There are dozens and dozens of pubs to choose from in Boston, some of which predate the American Revolution! Boston pubs here have great stories and character, and fortunately you’re never far from one, no matter which neighborhood you’re in. These are my 10 favorite pubs in Boston, grouped by neighborhood. As you explore the city, no doubt you’ll come up with your own list.
While Boston is liberal in many ways, it isn’t with its liquor laws. Last call is usually around 1 a.m., with bars closing before 2 a.m. The subway closes around 12:30 a.m., so if you’re out late, you’ll need to walk or take a cab. Smokers should note that Boston has prohibited smoking indoors at restaurants and bars, so be prepared to head outside to light up.
1. There are a lot of bars and pubs in the touristy area of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, but the Green Dragon is almost a required stop for those who want a pint and some history on the side. Opened in 1654, the bar was a hangout for the likes of Paul Revere and John Hancock. There’s usual pub fare and live music four nights a week. 11 Marshall St., tel. 617-367-0055. www.somerspubs.com
The Black Rose offers great music and food nightly.
2. The Black Rose, a newcomer by Boston standards at just over 30 years old, is nonetheless quite popular. It offers up live music every night of the week, as well as delicious fish and chips. It’s a bustling place, often packed with tourists, but it still draws in locals for its casual atmosphere. 160 State St., tel. 617-742-2286. www.irishconnection.com
3. JJ Foley’s, established in 1909, has long been a favorite of newspaper reporters and police officers, as well as politicians. You never know who you might run into here. With dim lights and a great jukebox, it’s usually packed. 117 E. Berkeley St., tel. 617-728-9101. www.jjfoleyscafe.com
4. Solas, located in the Lenox Hotel, is an unlikely contender for a favorite pub, but I adore the curry chips here and frankly, once inside, you’d never know you were in a hotel bar. Dark wood, comfy booths, and a local crowd make it a fun spot to unwind. 710 Boylston St., tel. 617-933-4803. www.solasboston.com
Doyle’s mahogany bar dates back to 1882.
5. Cornwall’s is the antidote to some of the higher-end bars and sports bars around Fenway Park. The dark bar, which is more British than Irish, is famous for its burgers, but my favorite things about the place are the dozens of board games on offer. And don’t be surprised when other patrons throw their two cents in, whether you’re playing Scrabble or cribbage. 654 Beacon St., tel. 617-262-3749. www.cornwalls.com
6. Cozy Brendan Behan’s wins points in my book merely because it refuses to bring in TVs. Live music, from rock to traditional Irish, is a mainstay, though it can get crowded, but that doesn’t stop anyone from dancing. 378 Centre St., Jamaica Plain; tel. 617-522-5386. www.brendanbehanpub.com
7. An institution in Jamaica Plain is Doyle’s, which opened in 1882 and even remained open during Prohibition as a speakeasy. It’s served as an extra office for Boston politicians, who are honored in the bar and restaurant with murals and caricatures. You can count on reasonably priced food and an ever-rotating roster of draft beers. 3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain; tel. 617-524-2345. www.doyles-cafe.com
Visit the Samuel Adams Brewery, home to “America’s World-Class Beer.” Learn how the popular brew is made, then taste some beer on a one-hour tour. The $2 requested donation goes to a local charity. All ages are welcome, but you must be 21 to sample the beer.
30 Germania St., tel. 617-368-5080. Tour schedule: Mon. to Thu. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All tours depart approximately every 45 minutes. www.samueladams.com
8. Lucky’s Lounge aims for a Rat Pack hip vibe, paying homage to Frank Sinatra with its Sinatra Sunday Brunch, and it succeeds. The basement bar, which has no sign to mark where it is (just look for a line out the door), is always packed. Live bands play every night except Monday. You are practically guaranteed a good time. Maybe it’s the retro cocktails or just that everyone seems determined to enjoy themselves. 355 Congress St., tel. 617-357-5825. www.luckyslounge.com
9. Matt Murphy’s in Coolidge Corner is a snug spot with outstanding food. The shepherd’s pie and farmer’s plates are all I ever order, though the fish and chips plate always tempts me. If you miss out on a live performance, the bar offers podcasts of shows. 14 Harvard St., Brookline; tel. 617-232-0188. www.mattmurphyspub.com
10. The Plough & Stars, between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Massachusetts Avenue, is a comfortable pub that welcomes professors and students alike to its snug bar. Opened in 1969, many famous musicians have played here, including Bonnie Raitt and Mark Sandman, among others. There’s live music almost every night, as well as occasional poetry readings and other spoken word events. 912 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; tel. 617-576-0032. www.ploughandstars.com