EPIC ROADTRIP: BOSTON
Written & pHOTOGRAPHed BY a.j. mESSIER
aS SEEN IN 2015 ISSUE OF tHE fOURTH pERIOD mAGAZINE
Teaming up with this magazine’s Editor, David Pagnotta, our journey to one of the NHL’s Original Six markets started one very cold Tuesday morning in January from downtown Toronto with the GPS pointing us East, in the direction of the Boston Bruins.
The Westin Copley Place was about an eight-hour drive. No sweat. In five nights and six days, we visited 17 different purveyors of the finest food and liquors in and around the Boston area, attended three Bruins games, one Celtics game, a Bruins Practice out in Wilmington, and conducted two separate photo shoots with some of the Bruins’ players. To say were we saw a lot would be a complete fallacy, but what we saw exactly what we set out for.
We ate, we drank, and we watched hockey. To simplify things, here is breakdown of each and every bar and restaurant we visited during our first Epic Roadtrip.
The Westin Copley Place
10 Huntington Place, Back Bay
If you’re spending the night here, located in the lobby on the second floor of the hotel, Bar10 is a great place to meet up for some mixed nuts and a cold glass of Sam Adams, because, you know, when on a roadtrip with a bunch of guys, there is always one guy who needs more time shaving his balls than others. I love hotel bars, and they love me.
NHL Game - Bruins 4-Lighting 3
Recap of the Game:
David Pastrnak lit the lamp twice giving him four goals in his eighth game of his rookie campaign. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, still with gloves on, one-punch KO’s Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette late in the affair. Meanwhile, up in press row, I stop and say hello to former NHL referee and recent Hall of Famer Bill McCreary and notice that he has a weakness for Peanut M&M’s. Me too.
ONYX Hotel Boston
155 Portland Street, West End
Only a few blocks from the rink on Portland, we made our way to the Ruby Room on a recommendation of a friend. I would argue this is not your average pre- or post-game destination, but the seared tuna might change your post-game ritual. We also shared -- yes, shared -- one of their signature pizza’s, the BBQ Chicken, and washed it down with none other than Tramp Stamp Belgian Indian Pale Ale crafted by Clown Shoes Beer Co. out of Ipswich, MA. I’d got back for the tuna any time of day... probably after the game with a lovely lady on my arm.
Porters Bar & Grill
173 Portland Street, West End
Just next door to the ONYX hotel and the Ruby Room, we actually walked by it after the game and looked in and thought it looked like a fun post-game place. Unfortunately, for us, we walked in about an hour late and the place was a ghost town. Granted, it was a Tuesday night in mid-January, and apparently Porters Bar attracts people that actually have a day job. It does have about 11 beers on tap, most local and craft beer minus the token Sam Adams and Guinness taps, of course. Definitely a sports bar for the craft beer drinking hipster with a job in you.
Times Irish Pub
112 Broad Street
This was shoot day with Patrice Bergeron, so we weren’t looking for much other than a quick bite to eat somewhere close to the Boston Harbor Hotel. Well, you can’t get much closer than the Times Irish Bar. Thanks to Joe’s (read below) glowing recommendation, I tried my first bowl of New England clam chowder. For all you that have enjoyed it for years, need I say more? What have I been missing, especially growing up with all my family in the New England area? I should be ashamed of myself! The buttery, creamy goodness in that bowl will be something I seek a few more times before the end of this adventure. The onion rings were not a letdown, in the least, and the Guinness tasted like I was at St. James Gate drinking it right from the brewery.
The Black Rose
160 State Street, Faneuil Hall
Following our shoot, David from Boston Tourism wanted to show us the historic Faneuil Hall area of the waterfront, complete with the old City Hall of which he pointed to down the street as we walked into The Black Rose. A typical Irish style pub, and due to its location in Boston’s financial district, I assume at the right time of day would be hopping with suits drinking Guinness, standing on tables with their ties around their foreheads. I am starting to think there is a direct from St. James Gate to Boston because this Guinness somehow tasted fresher than the one at Times Irish Pub... or maybe I’m getting drunk?
Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Quincy Market, South
No stay in Boston is complete without a stop at good ol’ Cheers, where everybody knows you name. Located in Quincy Market and around the corner from The Black Rose, it has a replica u-shaped bar and cut outs of Norm and Cliff in the corner that people are encouraged to take photos with. Alas, I’m not drunk enough to take a photo with them, but did witness Dave have a conversation with Cliff for a good five minutes, which amused me more than I can write. Dave just bought Cliff a drink, I think he might be getting drunk.
Clarke’s at Faneuil Hall
21 Merchant’s Row, Faneuil Hall
Our last stop, and its not even 5 p.m. yet, was across the street to Clarke’s, simple bar where there is a mixture of regulars sitting at the bar while a few tables of suits are scattered throughout the spacious rectangular space. The bartender, with her piercing blue eyes and jet-black hair, made me happy enough to stay there all night, but we had reservations at 7 p.m. on our only night without a sports game to attend. At this point, Dave and I were starting to settle in a bit too much; if we stayed for another drink, we would be here all night and I might be getting down on a bended knee before midnight, so we left and headed back to our hotel to freshen/sober up.
Jerry Remy’s Seaport
250 Northern Ave, Seaport
We walked into Jerry Remy’s in the Seaport area and were reminded of a squeaky clean sports bar that was planned perfectly from the very start of its creation. Named after the famed Red Sox announcer, Jerry Remy’s has four locations, one of course being in the historic Fenway neighbourhood of Boston. The crowd was young and vibrant, and the atmosphere matched its clientele. We watched a Celtics game, along with two different NHL games while dinning on some of the best marinated (only way to have them) sirloin tips I have ever had. It’s a well planned sports bar, with a TV in plain view no matter which way you are facing. Seeing as though we were there at night in the dead of January, I can only imagine the summertime view from Remy’s patio looking back over the harbour towards Boston’s downtown.
Temazcal Tequila Cantina
250 Northern Ave, Seaport
Jerry Remy’s neighbour and sister bar, and literally only a stumble away, the Temazcal Tequila Cantina offers over 250 different kinds of tequila. Michael, the manager from Remy’s, brought us over to help wash down our dinner and show us another new addition to Boston’s Seaport District. From Partida Blanco to Edicion 1800, Jazmine took great care of our tequila needs... so much so that by the time I walked out of there, I was speaking full on Mexican (kidding, I think).
535 Boylston St., Back Bay
Holy shit, last night got outta hand! Thank you, Jazmine. I think? It’s 1 p.m. and I’m only now getting out of bed. I don’t think I have slept this late since high school and I drank a bottle Long Island Iced Tea without any mix. I need something, and something close. I stroll out of the hotel and stumble across Copley Square to Trinity Church for some divine intervention… and then it happened as if it was a direct message from the Big Man himself: the Patriot Bagel from Finagle Bagel. Sometimes, you don’t need to spend $100 to be satisfied. Sometimes, all you need is a piece of American processed cheese on top of a thin, overcooked piece of steak, throw a fried egg on top and place in between a toasted everything-bagel. Hallelujah! Best $4 I spent on this trip.
166 Canal Street, West End
Now this is a sports bar! From the exterior to the interior, The Fours represents everything Boston boasts about its winning ways. From the street, looking in the windows, all you see is black and gold and Celtic-green. Jersey’s, not suit jackets, are the dress code. I was recommended to go here by long time Boston team photographer Brian Babineau, who said “you gotta try the chicken nachos and the chowda.” Both were out of this world and a great base for our upcoming consumption of brown pops. Dave decided to give the sirloin tips for his main, while I had to dip into their famous sandwich menu and ordered the Doug Flutie, a breaded chicken breast the size of a CFL football drenched in Buffalo sauce and served in a Kaiser that you could barely see. It was perfect, although I did a have strong urge to order the Number 4, Bobby Orr, instead, but I would have to settle for that another time, another game.
NHL Game-Bruins 3-Rangers 0
Recap of the Game:
Pretty boring game, although I’m sure Tuukka Rask would not agree (30 saves). So boring that I noticed the Bruins still have a goal judge behind the net -- whether he does anything official in determining a goal is something I will have to do further research on. I went back to candy dispenser and filled up on Peanut M&M’s and Mike & Ike’s while sipping on some lukewarm coffee. I also hit the desert cart for some carrot cake wedges that had more icing than cake -- exactly the way I like it!
222 Friend St., West End
North Star is one block from the Garden and is a hole-in-the-wall kinda place that’s perfect for after the game. Ambience is zero, food is unnecessary, and the tables are limited. The interior is painted black, which I assume it is to hide the dirt it has accumulated over the years, or to match the sea of Bruins jerseys dancing on the dance floor shortly after walking in the door. From the very moment you step in, to the moment you leave, you can’t help but feel like you’re on spring break with a bunch of bears that are on leave from the zoo. No matter your age, or sex, if you can pick up the opposite sex with your face painted with a giant-B and a jersey hiding your pear-shaped body, you know you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. Needless to say, this pear-shaped critic was far too cool, or far too sober, to step out and shake my bootie on the Flo! As for the bartenders, like every bar you visit on spring break, there is always one that steals the show. Here, there were three of them. Jaw, meet floor.
Bull McCabe’s Pub
366 A Union Square, Somerville
Possibly the surprise of the trip. I was told there was nothing good in Somerville. To start, our taxi driver, Phillip, after hearing the beats pouring out of Bull McCabe’s upon dropping us off, parked his taxi and came inside to join us for a beer and some of the best reggae this side of the Charles. The bar didn’t fit many, possibly 60, at most, but there wasn’t one hipster acting too cool to not feel the groove, Dave and I included. The smell of medicinal marijuana permeated through the bar as the most unique-looking, ass kicking reggae band played its reggae-funk fusion to a happy crowd of thirty something’s on a rather unassuming Thursday night.
1357 Cambridge St., Cambridge
I barely remember this part of the evening, except the entire time I was hoping that Minnie Driver from Good Will Hunting would walk through and I would pop Will in the nose and steal the heart and hand of Minnie while yelling at Matt Damon on the ground “How about dem Apples!” Our end of the night highlight easily might have been one for the books if not for a man, a philosopher, an off-duty taxi driver, and self-proclaimed drunk, Reilly O’Reilly. For real, that was his name. I can’t tell you what he said, because I actually don’t remember, but I know we waited for a taxi for a good 20 minutes while he shared various anecdotes that made absolutely no sense.
553 Main Street, Tewksbury
Following our second photo shoot with the Bruins, The Fourth Period’s Boston writer Shawn Hutcheon suggested we hit a local sports bar in Tewksbury. What seemed to be 30 minutes later and in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go (downtown Boston), we ended at a non-descript strip mall with what looked to be possibly the worst food choice of our road trip, thus far. This is one of those moments one should never judge a menu by its cover. With all the regulars sitting around the u-shaped bar in the far end of this rather large bar, our waitress walked our way and said the magical words any sports-loving hungry male dreams of hearing, “We have 50-cent wings on right now.” I was in love. It was all over. My eyes went blurry and I couldn’t even make out anything else on the menu. Twenty wings? No problem at 3 p.m., with a side of steak-and-egg rolls. Dave followed suit and we ate what were some of the biggest wings I’ve seen since probably the early-90s when 20-cent wings were all the rage. A great sports bar when it’s hoping, with lots of room, lots of TVs, and a friendly vibe that goes a long way to this beer-drinking, wing-eating sports fan.
NBA-Bulls 119-Celtics 103
Recap of the Game:
Our seats were front row floor, behind the Celtics bench, which generally would be one of the best seats in the house if basketball was played by hobbits and not 7-foot men. The Celtics should have played fellow-Canadian Kelly Olynyk (14 PTS-9 Reb) more and the game might have a bit closer, but good god, Derrick Rose (29 PTS-10 Ass) is that much better than anyone the Celtics could put on the floor. Best line of the trip was uttered by none other than TFP Senior Writer Dennis Bernstein: “That move was weaker than the Canadian dollar!”
166 Canal Street, West End
Another go round at The Fours following the Celts game. A little bit quieter than the North Star the night before, but that has never stopped us before. This time, I went with the Bobby Orr, which is mouth-watering sirloin tips with melted American Cheese served on a Kaiser and chowda on the side. The boys split the chicken nachos while we tried to get on the pace we were the past two nights. This Boston roadtrip was becoming a war of attrition between our minds and our bodies, and usually at this stage the body wins and you just have to call it a night. Not this body! Not this time! As the bar filled up with a different crowd than the night before, I could see that Dave was on my level. And just as we thought we were gonna call it quits with the food sweats, I suggested we go down to Clarke’s to see my tattooed beauty (for the record, she has no idea who I am) slinging drinks. Aaaannnddd the night quickly turned into morning.
Clarke’s at Faneuil Hall
21 Merchant’s Row, Faneuil Hall
Much different of a place on a Friday evening at midnight: a little rowdy, a little racy, and a little dirty. My little tattooed, dark haired beauty was not behind the bar, but the ladies from the Bruins Foundation where there to make the evening not a total loss. Van Morrison played over the speakers and I do think at one point I was singing Brown Eyed Girl at the top of my lungs to a blue-eyed boy. Don’t ask.
361 Boylston St., Back Bay
The Parish Cafe is located only a few blocks from the Boston Copley and a stone’s throw from the Boston Common on Boylston. I discovered it on Thursday when I was in search of some grease to ease my tequila hangover. I brought the boys for brunch and as soon as I walked in I knew this mad genius found the greatest hole-in-the-wall restaurant. There was about a 20-minute wait, which on another given day I would laugh and walk away, but not on this day, because they serve alcohol in line while you wait. Why that isn’t a mandate for every restaurant is beyond me. I’m not condoning drinking, but I am condoning drinking while waiting in line. There is a great difference. It’s like being in a conga line on a cruise ship! After about 20 minutes and two Bloody Mary’s, we were asked if we would like to sit. I asked if we could eat in line. We could not. We were starving and feeling slightly buzzed. Food would be a must if we were to make it through our last evening in Beantown. Our waitress was lovely, a student from up-state New York who works at the Cafe only when she comes to town to visit her boyfriend that goes to BU. I asked her if the meatloaf club was as good as it sounds. She rolled her eyes, so I got the club. Dave went with the rialto, thinly sliced prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and basil pesto on Texas toast with a garlic oil rub. We both were in sandwich heaven. I’m sure the three days of unadulterated drinking made the sandwich taste as good as that first PB&J sandwich you had as a kid. The helpings were generous, the dishes unique, and the atmosphere was pretty lively for around 1 p.m. on a Saturday.
223 Hanover Street, North End
We saved the best for last, Ray Bourque’s restaurant, located in the North End of Boston, in the heart of the Italian neighbourhood of the West End and only a few blocks from the TD Garden. This is a very nice restaurant and to be honest, not exactly the place we should be dragging our grubby asses into after four days out on the town eating and drinking to our hearts’ content. It’s always nice to add an element of civility to a rather barbaric roadtrip, so we were appreciative of them not turning us away at the door. This is the kind of place you have your engagement party (and yes, we witnessed a couple get engaged), or perhaps celebrate your anniversary or graduation. The atmosphere is dimly lit, it’s quiet and most of the people are having polite and pleasant conversations. The service was top notch, from the moment we took that last sip of wine or water, our glasses were topped. Like I told the waiter early on, after you bring the first one, I will require another every seven minutes. After all, it was our last night. Dave had said a few nights prior that I had to try the Arancini at Tresca, so I did. We also went with the veal meatballs and truffled Caesar salad. The Arancini was actually better a few nights before at Jerry Remy’s, but the meatballs and the Caesar were excellent. Who doesn’t like truffles? I’m not gonna lie, I am a simple man and when I see margherita pizza or bolognese on a menu, it is very hard for me not to order one of them. I went with a small plate of the bolognese. My only mistake of the week was going with the small. Dennis opted for the beef tenderloin and Dave chose the ricotta gnocchi. By the end of dinner, we were all slumped over in our chairs like we had been whacked by Whitey Bulger at some point in our feeding frenzy. I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it to the game, let alone go out afterwards, but when there is a will, there’s a way.
NHL Game-Blue Jackets 3-Bruins 1
Recap of the Game:
To end our Boston roadtrip, the hometown Bruins ended their six-game winning streak with a no-show loss to Columbus. Matt Calvert scored a pair in the Jackets’ victory and London, Ontario, native Curtis McElhinney outdueled Rask between the pipes on this evening. Our trip ends with Boston teams 2-2 with us in the house. I didn’t hit the candy or desert carts this game for obvious reasons, although I did put some Mike & Ike’s in my pocket for later.
West End Johnnies
138 Portland St., West End
This was our last hooray in Beantown, our last forgotten memory of a fairly eventful five-day Epic Roadtrip. What does any of this have to do with West End Johnnies? Absolutely nothing, and to be honest, I don’t really remember much of this bar. I can’t even pretend, except I know at one point Dave was singing, I was standing at the bar talking up a bartender, and I’m pretty sure Dennis was reading the NHL results on his phone. It was definitely a Saturday night party, and we felt like the party was for us. Definitely a college hot spot on a Saturday night, checking off the final box that allowed us to hit every demographic Boston has to offer in one full day.
By the time checkout rolled around, Dave and I had given up hope that we were going to get tickets for the Colts/Patriots game later that afternoon. To be honest, I don’t think we could have made even if we were given freebies. I slugged myself out of bed around 11 a.m. and gave Dave a call to see if he was still alive and if Dennis got to the airport without a hitch. Dave was alive, barely, Dennis was in the air, we assumed, and it was sadly time to hit the road. We said goodbye to the Westin staff who had become almost family the past five days, grabbed Dave’s car and headed for the county line. Five minutes in, even before we had hit the Mass Turnpike, Dave’s shot gun was fast asleep. We had about eight hours of driving ahead of us and I thought I might as well get mine in while I can. And I did.