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wanted: dark cozy irish pub

last night we wanted one but, being new to boston, couldn't find one. i would like suggestions for all over town -- cambridge and somerville too, so that when the urge strikes, we can be prepared. last night, fyi, the meltdown of pub radar resulted in a burger at chinatown's only gleaming german beer hall.

dark and cozy are musts. please be explicit in describing the darkness and coziness.

thank you chowhounders!

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  1. Matt Murphy's, Brookline Village
    The Druid, Inman Sq, Cambridge

    3 Replies
      1. re: galleygirl

        I've always liked Matt Murphy's a lot too, but I'm not sure it's been dark and cozy since they renovated a couple of years ago. Seems rather light and airy now, although I've mostly gone for brunch, so the daylight may have skewed my perception. I do think that the Druid is properly dark and cozy, and last time I was there the menu seemed VERY similar (in a good way) to the Matt Murphy's menu, right down to the excellent oxtail soup.

        1. re: MichaelB

          I went to Matt Murphy's last night after also searching for a dark and cozy Irish pub here and was very surprised-- the renovation must have made a huge difference.

          Our corner was dark and semi-cozy due to candles, but they were playing grating techno for most of our dinner and then 70's soul into the evening. The menu was nice and our food was tasty, but it was all so far from the classic, fairly inexpensive Irish pub food we were expecting and craving. (Epic let down.) The beer list looked short and sweet though I only had a ginger beer that was weak. Service was excellent. Cash only. Easy parking (I thought.)

          Its a nice restaurant, but I would NOT recommend it now to anyone seeking a dark and cozy Irish pub. Perhaps once this was true, but it is not so anymore. No way.

    1. River Gods, Central Sq.
      PJ Ryan's, Teele/Davis Sq.
      The Independent, Union Sq. (rather large, but sitting at the bar can feel dark and cozy)

      1 Reply
      1. re: digga

        The bar half of the Indo is indeed dark and cozy as digga notes, but not particularly Irish. Totally worth a trek, though, irishbreakfast. It's one of my faves. Especially on alternate Friday nights when you can have your bar nibbles and well-made interesting drinks while bopping out to the MashAve mash-up djs.

        I also second vanna/babette's rec for the Behan -- a great dark and cozy Irish place.

      2. James's Gate in JP. Dim lighting, fireplace lit in the winter. Doesn't get much cozier than that.

        3 Replies
        1. re: veeva

          seconded-- coat racks (strategically located under the bar and next to the hearth) and no tv make this perhaps the best pub in boston

          1. re: pierce

            Is the music still very loud? I used to sit in the back dining room so I could hear myself think but that was about 5 years ago.

            1. re: ginnyhw

              hmmm, to be honest i can't recall. There's definitely music, and a high din to the background, but i don't remember having to strain to have conversation. In fact I distinctly recall one night in 2008 being flabbergasted in an election-related debate with a friend, both of us with escalating voices (though nowhere near top of lungs shouting) and being admonished by the bartender to keep our voices down....

        2. The Brendan Behan in JP. Excellent Guinness.
          I also like the Squealing Pig, just off Huntington near Mass Art. No fireplace but it really has that communal pub feel.

          1. Well, I've never found a pub as dark and cozy as Gus O'Connor's in Doolin (County Clare), but here are some that you might like:

            Hugh O'Neill's, Malden--dark, cozy, and not very well-known.

            The Druid, Cambridge--excellent burgers and steak tips, very dark, and very cozy. Great place to go on a rainy night.

            The Field, Cambridge--Spartan, well-worn, a bit gloomy, and a place where heavy drinkers tend to go for a pint and a shot. I love it!

            James's Gate, Jamaica Plain--a lot like some of the pubs I know and love in Ireland. Has an ancient feel to it, and some of the food is pretty good.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hiddenboston

              True, hiddenboston, Gus O'Connor's is the best. You made my day by mentioning it.

              I second the Squealing Pig. I sat with a friend once on creaky wooden chairs there next to--if not a fireplace--a heating grate or something? Whatever it was it made it even more cozy.

              The Thirsty Scholar in Somerville has got a snug you can sit in. And the Burren during the week for lunch is nice and dark and quiet.

              1. re: langley

                I spent four days and nights in Gus O'Connor's in 2005 (was staying one block away)--one of the greatest weekends I've ever had. Been there a few other times, too. Nothing like the place!

                I need to get to the Squealing Pig. I remember someone telling me they had toasties there. There are definitely worse things than toasties and pints on a cool fall night.

                1. re: hiddenboston

                  I saw the Red Sox win the World Series at The Pig. Not exactly a quiet, cozy night . :))

                  The back room there is especially nice though, if you want a semblance of psuedo-privacy .

            2. Not terribly dark, but truly owned and operated by the great-grandson of the man who opened it a 100 years ago, the eponymous J.J. Foley in the South End. Old-school barmen (polite, neatly dressed, friendly but not overly familiar), a proper saloon on one side (no barstools), an inviting family-friendly pub on the other side with a real Irish ex-pat cook. Nice mix of mostly American pub favorites (wings, pizza, a good burger, steak tips) and a few dishes from the Isles (a fine lamb-based shepherd's pie, curry fries, excellent fish and chips). A high value neighborhood joint in an area famous for fancy upmarket restaurants -- a little treasure. Always has the game on, and they know how to pull a proper pint.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I love Foley's, spent most of my twenties there. Equally as dark and cozy is The Banshee on Dot. Ave. Occasionally it has some out of control dance nights, but for the most part it is a great pub. Best Guiness in the city in my opinion and Liverpool games every weekend.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  They do turn out some good food! This past Sunday I had a special- irish smoked salmon on a potato cake with creme fraiche and red onion. It was wonderful and at $8 really coudnt be beat. I have had the eggs there a lot too, always good and perfectly cooked. I have had my share of hardboiled "poached" eggs at the fancier places in the neighborhood so its nice to know some people still know how to do the basics, poach, fry, sunnyside up. Great place to get drinks and a bite and not break the bank.

                  Good Food Cafe
                  2378 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                  Sunnyside Cafe
                  150 W Center St, West Bridgewater, MA 02379

                2. Some people say it's too dark but I disagree- O'Leary's on the Boston/Brookline line is what you're looking for. Just don't try tonight as it's close enough to Fenway to be mobbed with Red Sox season ticket holders before the game.

                  1 Reply
                  1. I love the Plough and Stars on Mass Ave, in Cambridge. Though it is not exactly dark and cozy, they have great food, atmosphere, and really friendly, fun clientele. Plus good music later on.

                    1. The Burren in Davis Square is one I'll suggest, decent beers and food, great music on the weekends. Murphy's is really good and truely more pub than bar, good food but little bar space. Both of these are dark and cozy.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: steinpilz

                        I like the Burren, but mainly on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, since it's a bit less crowded then. Not a huge fan of the food, though. The food at The Druid is better, IMO.

                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          Those weekend afternoon at the Burren, when they have an irish band and people bring their families, are really fun. The food is much better at Murphy's, I'll have to try the Druid.

                          1. re: steinpilz

                            Very true. The weekend seisiuns are a lot of fun at The Burren. I haven't been to one in awhile; will definitely have to get back there soon.

                      2. I agree with a lot of these suggestions, but with some caveats:

                        The Druid, but make sure it's before 11pm or so. After that, I find the music defening, to the point where it's hard to talk to the people you came with.

                        The Burren, but not on a Thurs-Sat night. During that time, it feels like just another college bar.

                        Mr Dooleys (Broad St in the financial district): Kitschy, but fun. It's cozy in the same slightly cluttered wy that a grandma's house might be.

                        The Brendan Behan: probably my favorite on the list. Definitely dark: when I stop in there at 5 or 6 (in the summer) and step out for a cigarette, my eyes have to adjust to the light outside. There is always a dog or two hanging out with its owner. It's generally full, rarely crowded.

                        1. Coogan's in the financial district is dark: lots of brick & dark wood and great pubby beers, with big flat screens to watch the game. However, it's also got fewer people usually, big open windows to the dark financial district streets, white tablecloths and food that's good enough. Or maybe it's just close to where I live : ) We like it though.

                          1. Paddy Barry's on Hancock Street in Quincy. You might be the only Americans in there if you go.

                            The Blackthorne in South Boston

                            The Banshee in Dorchester

                            Kitty O'Shea's on State Street in Boston is your best bet since it's right next to Faneuil Hall.

                            Nash's Pub in Dorchester, another pub that you will probably be the only American.

                            1. The Lansdowne Pub on Lansdowne Street...aka across from the pahk..
                              new pub, cozy little nooks, dark...but not too dark... perfect to throw back a guiness or 6 and they even have Irish breakfast on the weekends.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: swaldone

                                Two year jump here from the previous post - I'm guessing the OPs have found their favorite local by now.

                              2. Not very dark, but Tavern at the end of the world in Charlestown is my new favorite English/Irish pub.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: phatchris

                                  I agree. Not all that dark, but kinda cozy and above-average pub grub.

                                2. I second the vote for Mr. Dooley's. Very cozy -- especially when crowded. They pour a great pint and the crowd is usually good. Unless you are there on Sunday for Irish breakfast, I'd skip the food.

                                  Avoid the Black Rose, Kennedy's, Purple Shamrock, Kinsale.

                                  It's a shame the (old) Littlest closed. I haven't tried the new Littlest yet.

                                  Kennedy's Midtown
                                  44 Province St, Boston, MA 02108

                                  Black Rose
                                  160 State St, Boston, MA 02109

                                  Purple Shamrock
                                  1 Union St Ste B, Boston, MA 02108

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: nomadgirl

                                    I'm not an expert, but the new littlest bar is right across the street from my office and we've gone over a couple of times for lunches and drinks, and IMHO it's neither dark nor cozy, less so even than the Times with which it shares a kitchen and a largely uninspiring menu.

                                    1. re: nomadgirl

                                      The new Littlest isn't worth your time...and certainly not worth ruining the memories you associate with the name.

                                      1. re: rknrll

                                        i second this..... my friends and i waited with great excitement when the new one was finished, and then got there and it was just pathetic, or rather, it was indistinguishable from any other bar between there and Faneuil Hall. It was really sad. No real energy from the crowd, absolutely no reason to start a conversation with a stranger, and the bartender didn't have a clue (or an accent). I gave the bartop one last knock and walked out forever.

                                        Go to Behan's, John from the old littlest tends there now, and it is the closest thing I've found to the original...

                                    2. Flann O'Brien's in Mission Hill is another great spot that should not be missed. A varied crowd of young and old can be found any night of the week. Another favorite spot is the Farragut House in South Boston.

                                      Farragut House Restaurant
                                      149 P St, Boston, MA 02127

                                      1. My suggestion goes to the Plough and Stars in Cambridge if you can get to sit the the booth/booths by the window. Dark, private, cozy. (Fake) candles on the table which are really not as bad as they sound. They also serve food which is above the standard pub food.

                                        Of course, if you want super cozy and you can't get the booth then you're sort of out of luck. It depends when you go. When I head over there (usually earlier in the evening) I can always get that prime corner booth.