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A Tale of 2 Downtown Bars

We wanted to get ot tonight and wanted to roam our downtown xing neighborhood.

First stop, JM Curley's about 5:15 PM. No seats so we walked across the street to Stoddard's. 3 or 4 seats taken in the entire place. I'm not much of a beer drinker but it seems to be a feature there. Mention to the bartender that I love the list but I'm a bit overwhelmed by the vast array. He walked away and came back and asked if we were ready to order...? I picked something and Ms 9 ordered a white wine. Drinks brought..tasty beer. Guys sitting next to me inquired as to something with tequila, any creative ideas? Same bartender said, "I'm really busy and I have a cut on my finger." Tell me what you want to order. OK, Had our drinks and left.

Went back to JM Curley's and got 2 seats. Bartender came over to us and Ms 9 wasn' sure on her wine. Bartender said, "you had the Bin 26 (Babek Bina's house wine) last time and seemed to enjoy it, would you like it again? yes. I told her I wasn't familiar with the beer list, any rec's? She asked what I liked. I told her. She poured me a taste and it was great.. A dark beer, "voodoo something?" I'll take a glass.

We leave happy.

2 bars on oposite sides of the same street...2 ways of treating customers. I know where I will go back and where I won't.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Stoddards in my experience is very hit or miss depending on who you draw at the bar. I would be willing to bet I know exactly which bartender you drew last night. At times though I have had exceptional service and top notch bartending, others? I may as well hop over the bar and do it myself they are so worthless.

    JM Curley is a gem, wish I could go more often.

    1. Amen. I used to go to Stoddards a lot, but after probably 2 trips to JM Curley I could not bring myself to go to another bar on Temple place. They are hitting on all the marks I like in a local joint: great beer/cocktails; great food; comfortable atmosphere; and last but not least amazing service. I think a lot of places in town could learn a lesson or two from Curleys.

      1. Stoddards bartenders always seem to be weeded no mater the amount of people at the bar.

        1. Same experience at Stoddards. A few of them are fantastic, but there's one guy who always wears his suit but forgets his smile. Love JM Curleys.

          1. JM Curley's is my new favorite bar. The bartenders are all great, friendly and helpful. Great music mix albeit loud. Amazing beer selection which changes regularly although I am a little embarassed to admit that what brought me there in the first instance was their stocking Genny Cream ale. Went to stoddards once and though it is a nice looking place, i don't need to go back. One of these dys i will relent and try a JM curley's burger - they look soooo good on other patrons" plates.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Northender

              Strip T's also has Gennesee Cream Ale for $2.50 / can.

              1. re: Northender

                Does it get really crowded at night? I have been there for lunch and we were the only people in the place.

                1. re: nsenada

                  It does get fairly crowded at night (I work downtown, so head in after work usually), but it ebbs and flows. I find it worth hanging around to wait for a seat if need be.

                2. re: Northender

                  i will vouch for the burger. do not hesitate next time.

                  have only been to curley's at off-hours and am a big fan. they hit all marks.

                  while i love the interior of stoddard's, it's too hit or miss with the bar staff and a few too often the place has been utterly monopolized by large groups that are just too big for the damn room. after-hours office party kinda thing. eck. if i wanted to be bumped and jostled that badly by suits i'd go to post 390.

                3. Correction on the beer at JM C .Not "voodoo something," but Vampire Slayer. Like I said, I'm not a beer expert but this was really tasty. Dark and full bodied...talking about the beer..:)

                  Purely for research, I stopped by again tonight.

                  I'd welcome opinions from the beer aficionados.

                  I'm anxious to try the food at JM C but had some fresh tuna at home that was at it's peak.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: 9lives

                    That Vampire Slayer is tasty, 10% too, so tread lightly there. Not sure if I quite qualify as an "aficionado", but I do really like the beer selection there and they keep the selection fresh by rotating the draft options regularly. If anyone is a fan of IPA's, they often have the "Blatant IPA" on tap, which is from a local MA brewer and not found at a ton of places. As far as beer goes, they really do have something for everyone and there is always something new and interesting there, even for "aficionados".

                    The food here should not get short shrift either though, it has been great in my experience and the blackboard specials keep you guessing. Last week I had chicken a la king sliders...

                    1. re: ebone

                      I've had that IPA and really like it.

                      The people next to us had the chick ala king and really enjoyed it.

                      Have yet to try the food but very anxious to.

                      1. re: 9lives

                        Don't be shy, they know what they are doing in the kitchen.

                        1. re: 9lives

                          The Blatant IPA is excellent. It's from Blatant Brewery. http://blatantbrewery.com/whoarewe/

                          1. re: 9lives

                            Hey 9 - their snack items are perfect bar food without being off of the back of the Sysco truck. Being as predictable as I am, the deviled eggs and peanut brittle really worked for me.

                            1. re: gini

                              I forgot that I did have a taste of their cornbread and loved it.

                              This week my "problem" was 1 night I had a MF Dulock bought beef bourgignon braising at home and the other night I had the fresh tuna for sashimi....not a bad problem..:)

                              Anxious to eat there.

                      2. I think the way to go is get some food and a couple drinks at JM Curley then a beer at Stoddards. The beer prices and selection at Stoddards has improved since they first opened. Its pretty much the only place downtown where you can get any cask offerings, of which they usually have more than one.

                        1. jm Curley is better than Stoddard's, so if you look at this like A Tale of Two Downtown Bars, then yeah, this conversation covers it well.

                          I don't think it's terribly fair or necessary to compare the two, though, as though they're in a vaccum. For me, the more important point is that Stoddard's is much better than every other bar in Downtown Boston that isn't named jm Curley. Stoddard's is in last-place in this two-horse race, but if you make this a twenty-horse race, it gets the silver medal. There's no shame in that.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: FinnFPM

                            Obviously you're entitled to your opinion but I don't see anything unfair about 2 restaurant/bars that are across the street from each other, that I went to back to back..and competing for the same customers.

                            I love the look of Stoddards( they did a fantastic job with the long time cutlery shop with great Boston historic items) and enjoyed the meal I had when they first opened but "surly service" does not earn a silver medal in my rating system, particularly when there are probably close to1/2 dozen bars within a golf shot that I am treated well at and dozens if I expand my geographical range by a few blocks.

                            1. re: 9lives

                              ^^this. in addition to proximity, they are of a similar concept.

                            2. re: FinnFPM

                              Not sure what's unfair about comparing any two places head-to-head if they're in roughly the same price point, class, atmosphere, concept; they don't even need to be in the same neighborhood, let alone practically across the street from each other.

                              I haven't dined at Stoddard's in a while, but I experienced some pretty fine service on a recent visit, and I do like the beer selection and atmosphere. I stick to beer now after some uneven experiences with cocktails. Curley impresses me more on cocktails and food, and has delivered a pretty consistently strong service experience.


                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                I shouldn't have said that it's unfair -- all is fair, of course. I just mean to point out that perspective is important, which seems to be to be pretty indisputable. This thread could be made a thousand times over. Hey, jm Curley is better than Scholar's. Oh, jm Curley is better than Gem. Hi, jm Curley is better than Sidebar. Ah, jm Curley is better than The Hub Pub.

                                Stoddard's is IMO the second-best bar downtown. There's no shame in that.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  To be fair, I've had a number of pleasant experiences at Stoddard's also; always at the bar when it's not too busy. Being that they have a large beer selection, the conversation goes like this, me," what do you recommend?' bartender, "what kind of beer do you like? I answer. He gives me a small taste. I always like and he pours me a glass. I enjoy my beer and the great atmosphere. Maybe exchange a little talk with the bartender. That did not happen this trip.. fr me or the customers on either side of me. Maybe the guy was having a bad day; but based on reading some of the comments here, my situation was not unique.

                                  Having lived in this area for many years, I try to support the businesses in the immediate area (with a few exceptions). I've seen many changes for the better and try to support the neighboring businesses because I know how much time, energy and $ they put out and how large a role they've played in helping create a neighborhood where none really existed. The Ritz complex, Suffolk, Emerson and city support for the theaters have also contributed but it's the independent restaurants that have led the way. The owners are involved in the community. I've come to know many owners and of course staff and have become friends with many.

                                  Probably 90%+ of my writeups are positive because if I have a poor experence, I tend to avoid posting about it cuz I really take no pleasure in trashing business, knowing how difficult it is to do.

                                  Sorry for the ramble..too much cofffee. I was more surprised by the service at Stoddard's and could have easily written a comparison of this visit to past pleasant visits; which is why I stopped in.

                                  Here's to hoping that my next trip to Stoddard's will have great beer, a great room and friendly service.

                              2. Had my first JM Curley experience last weekend and would add the bar service was outstanding and all 3 cocktails were solid. Plus the deviled eggs and then dear lord the burger....Hey Now, it's our new place to hit when we are in that area.

                                1. This thread, and especially 9lives recommendation, nudged me towards Curley's for dinner last night -- definitely a great place. It was hopping at around 6; we put our names in for a table but ended up getting seats at the end of the bar and staying there for food as well as drinks. Cocktails were good (a Jack Rose for me and a "Seasonal Collins" - made with concord grapes I think - for her). We ate the baby octopus appetizer, the little cornbread skillet, and burgers - the sloppy joe burger for her (apparently the special theme this week was "Betty Crocker Cookbook" - hence the Chicken a la King sliders) and the regular burger for me.

                                  The octopus (more toddler-sized than baby, I'd say) was tasty and pretty tender, though quite aggressively salted. Granted, it is bar food; of course it's salty. I might have wanted something a little green/pickled/tart to go along with it but that's just fussing; I'd get it again.

                                  The cornbread was delicious - I was trying to tell where the cornbread ended and the melting honey/butter topping began to see if it was the authentic southern skillet cornbread so many hounds crave, but I couldn't say. But the crust was beautifully browned, the bread was pudding-y moist, and I was raised on sweet northern cornbread so I'm not a very good judge of authenticity. I think I'd actually order it for dessert next time, but I would definitely order it. Every time.

                                  The burgers were as good as everyone says. Thick and very juicy, on a thankfully non-brioche toasted sesame-seed bun, with cheddar, grilled onions, pickles and sauce. The sloppy joe burger added seasoned beef and coleslaw (and maybe took away the other toppings? I was concentrating on mine so I'm not sure.). Between the sauce and the onions and the burger itself it was a little over the top in richness: next time I might customize it a little to make it more balanced, but the beef itself was fantastic. Oh, the fries that came with it were good - they seemed mostly crispy to me (to reference the other current JM Curley thread) and well-seasoned.

                                  Our service at the bar was great: friendly and attentive. I agree with all the praise for this place - definitely hitting all its marks; really a paragon of a great neighborhood restaurant. Probably my new favorite place in that area.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: MichaelB

                                    The seasonal collins currently has concord grapes and rosemary. It's tasty, but I think I liked the summer strawberry one a bit better. Still, I love that they change it up.

                                    Thanks for the fry update! :)

                                    1. re: maillard

                                      Grapes and rosemary? Ha! Awesome. M'lady made some grape rosemary jam this summer. It... well, it didn't last very long. I'll have to try and get over there for one before it, too, is gone.