There are myriad bars you can go to if you just want a decent atmosphere and drinks. On a recent trip to Boston, however, I learned there are many bars that are more than they appear on the outside. On your next trip to the city, make sure to check out some of these bars and restaurants that transport you to other places.
500A Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
The Hotel Commonwealth is a great home base for bar hopping, as it houses three of the best classic cocktail bars in the city. However, its newest venue, The Hawthorne, takes this one step further by creating an ambiance of sophisticated comfort. As you walk in, you’ll immediately be transported to an upscale urban apartment. Oversized couches, wingback chairs, highly curated art and photography and jam-packed bookshelves transform this cocktail lounge into feeling like a classy cocktail party. Look closer at one of the bookcases, and you’ll notice it’s not just books in there, but some of Bar Manager Jackson Cannon’s favorite things, like his favorite spirits line and personal glassware. You can tell they pay attention to detail at The Hawthorne, and this continues to the bar, where Head Bartender Nicole Lebedevitch and staff craft classic cocktails with the precision of a scientist. Expect international and hard-to-find spirits and ingredients.
What To Drink: A “Phil Collins,” which has cucumber vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, yellow chartreuse and dash of cranberry bitters, or a “Dutch Oven,” made with Barrel Aged Bols Genever, 2 sugar cubes, 3 dashes regans orange bitters and soda water.
Island Creek Oyster Bar
500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
Also located at the Hotel Commwealth is Island Creek Oyster Bar (ICOB), which is a “collaboration joining farmer, chef, and diner in one space.” The restaurant brings elements of the Island Creek Oyster Farm in Duxbury to restaurant guests, without any mess. In fact, ICOB is designed in a pristine white, with Gabion cages filled with tens of thousands of oyster shells making the three-dimensional walls. Additionally, reclaimed Wyoming snow fence is used to create the shutters, and wood from a restored Vermont farmhouse has been refurbished to build the wainscoting. When ordering from the menu, you’ll notice the names of small farms, each specializing in aquaculture, carefully listed next to each dish. This bar also takes a classic cocktail way of thinking, but with a local and seasonally inspired twist.
What To Drink: A “Snug Harbor Mash,” featuring crushed lime, Rich Demerara and ICOB’s house 4 Rum Blend, or an “ICOB Pilsner,” an exclusive pilsner brewed with jasmine and orange peel, and designed to be the ideal accompaniment to fried fare and shellfish.
The Back Deck
2 West Street, Boston
At the Back Deck, guests are transported to a backyard barbeque, although with more polish than sitting at a splintered picnic table. The design of the venue brings the outdoors inside, featuring three distinct backyard-inspired deck spaces bordered by walls of sliding floor-to-ceiling windows. Chefs employ the use of three high quality grills, The Woodshow Broiler, the restaurant’s biggest grill, The Montague Charcoal Broiler, used for “low and slow” cooked items and Mt. St. Helens Shallow-Box Charbroiler, the professional version of the charcoal grill. Only Hardwood charcoal is used, as it gives the cuisine a rich, smoky flavor and also allows food to sear better and stick less. At the bar, refreshing punches and coolers will transport you to summer, no matter what season it is.
What To Drink: A “West St. Cooler,” which contains watermelon, Ragged Mountain Rum, a hint of Aperol and a splash of soda, or a “Ginger Arnold Palmer,” made with lemonade and iced tea spiked with Berkshire Bourbon and a touch of Canton ginger.
Uni Sashimi Bar
370 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
While most sushi restaurants can help give you a quick Japanese experience, Uni Sashimi Bar will immerse you in all the country has to offer and more. In an intimate space, guests can enjoy innovative sashimi, a range of traditional Asian street food items and late-night Ramen. In fact, their fresh seafood is shipped overnight from Tokyo’s Tskuji market. Diners can sample famous street food items like pork belly steam buns and vegetable tempura. While you can order typical Japanese dishes and chefs incorporate traditional sushi practices, they also put an avant-garde twist on many of the selections, like combining salmon with fermented black beans and ginger, or Japanese Striped Bass with chestnut ash, roasted Brussel sprout leaves and pickled kumquats. At the bar, expect an extensive Sake menu, with headings like “traditional,” “seasonal,” “rich” and “fragrant.” Sake cocktails, Asian-inspired drinks and fusion libations are also on the menu.
What To Drink: “Sun Rising,” a mixture of Yamazaki 12 whiskey, plum sake, pear sake, Cherry Heering, orange juice and lemon juice, or “Young’s Sangria,” made with plum sake, pear sake, Churchill white port, lime juice and orange juice.
Union Oyster House
41 Union Street, Boston
While you’ll still be in a restaurant, Union Oyster House leaves guests overwhelmed with nostalgia as they dine in America’s oldest restaurant in continuous service. Established in 1826 as a restaurant, the building itself has stood as an iconic Boston landmark for over 250 years. Diners can still enjoy Union Oyster House‘s heritage, and take a peek back in time with old-fashioned tavern decor, dim lighting, weathered wood, old newspaper clippings and photographs, timeless portraits and antique furnishings. You’ll get cornbread with every meal, lobsters right from the tank, heaping bowls of chowder and fresh seafood cooked just as it was years ago, without any fancy fusion or modern spinning. At the bar, they have an impressive selection of beers, which you can sip in a laid-back atmosphere while slurping back some oysters. This is where you’ll get the best service, and where you can watch shuckers in action while hearing their stories about life in Boston and the history of the restaurant.
What To Drink: The “Sam Adams Colonial Ale.” This American Amber beer has a malty flavor, notes of caramel and pairs well with seafood.
PARK Restaurant & Bar
59 JFK Street, Cambridge
Located in the Greater Boston Area, PARK Restaurant & Bar will make you believe you’re in an antique parlor. With vintage curios like antique typewriters, artwork and photography from the ’60s and ’70s, first edition books and local maps from the turn of the century, their cocktail den retains the atmosphere of your eccentric uncle’s sophisticated parlor room. The menu is comprised of “spirited interpretations of New American classics” like the “Meat Pie of the Day” and the “PARK Patty Melt.” To compliment the theme, the bar operates under a classic cocktail philosophy, using homemade syrups, infusions, tonics and bitters to make new and old favorites.
What To Drink: “The Fireside Poet,” which is a blend of Bulleit Bourbon, Creole Shrubb, Santa Maria del Monte and Marasche Syrup or the “Old Cuban,” which has Barbancourt 5 Star Rum, Lime, Simple, Angostura Bitters, Mint and Cava.
Do you have a favorite bar in Boston that transports you to another place?