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Recommendations for old school/divey/gritty Boston spots - restaurants and bars (w/ or w/o food)

southernwayfarer Aug 24, 2011 10:11 AM

Trying to get off the beaten path with a couple of guests coming into town. I'd like to show them some of old school Boston. Looking for recs for old school/divey/gritty Boston spots. They don't have to be divey or gritty, really looking for a strong sense of place that might make up for shortcomings (if any) in the food. The two places I have on the tentative list are Rinos and Bell Isle Seafood. Thanks in advance.

  1. threedogs Sep 4, 2011 08:45 AM

    Just went out of my way to eat at Grille 705 near Boston Medical Center (had a Groupon that only cost me $1 - can't figure that one out - but it appeared after I filled out their survey). Definitely old school (no beer/alchohol & only open 7am - 4pm, but everyday) - clean, freshly painted, looks like the delis from 30 yrs ago. Huge amount of good, decent food.

    I'm hoping to return w/my 6' 2'' adult son with the insatiable appetite, lol.

    1. barleywino Aug 30, 2011 07:21 PM

      Bleacher bar looking out on Fenway (try the pastrami and put your name on the list for a window table)

      1. BobB Aug 30, 2011 11:46 AM

        I'm surprised no one's mentioned the Plough & Stars yet. Seriously old school, character up the wazoo, decent food, plus live music every night of the week (and some afternoons).

        Plough & Stars
        912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

        8 Replies
        1. re: BobB
          Madrid Aug 30, 2011 07:12 PM

          I love Plough & Stars, but hasn't it had serious spiffing up in the past 10 years? Charming but glossily painted...not that I mind that at all. Also serious food spiffing up...food is a bit more than decent, I think. Is that old Cambridge dive up Mass Ave towards Central still there.....the one with the Communist-like signs? Can't remember the name at all...could it be Republic of Cambridge?

          Plough & Stars
          912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

          1. re: Madrid
            rknrll Aug 30, 2011 07:52 PM

            Yeah, the Plough is far from old school/divey/gritty.
            People's Republik is still there and still stinks.

            1. re: rknrll
              Chicken with a Capon Aug 30, 2011 08:48 PM

              People's Republik stinks as in it's a bad bar or a bar that smells bad? We would, however, be in agreement on both points.

            2. re: Madrid
              BobB Aug 31, 2011 06:43 AM

              It may have - I don't get there nearly as often as I did when I lived on that side of the river many years ago, and when I have been in lately it's been after dark and the place was mobbed so I didn't pay much attention to the decor. I guess I still carry around the old image of it in my head and superimpose it over the reality.

              Still, I give it props for having survived so many decades.

              1. re: Madrid
                jgg13 Sep 1, 2011 08:22 PM

                Yeah, they underwent a pretty hefty renovation a couple of years ago.

                1. re: jgg13
                  hotoynoodle Sep 2, 2011 08:41 PM

                  plough definitely has outrun its divey past. heck ~~ the bartenders wear vests now.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                    jgg13 Sep 3, 2011 08:38 AM

                    Hah, that's a change that's new to me. It's been a while since I"ve been there at night, I tend to go there for brunch as I'm not a big live music guy nor much into paying covers. I know that the last time I was there I noticed a surprisingly booze selection (e.g. rittenhouse)

                    1. re: jgg13
                      hotoynoodle Sep 3, 2011 09:10 AM

                      give it a shot. it remains a good bar, without pretense.

            3. j
              jajjguy Aug 29, 2011 05:58 PM

              Whitney's in Harvard Sq.
              The Middle East Restaurant

              While we're at it, let's take a moment to recall the Cambridgeport Saloon, Tommy's Lunch, the Wursthaus, the Beehive (the Harvard Sq diner), the Tasty, Nick's Beef and Beer... ok that's enough

              Middle East Restaurant
              472 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

              8 Replies
              1. re: jajjguy
                chickendhansak Aug 30, 2011 06:45 AM

                Has anyone mentioned Newtowne in Porter yet?

                1. re: chickendhansak
                  enhF94 Aug 30, 2011 01:02 PM

                  Hey, yeah. Newtowne has surprisingly decent pizza.

                  1. re: chickendhansak
                    jgg13 Sep 1, 2011 08:22 PM

                    Newtowne is another place (a la TCs) that's really spruced up over time. Less townies, more college & not-that-far-out-of-college kids. Fresh coat of paint, newer TVs. It's just a bar that has cheap beer & pizza now, nothing gritty about it.

                  2. re: jajjguy
                    Madrid Aug 30, 2011 07:08 PM

                    oh yes, Nick's Beef and Beer. I spent many a night there in college getting the cheap black and white Russians (drinking age 18 then). Did that become Grafton St? Penny, I was never at the pre-Island Hopper, but every time I go I want them to be a bit better.Now that I know the history....ok, ok!

                    1. re: Madrid
                      hiddenboston Aug 31, 2011 06:43 AM

                      I still have part of the Nick's Beef and Beer sign in my garage.

                      1. re: hiddenboston
                        yumyum Sep 1, 2011 08:31 PM

                        By the end it was Nick's bee and bee ho. Loved that!

                        1. re: yumyum
                          dfan Sep 2, 2011 08:34 AM

                          "Eef and bee ho", I believe (Google seems to agree). I loved that sign. The location is now Temple Bar.

                          1. re: dfan
                            yumyum Sep 2, 2011 03:54 PM

                            You're right of course. I could never quite make it out thru my beer goggles. Thanks for the memories!

                  3. p
                    pantsbensch Aug 29, 2011 07:35 AM

                    Just so happens I've got a list of about 100 of them for you right here! ;)


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pantsbensch
                      melon Aug 29, 2011 07:59 AM

                      Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi used to eat at the Busy Bee in Brookline...

                      Busy Bee Restaurant
                      1046 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                      1. re: melon
                        BostonZest Aug 29, 2011 06:42 PM

                        And, at that disgusting, dirty Chinese restaurant that used to be where Island Hopper is now on Massachusetts Avenue between Newbury and Commonwealth. The draperies in the front window had 30 years of dirt on them.

                        Talk about improving a spot. Island Hopper must take the prize for that category. Every time I go into Island Hopper I give thanks.


                        Island Hopper
                        91 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02115

                    2. p
                      purple bot Aug 28, 2011 03:57 PM

                      Pleasant Cafe in Roslindale! All the dialect experts in the world couldn't duplicate those waitress' accents. Love that place.

                      1. c
                        Chris B. Aug 28, 2011 02:37 PM

                        Not sure if it is still open............. But I have fond memories of the steak tips at the Quiet Man Pub in Southie.

                        Quiet Man Pub & Restaurant
                        11 W Broadway South, Boston, MA

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Chris B.
                          Guinness02122 Aug 29, 2011 04:55 AM

                          Unfortunately, they've been gone for a few years.

                        2. b
                          Berheenia Aug 27, 2011 04:49 AM

                          O'Leary's in Brookline. The Corrib in Brookline and West Roxbury.Solid food and much better drink prices than the yuppy bars.

                          1. phipsi102 Aug 26, 2011 08:38 PM

                            I would second Aces High in Southie and JJ Foleys South End, I would add Hogan's Run in Brighton, Model Cafe and Silhouette Lounge in Allston.

                            Hogan's Run
                            8 Lincoln St, Brighton, MA 02135

                            1. n
                              nightsky Aug 26, 2011 06:42 PM

                              Haymarket Pizza

                              Haymarket Pizza
                              106 Blackstone St, Boston, MA 02109

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: nightsky
                                cheesehead in recovery Aug 28, 2011 10:46 AM

                                Yes. Haymarket Pizza is the best!

                                Haymarket Pizza
                                106 Blackstone St, Boston, MA 02109

                              2. n
                                nasilemak Aug 26, 2011 06:05 AM

                                Wai Wai in chinatown would qualify.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: nasilemak
                                  Guinness02122 Aug 26, 2011 09:34 AM

                                  Might be a little scary, especially the lady behind the counter!

                                  1. re: Guinness02122
                                    nasilemak Aug 26, 2011 02:50 PM

                                    she is just surly. anyone would be too if they had to work there!

                                  2. re: nasilemak
                                    kobuta Aug 28, 2011 07:08 PM

                                    +1 Exactly what I was thinking.

                                  3. trufflehound Aug 25, 2011 06:14 PM

                                    Pleasant Cafe, Rossie
                                    Beacon Hill Pub

                                    Is Martin's Townhouse still open?

                                    1. SEH Aug 25, 2011 11:50 AM

                                      Frank's Steakhouse, Cambridge
                                      Mount Vernon, Somerville

                                      Frank's Steak House
                                      2310 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: SEH
                                        jajjguy Aug 29, 2011 05:50 PM

                                        Yes to both! Get the twin lobsters at Mt V or the "sizzler" at Franks

                                      2. mtm7654 Aug 25, 2011 09:23 AM

                                        Ditto New Bridge, JJ Foley and Santarpios. Also, Durgin Park, Cantina Italiana (for the retro North End vibe-as long as they haven't renovated since I was last there!).

                                        Cantina Italiana
                                        346 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113

                                        Durgin Park
                                        1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109

                                        1. f
                                          food_lubber Aug 25, 2011 08:09 AM

                                          Newbridge Cafe in Chelsea

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: food_lubber
                                            food_lubber Aug 25, 2011 10:27 AM

                                            Warren Tavern in Charlestown...

                                            Warren Tavern Restaurant
                                            2 Pleasant St, Charlestown, MA 02129

                                          2. a
                                            acker Aug 25, 2011 08:03 AM

                                            I'd say Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe on columbus Avenue in the South End. Go for breakfast as they're only open til 2 (i think). Also I think they're closed on sundays too. I recommend the cranberry pancakes.

                                            Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe
                                            429 Columbus Ave Ste 1, Boston, MA 02116

                                            1. g
                                              Guinness02122 Aug 25, 2011 07:34 AM

                                              The Erie Pub, Dorchester
                                              The Banshee, Dorchester (sort of fits the bill)
                                              Biddy Early's, The Financial District
                                              Mr. Dooley's, The Financial District
                                              Intermission Lounge, Theatre District (far better than Jacob Wirth's)
                                              The Blackthorn, South Boston
                                              Flann O'Brien's, Jamaica Plain
                                              Brendan Behan Pub, Jamaica Plain
                                              Murphy's Law, South Boston

                                              There are probably a few hundred or more places. You could almost throw a rock and hit one.

                                              Jacob Wirth Restaurant
                                              31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

                                              Biddy Early's
                                              141 Pearl St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02110

                                              Murphy's Law
                                              837 Summer St, Boston, MA 02127

                                              Brendan Behan Pub
                                              378 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Guinness02122
                                                pemma Aug 25, 2011 10:22 AM

                                                Sullivan's Tap should be on that list.

                                                1. re: pemma
                                                  Guinness02122 Aug 25, 2011 12:44 PM

                                                  The Twelve Bens, JJ's Irish Bar (not to be confused with JJ Foley's), The Sevens, Harp & Bard, Dot Tavern, Aces High, The Connection, Sullivan's Pub, that no name pool bar across from Laboure Center in South Boston, The Playwright, The Green Dragon, Bell In Hand (oldest bar in America) etc...we could keep going until Christmas. And they're all "old school Boston" that caters to the poster.

                                                  Harp & Bard Restaurant
                                                  1099 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02125

                                                  Dot Tavern
                                                  840 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester, MA 02125

                                                  Twelve Ben's
                                                  315 Adams St, Dorchester, MA 02122

                                                  1. re: pemma
                                                    postemotional1 Aug 29, 2011 10:16 PM

                                                    Ramrod/Machine at 1254 Boylston St. Boston is a true dive bar with the added attraction of leathermen and drag queens cavorting during Red Sox games.

                                                2. m
                                                  Madrid Aug 25, 2011 06:48 AM

                                                  Charlie's Kitchen and Grendel's Den, , Harvard Square

                                                  Charlie's Kitchen
                                                  10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Madrid
                                                    hotoynoodle Aug 27, 2011 07:39 AM

                                                    grendel's can be overrun with students who have gotten far too sloppy. the one time i went i couldn't believe how messed up people were, and er, not "making it to the bathroom," shall we say.

                                                  2. trufflehound Aug 24, 2011 08:07 PM

                                                    JJ Foleys
                                                    Costello's and Galway House in JP
                                                    Halfway Cafe in Dedham

                                                    Galway House
                                                    720 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: trufflehound
                                                      Canadian Tuxedo Aug 28, 2011 09:32 PM

                                                      I just wanted to second the Galway--they have a pretty good beer selection and the food can be surprisingly good...

                                                      ...and it's not lacking in gritty.

                                                    2. r
                                                      rknrll Aug 24, 2011 12:00 PM

                                                      Sligo Pub, Somerville
                                                      TC's Lounge, Boston

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: rknrll
                                                        Guido Aug 24, 2011 06:18 PM

                                                        Bull McCabes, Somerville (formerly Tir na N'Og)
                                                        surprised you didn't mention Regina's Thatcher St.

                                                        1. re: rknrll
                                                          jgg13 Aug 25, 2011 01:41 PM

                                                          TCs has been discovered by the college/slightly post college crowd over the last few years. Lines are longer, and grittiness has all but disappeared.

                                                        2. hiddenboston Aug 24, 2011 11:44 AM

                                                          A few that come to mind....

                                                          Doyle's, JP
                                                          Santarpio's, East Boston
                                                          The Field, Cambridge
                                                          The Paddock, Somerville
                                                          La Hacienda, Somerville
                                                          Cappy's Tavern, Readville
                                                          Cronin's, Quincy
                                                          Waterfront Cafe, North End
                                                          Costello's, JP
                                                          The Corrib, West Roxbury
                                                          Monte's, Lynn
                                                          The Sevens, Beacon Hill

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: hiddenboston
                                                            hazelhurst Aug 24, 2011 12:03 PM

                                                            I thought f'sure you were gonna send him to The Penalty Box

                                                            1. re: hazelhurst
                                                              hiddenboston Aug 24, 2011 12:07 PM

                                                              Hee hee! Or King Arthur's in Chelsea.

                                                              1. re: hiddenboston
                                                                hazelhurst Aug 24, 2011 12:09 PM

                                                                Ouch! How cruel...I like it. (Actually I wished I coulda been at The Penalty Box they night they won back the Cup. Doyle's woulda been number two, I think.)

                                                            2. re: hiddenboston
                                                              rknrll Aug 24, 2011 12:38 PM

                                                              I like these, but don't get your pick for The Field.

                                                              1. re: rknrll
                                                                hiddenboston Aug 24, 2011 12:41 PM

                                                                Probably more sentimental reasons than anything. (A lot of my friends have hung out there over the years.)

                                                              2. re: hiddenboston
                                                                hazelhurst Aug 24, 2011 01:04 PM

                                                                What about Jake Wirth's? Been there lately? When I'm in town I sometimes have a few there before a Sox game. You get decent beer, don;t get clipped like you do at/in Fenway, and the Green Line is practically right there.

                                                                1. re: hazelhurst
                                                                  hiddenboston Aug 24, 2011 02:26 PM

                                                                  I was going to add that as well, but I think I got distracted. :-) Yes, Jacob Wirth's should definitely be on the list, IMO.

                                                                  Jacob Wirth Restaurant
                                                                  31 Stuart St, Boston, MA 02116

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