Archive for August, 2008

August 31st, 2008

The birth of a bar

About an hour after I wrote yesterday’s post confirming the sale of the B-Side Lounge to western-Mass. beer bar proprietor Daniel Lanigan, I walked into Deep Ellum only to find Lanigan sitting at the bar.

He confirmed my hopes: his new enterprise will indeed emulate Deep Ellum. So, the cocktails are staying, and they’ll be joined by 40 tap lines of the good craft beer that have made his other bars beloved.

One thing Lanigan wanted to make clear is that this is not a hostile takeover. The B-Side was for sale, and he bought it. He didn’t say what the name of the new place would be and didn’t have an exact date for the change of hands, but it was clear that he is thrilled to finally open a bar in the Boston area.

Posted in Boston bars | 6 Comments »

August 30th, 2008

The death of a lounge

B-Side Lounge detailI was respectfully holding off reporting about the B-Side Lounge‘s imminent closing, but the news is more-or-less officially out. Boston-area dining critic (and drinkboston contributor) MC Slim JB started a thread about the matter on Chowhound last week. On Thursday, the Globe’s Dishing blog broached the subject.

It is true that the B-Side is being sold. The buyer is apparently Daniel Lanigan, who has long been seeking a Boston-area spot for a sibling to the two western-Mass. beer bars he owns: the Moan and Dove in Amherst and the Dirty Truth in Northampton. As far as I know, the date for the switchover has not yet been set, though the word is that it could take another month … or two or three.

People have reacted strongly to this news, and rightly so. The B-Side is a great bar — great cocktails, great bartenders, great vibe. Not only that, the B-Side is solely responsible for reviving the classic cocktail in Boston. There are at least a half-dozen places around the city where you can get, say, an Aviation. In 1998, there was only one. I join the many mourners who will grieve when the B-Side gives its last last call.

That said, the bar on the corner of Windsor and Hampshire streets in Cambridge is not going to be occupied, as some commenters have anxiously speculated, by ‘some lame sports bar.’ Lanigan’s beer bars are pretty kick-ass, with a vibe every bit as genuine as that of the B-Side. Scott and I make a point of drinking at the Moan and Dove whenever we’re out that way. I have only one request for the new proprietor: Daniel, I now you’ve been to Deep Ellum, which is the first beer bar in Boston to also serve classic cocktails. Make yours the second bar to do this, and I think we’ll all be happy (eventually).

I’ll post updates on the switch from B-Side to beer bar as they come my way. And stay tuned for a “save the date” for an informal drinkboston gathering there.

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Posted in Boston bars | 11 Comments »

August 26th, 2008

Drink, Boston

Fort Point Channel

It’s funny. Back in March, I went to a cocktail class at Stir, chef Barbara Lynch’s teaching kitchen. Somebody asked our host, bartender John Gertsen, when Lynch’s new seaport-district bar was opening and what its name would be. I don’t know if Gertsen knew at the time what name had been chosen and was just being secretive, or if he just understands his boss really well, because he said something like, ‘Well, knowing Barbara, she’ll probably name it what it is,’ and threw in a reference to Occam’s Razor for good effect.

So I wasn’t surprised when I read this post on Boston.com’s Dishing blog. Just as Lynch named No. 9 Park after its street address, the oyster bar she opened with her former business partner Garrett Harker B&G Oysters, her meat-and-charcuterie-lover’s bistro the Butcher Shop, and her teaching kitchen Stir, she has anointed her new bar Drink.

Whether you like the name or not, this “first installment of chef Barbara Lynch’s Fort Point project” is going to totally kick ass. Bet on it. Think vintage glassware and seltzer-water siphons, 1950s-inspired canapes and “rock star” bartenders (including Gertsen) — all with an attitude and in a workshop-like atmosphere that are decidedly non-precious. Mmmm, refreshing. They’re shooting for a debut of September 15. See you there.

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Posted in Boston bars | 9 Comments »

August 20th, 2008

Doyle’s Café – Best Boston bars

Doyle’s Café

Established: 1882
Specialty: Beer
Prices: Low to moderate
Atmosphere: The oldest Irish pub in Boston, established long before Irish pubs became cute. Jamaica Plain inhabitants of various stripes drink Guinness and Sam surrounded by a living timeline of WWII-era artifacts and shrines to Boston pols from Mayor Curley to Mayor Menino. See Best Boston bars for address and contact info.

“Authentic” is mostly an empty buzzword these days, but it’s the best word to describe Doyle’s Café, which celebrated its 125th birthday last year. The only way this neighborhood saloon could be more authentic is if people could still smoke in there. The Olde Tyme Kitsch that some pubs pile on to make it look like they’ve been around for a while is so commonplace that, when you go to Doyle’s, you have to remind yourself: ‘Hey, that’s a real WWII Buy a Bond poster. That linoleum has been eroding from the hardwood floor since the mid-’50s. And that portrait of JFK has been hanging there since ’61.’ It’s understandable why scenes from several Boston-themed movies and TV shows have been filmed here.

And then there’s the political memorabilia. That began to appear around 1971, when the brothers of Gerry Burke, who was working for Boston Mayor (and Doyle’s patron) Kevin White, bought the bar from the Doyle brothers. The Burke and Doyle families had long been acquainted, most notably when Gerry’s grandfather supplied Doyle’s with bootleg liquor during its speakeasy days. Now owned by Gerry Burke, Jr., Doyle’s has expanded over the years, and two of its dining areas are named after John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and Mayor Thomas “Mumbles” Menino, the latter of whom was a Doyle’s customer before his days on Beacon Hill. In fact, Doyle’s is so passionate a custodian of Boston politicians’ legacies that it has actually put out a series of historical pamphlets on the city’s mayors from Honey Fitz onward.

Doyle’s boasts of having a wide variety of draft beer, including sample kegs of new brews from the nearby Sam Adams pilot brewery (Boston Beer Co.), plus cask ale. However, the last couple of times I visited, there was no experimental Sam and nothing on cask. And I found the overall selection of domestic craft beers pretty underwhelming compared to what’s available in Boston’s better beer bars. A Guinness and a shot of Irish whiskey is your best bet. I have never eaten here, but the fact that they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner every day (brunch on Saturdays and Sundays) is remarkable given that few neighborhood pubs do that anymore. Doyle’s is about a mile across town from JP’s newer, hipper drinking establishments. Start here and work your way there. Or vice versa.

Check out two Jamaica Plain Historical Society articles on Doyle’s.

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Posted in Boston bars | 6 Comments »

August 14th, 2008

USA, PBR and you

Pabst sign hanging by a threadBy Scott N. Howe

I know that many drinkboston readers are not above downing a watery, low-rent beer from time to time, and I’ve seen, first-hand, how many of our area’s top bartenders consistently go for the gusto of a Schlitz, Bud or PBR when their work is done (a.k.a. Miller Time).

Which brings us to the recent high-profile hijacking of America’s own Anheuser-Busch by those Belgian bullies at InBev. Does it matter to you that the all-American brand is now just a piece in the portfolio of some multinational conglomerate? Pabst Blue Ribbon sure thinks it does. Recently, the folks at PBR sent out an e-mail questionnaire asking drinkers if it mattered where their beer was brewed and by whom, all the while subtly suggesting that PBR was the one and only defense against the hordes of sudsy foreign-owned invaders. Kinda silly, if you ask me.

Look, we all know that in the booze world, perception can trump taste, and perception is certainly the driving force behind the lawnmower beer revival. The taste differences between PBR, High Life, Schlitz, ‘Gansett, et al. are small. (Try a blind taste test. I did.) What’s large, however, is brand loyalty, or, in the case of these retro beers, anti-brand loyalty. For example, PBR became an underground hit with hipsters not because of taste but because of stealth marketing, nostalgia, and low, low prices. Oh, the perception that Pabst is some kind of kindly, mom-and-pop operation, unlike Mega-Bud, didn’t hurt either.

That said, do you really know your retro beer of choice? And, do you have any idea what value-priced swills are cleverly vying for your kitschy beer dollar?

Let us know how you feel about all this — that is if you’re brave enough to admit that you drink these beers in the first place.

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Posted in Beer, Booze in the news | 20 Comments »

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