sunset Grill and Tap in Alson has a great selection of beers and similar food, it also can get busy. There's also a John Harvards at Harvard Square which is convenient and has ok beers. I wouldn't look for seafood at any of these.

    1. steinpilz's suggestions are right on, I second TPH as beer bar and Cambridge Brewing for brewpub.

      Here is a link to a site with several reviews of all of the places mentioned (and some others) that may prove useful to you in planning your visit.



      1. Hm, well. Perhaps others have better rec's, but here's what I know.

        Cambridge Brewing Company has outstanding house-brewed beer -- really, I think, the best local brew available -- but I no longer like to eat there, though the atmosphere is great. It used to be decently priced, pretty tasty fare, but in the last year or so their menu has made me more and more irritated, as the prices skyrocket, the menu gets prettified and fancied up, but the quality of the food remains stagnant. Also, I wouldn't go there for seafood *EXCEPT* for the night of their annual bass fest, which was in late July.

        Boston Beer Works. I know lots of folks love it, but I'm not really enamoured of their brews. They're fine, totally unobjectionable, but nothing really unique or, in my opinon, worth traveling for. The food is mostly standard bar fare, but the place is huge, and on game nights, for the love of all things holy don't try to get in. It turns into a giant mess.

        John Harvard's has very good beer, and decent food. I like CBC's beer better, but if I'm after local brews and dinner, this is my choice. That said, the menu doesn't thrill me, and they tend to try to be too many things to too many people.

        Now, what I'd really recommend to you is to hit the Publick House, which has really outstanding (though not local) beers -- mostly Beligian -- as well as a groovin atmosphere and outstanding food. I'm not sure you could classify it as a gastropub (though. oddly, Stuff @ Night recently did), but it's in that general vein. The chef is terrific at cooking with their beers -- that's the theme of the menu -- and there are a lot of food options for all kinds of appetites and tastes (including veg). Their moules are, as to be expected of a Belgian place, very good, and come in a variety of sauces. The fish and chips is also great, one of my fave preps in Boston.

        2 Replies
        1. re: litchick

          steinpilz: yes, of course, Bukowski. I can't believe I forgot it from my list. Yankeefan, steinpilz is right on that front -- it's got an enormous selection of beers, and some nicely executed bar grub. If you get there before 8p on a weekday, you can take advantage of their $1.69 burger (get it made of turkey or tuna for an extra $1, add fries for another $1). That's the kind of deal that relieves a bit of the guilt at splurging $14 for an unusual imported beer.

          1. re: litchick

            Boston Beer Works isn't what it used to be. Back in the early-to-mid 90s their beers (IPA, oatmeal stout, imperia stout, Hercules Strong Ale, and something they called Victory Alt) were terrific. But I was seriously disappointed by the beers on all of my recent visits. The oatmeal stout, in particular, has been dumbed down. I've frankly given up on the place.

            I'd agree that Cambridge Brewing does the best local microbrews. Their regular beers (a pale ale, an amber ale, and a porter) are solid; and some of their specials (I've had a very German-tasting hefeweizen, an interesting "Colonial Ale," and -- best of all -- an imperial stout) have been remarkable.

          2. If you want a good "local" beer, then you don't want these places. Publick House specializes in Belgian beers of very high quality. (And they have a lot!) It's a terrific place for a beer drinker with pretty reasonable food but the beer is not local by any means.

            6 Replies
            1. re: lergnom

              lergnom: agreed, but if you can name me a place in Boston that has primarily local brews and excellent food, I wanna hear it. My point to the OP was that you kinda get an either/or around these parts. (Now in New Hampshire, or Vermont, that's another story...)

              1. re: litchick

                Well said. Other than the previously mentioned brewpubs (where beer is brewed on premise), the only local brewery is Harpoon, and their beers are widely available around town including many good beer bars and fine dining spots. Cambridge Brewing sells to a handful of off premise accounts, other than that Watchusett (rare in Boston on tap) and Berkshire (western MA) are other MA brewed products to look for. Further out, Smuttynose of NH and Allagash of ME are also top notch options.

                1. re: PaulB

                  If we're going to get into breweries (as opposed to brewpubs), Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, MA., has to be mentioned. Their Ispwich beers are, I contend, the best in New England. Their oatmeal stout in particular is outrageously rich and tasty.

                  The brewery itself isn't available to the public, but any beer-lover who visits MA. should try Mercury's Ipswich line of ales.

                  1. re: Kenji

                    Agreed, Ipswich/Mercury makes good beer and belongs on the look for list. I usually see it at Bukowski's and Redbones.

                    1. re: Kenji

                      Finally tried the Ipswich oatmeal stout after your raving about it on a previous Redbones thread. Thought it was pretty good, but would turn to a few other stouts (St. Peter's in the funky bottles, Rogue's special edition imperial stout and Shakespeare stout) for more interesting and complicated depth of flavor.

                      1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                        Thanks for trying Ipswich Oatmeal. I'm familiar with each of the stouts you name; I like them all (Rogue's Shakspeare was my favorite stout in that gravity range [6 - 7% ABV] for years), but I find Ipswich richer, earthier, hoppier, etc. St. Peter's struck me as drinkable but on the tame side.

                        Rogue's imperial stout is good -- but that's a different style of stout. I'd only pit it against similarly strong stouts -- such as Bell's Expedition, Smuttynose Imperial Stout, maybe Weyerbacher Old Heathen, et cetera.

              2. Cambridge Brewing Company has terrific beer and I think the food is decent, but I am always focused on the beer when I am there. Nice outdoor seating area on a nice day.

                1. If you want good, inexpensive seafood in Boston, head to Yankee Lobster. You can dine across from Coco Crisp's new home.

                  The microbrews cannot be found there, so you might want to try the Barking Crab on the way to or from.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Adorable Girlfriend

                    I am always looking for good, inexpensive seafood in Boston - especially for when my mother comes to visit from Montana. Where is this place?

                    1. re: kallis33

                      You won't find much seafood in Boston that's both inexpensive and good. And while they have seafood at the Barking Crab, it's neither inexpensive nor good. Nor will you find especially friendly or competent service there. Food at the No Name is better and the service at least is reasonably capable.

                      Your best bet for semi-reasonably priced seafood that's actually quite good would be at Dolphin Seafood just outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge. It's also a place that would appeal to a senior citizen, as its ambiance is low key and pleasant.

                      1. re: bachslunch

                        For good inexpensive seafood, how's Restaurant Laura or Cesaria these days? Or the fish with wine sauce at Shanghai Gate (I consider it better than the one at New Shanghai, but haven't tried for a while)? Steamed tilapia with sambal at Aneka Rasa? Cuttlefish balls at Rainbow Cafe? Love to hear an update.

                        I've liked the choros a la chalaca at Victor's and I think their ceviche is good for what it is. Steamed scallops with vermicelli and caramelized garlic at Lucky House is also a treat. Ditto oyster pancake or steamed crab at Potluck Cafe. Muqueca (with fish + shrimp) at Muqueca.

                        1. re: limster

                          Good question, though given that kallis33 plans on bringing his mother from Montana in for seafood, I wonder if these places are what they had in mind. Could be, though -- let's get some clarification.

                          How about it, kallis33 -- were you looking for something more exotic along the lines of what limster's suggesting? Or was it a more classically New England style experience you're looking for? Let's make sure we're steering you right.

                          1. re: bachslunch

                            Mom's definitely looking for the New England experience. Last time she was here we ended up at Union Oyster House. I wasn't blown away, but she enjoyed it.

                  2. Thanks so much for the feedback, especially for a yankee fan. I am very intrigued and look forward to going- Im assuming they are all open on Mondays.

                    Does anyone know where I can locate the Publick House menu? That seems to be a fan favorite here.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: yankeefan

                      We'll forgive you for being a yakeefan.

                      No menu online, I suspect, but this page from beeradvocate.com has a ton of reviews, and a portion talk about the food:

                      Here's a brief outline of their menu: various kinds of mussles; various beer-insipred cheese plates; fish and chips; various incarnations of waterzooie (a Belgian specialty); a terrific duck entree; very good ribs; lotsa sandwiches (cubano, homemade veg burger, regular burger, etc); and a mac and cheese that many feel is to die for. Others probably have their own favorite items, but for me and our friends these are the highlights.

                      1. re: litchick

                        The sausage and mash option at Publick House is really outstanding.

                      2. I am not much of a beet drinker, but all the beer afficianados that I know enjoy the brews at Cambridge Brewing Company. They sell beer by the glass, byt the pitcher, or by the tower.

                        We used to eat lunch there fairly regularly, but the value for the money has gone downhill over the years and the service has always been spotty at best.

                        Cambridge Brewing Company
                        1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139

                        1. The problem here is that all the area craft-brew places I can think of that serve food don't serve very good food: Boston Brew Pub, Cambridge Brewing Company, Rock Bottom, John Harvard's, and Watch City in Waltham all do craft brews but their food is not worth the time. And the best places for pub grub of varying kinds (for me that would include Matt Murphy's in Brookline Village, River Gods in Cambridge, O'Sullivan's in Somerville) don't make their own beer. You'll probably have to compromise on something.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: bachslunch

                            To this point, it seems either Beer Works or Publick House. Seems I will enjoy both. Beer Works intrigues me with the blueberry beer and P House's menu looks real tight.

                            1. re: yankeefan

                              The one thing everyone left out are the limited hours for Publick House as of the other day from the horse's mouth:

                              Our permanent hours are as they are now:
                              Monday-Friday 5PM-2AM
                              Saturday & Sunday 4PM-2AM

                              1. re: mkel34


                                Great late-night closing hours. Do you know if the full menu served until 2 AM, or is that a beer/bar schedule?

                                1. re: bear

                                  I think Publik House serves a limited menu after 10pm.

                          2. dive : redbones - sit at the bar upstairs and check out the beer list - plenty of local beer offerings - plenty of food options on the menu. Great place for all kinds of people, but you may want to keep quiet about being a yankee fan -especially if there's a sox game on.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: LStaff

                              Thanks, is this a place I can get a nice, quality lobster. I know its asking a lot but the ideal meal would be a nice lobster with quality beer.

                              1. re: yankeefan

                                Redbones is hit or miss barbecue/Southern.

                                1. re: yankeefan

                                  Jasper White's Summer Shack on Dalton Street in Boston has steamed lobsters in many sizes. I really like the pan roasted lobster with chervil. They have local brews in bottles and on tap. The rest of the seafood can be unpredictable, but if you stick to lobster and beer you should come away happy.

                                  1. re: yankeefan

                                    I cannot come up with a BrewPub that serves lobster in Boston. There are a few places with some passable beers on tap (Summer Shack, Barking Crab, Legal Seafood), but nothing close to a real seafood-and-fabulous-beer-type place. Bukowski's & Publik House serve a more "traditional" pub menu, and both are good, though not fantastic. The food at Cambridge Brewing, BeerWorks, and Sunset is pretty mediocre. I don't eat at any of those places anymore. Rock Bottom & John Harvard have ok food and good beer, though I wouldn't hit either for a true gastropub experience.

                                    1. re: gini

                                      I had a decent lobster BLT (I think) at the Fenway Beerworks a couple years ago. But yeah, no straight out lobster.

                                2. Has Sunset Grill been mentioned? Over a 100 beers on tap and at least twice that in bottle. It's really reasonably priced, huge food servings and pretty good.
                                  I feel that John Harvard's is pretty over rated for beer. But the atmosphere at their Cambridge location is cool.
                                  I've had some pretty good beers at Boston Beer Works and their blueberry beer is damn good. Go really early, like 6ish, during a Sox home game and it gets pretty wild there.

                                  1. The Kinsale supposedly has Cambridge Brewery beers on tap, according to their outdoor chalkboard -- it's an Irish pub-type place, not the greatest food but decent enough, and very close to the T (Green Line Govt Center

                                    1. Hmmmm...Been awhile, but I really liked Rock Bottom brew pub. food is a notch above most brew pubs. Not sure on the lobster, but if you can be flexible on food, RB has my vote.
                                      Also - not a brew pub, but a great selection and good grub: Jacob Wurth's. Actually, it is next door (almost) to RB. Awesome German beer and some seriously heavy duty German food. Try the mixed grill. A couple of sausages, slow cooked cabbage and potato salad. Really a nice lunch.

                                      1. Thanks to all for the suggestions- I ended up going to Publick House in Brookline and thought that it was phenomenal, especially for the beer selection as many of you had mentioned. Had the sampler and then enjoyed several more.

                                        Food was better than I expected - mussels were a bit overly doused in butter but thats not such a bad thing and the burger was remarkable (I was shocked). Great atmosphere but the only complaint is the bartender was not good and had very poor customer service. Dont matter though, Id be happy to go back.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: yankeefan

                                          Their waitstaff generally doesn't write stuff down and that leads to misunderstandings. The beer, however, is so good . . . the Belgians do that right; makes you realize how bad most beer is. People like the ribs but I think they're too sweet.