Where do you people-gaze?
What are your favorite atmospheric restaurants/bars/lounges? Can be atmosphere of any kind: Old gents squiring younger dames, paper-livered journos hustling wizened pols, glossy cougars prowling for beaus, dedicated drinkers, down-and-out hustlers, glam-time playboys, local toughies, sassy ladies, local heroes? Share your favorite places to sit back and watch.
After reading your posts for at least a year I am convinced it must be a total blast to hang out with you.
Mr. Swank is a lucky cat
What a fantastic and well versed question!
Bristol Lounge 4S - I love sitting at a sofa and sharing a caesar salad and a burger, or a bowl of strawberries and whipped cream or just some warm nuts and a martini while watching the comings and goings.
Cafe Bella Randolph - I love to sit at the bar, which is usually loaded with regulars, and often a friendly group, but not over friendly. The comings and goings in the restaurant range from blue collar to white collar to date night to get togethers to hustlers and escorts.
Brasserie Jo - a seat at a corner of the bar sipping a martini and munching on horseradish carrots, watching the comings and goings of after work white collar suits, theatre goers, tourists
In Memorium - I miss the Quiet Man in Southie. That had some good local color!
Well that's a start. I look forward to watching this thread develop.
I don't think anything will top the late, lamented Burke's on Mission Hill for people-watching. My father worked there for a couple of decades, and when I was little he'd sometimes take me with him when he opened in the afternoons. I still remember the place, and the people, so vividly. Even as a kid I was fascinated by it all.
Fortunately, it seems wherever I sit at a bar I end up witnessing something entertaining. Russell House (downstairs) is good for watching wanky students try to impress each other. For instance, there was the time I saw a guy send a drink down the bar to two girls (yes, *a* drink, to *two* girls), and then when nothing came of it, wander down to start lecturing them on the history of the cocktail and wait for them to swoon away at his feet. It was a sight to behold. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, though: this was the same git who I'd heard early in the night wax rhapsodic about the famous noir author Raymond "Shhhhannnndlairrrr". It's "Chandler", kid. And you're from Acton. You're fooling no one.
Or try the bar at Regina in the North End, where the combination of the awesome staff and whatever sport is on the tele seems to be able to magic everyone into chatting to each other even if you'd had absolutely no intention of or interest in doing so. I've fallen victim to this myself more times than I can count, and even on my most introverted days I never feel uncomfortable or pressured into it. I swear they lace the Peroni with Friendly Juice.
I'm also a fan of sitting quietly at the Druid and seeing what I can pick up. The mix of people it attracts means that there is always a good story being told. And they make a mean extra-extra-extra-extra-hot bloody Mary that is so good it steps out of the brunch-drink relegation, and if they like you they'll chuck in some of their special pickled carrots too. Not a bad way to kill a couple of hours.
You've made me realize why I'm missing some of my favorite bar seats around the area. People watching is part of the fun of being in some of these place.
I'll second the Bristol Lounge and raise the gang the cafe/bar at Bistro du Midi. Both draw a wide selection of people you could drop into a cozy mystery as colorful details.
The bar at Hamersley's Bistro has that great mix of neighborhood regulars, people meeting someone there, people trying this great restaurant on a trip to Boston and the wonderful parade of people and dogs passing by outside the big window on the park area.
The dining bar at Island Creek Oyster Bar give you a great view of the room and the smooth precision of the staff as the shuck, measure, mix, shake, and interact with everyone.
I love watching the many, many Pho eating styles at Pho Basil cafe on Mass Ave. Order a bowl, sit back and try out some of the skills you see around you.
Finally the downstairs bar at Trident Booksellers Cafe. You can always have an interesting hour people watching from one of those seats. I love meeting people there because I can arrive a bit early and enjoy the show.
The paunchy suit / cantilevered gold-digger tango, and its modern inversion, the cougar / himbo pas de deux, is in full effect at most downtown luxury steakhouse bars and five-star hotel bars. Capital Grill, M Bar, Clink, Abe & Louie's, Grill 23, those awful InterContinental bars, those dreadful chain outlets in the Seaport like Del Frisco's. Rowes Wharf Bar seems to be a favored spot for what I speculate are illicit trysts, as it is conveniently located, upmarket, yet sort of hidden.
re: MC Slim JB
The same tango/pas de deux can be seen nightly at the bar at Mistral. (Don't forget to order the off-the-menu burger if you score a seat.)
On an entirely separate note, Thursday night "Queeraoke" at the Midway in JP is a must to see its wonderful combination of mostly 20-something lesbians and townies who just want to sing!
I tend to have no class (well, maybe a little), so my favorite people-watching is at places like Cronin's Publick House in Quincy, Santarpio's and Kelley Square Pub in Eastie, and the Newbridge Cafe in Chelsea.
A favorite moment at one of the above (not saying where):
"What'll you guys have?"
[Customer rattles off a series of numbers, waiter leaves]
One-offs, perhaps, but I don't think so....Jimmy's in Arlington at the bar mid-week for chatting up personable and lovable local characters. Masa Woburn at the bar, once again, mid-week - we sat next to a group of Firefighters celebrating a promotion. Their convivial spirit was infectious. That's the kind of "gazing" I love - not witnessing train-wrecks, which is too Access Hollywood-y and cynical for me - but interacting with some truly interesting people. That, to me, is the value of a good bar.