As you sit down on one of the The Red Hat's green vinyl barstools and lift a mug of lager to your lips, you might be replicating the movements of a patron from more than 100 years ago. Except that he or she would have snuck a nervous glance at the back door between every sip. The historic establishment survived the Prohibition era in Scollay Square—an area known for its bawdy vaudeville theater and risqué entertainment—by functioning as a reputable restaurant by day and a speakeasy by night.
Though the taps now flow freely in the daylight, some things at The Red Hat haven't changed. The menu still provides sailors, dockworkers, and local shoppers with hearty, comforting dishes of wings, fried fish, and other pub snacks. As Mike Dunphy of Beacon Hill Patch put it, "The Red Hat is a rare reminder of Boston's yesteryear, bringing an earthy spice to the more refined palate of Beacon Hill—an unpretentious watering hole to gain some courage for the climb." The exposed brick, wood-paneled walls, and old-timey memorabilia also give the space a turn-of-the-century feel. So do the nostalgic street-scene murals depicting the days when Saturns were Studebakers and people walked their Electrolux vacuums instead of pet dogs.
Called an "easygoing joint" by the The Boston Phoenix, the family-owned Corner Pub of Chinatown lavishes savory seekers with its menu of fresh, made-from-scratch comfort fare. Sink smiles into Monterrey cheese-infused nachos grande ($5.75), or share a starter of chicken fingers doused in teriyaki, barbecue, or buffalo sauce ($5.95). The hand-packed pub burger boasts a half pound of beefy sustenance ($8), and two quarter-pound hot dogs come lovingly cradled in grilled buns ($5.50). Those craving marinated eats can park pincers in the chicken kabobs ($8) while simmering down in the recently refurbished lounge, allowing diners to forget about their day job working as secretary for Emperor Garth Vicious of the Eighth Dimension.
Though one might not expect to find a casual neighborhood bar in the heart of downtown Boston, SideBar Food and Spirits embodies that amiable attitude. Its interiors are decked out in beer signs and dark wood accents for a true pub atmosphere, and feature arcade games, a flashing jukebox, and the occasional game of bar pong. Live hockey, soccer, and other sports illuminate a series of flat-screen TVs overhead while the outcomes of each game are predicted in a crystal ball in the back. A polished wood bar is divided into two sections, each of which features taps pouring craft and domestic beers. These pair perfectly with the array of burgers, pizzas, sauce-drenched wings, and other pub classics that the kitchen prepares every day until 10 p.m. Drink specials are offered every day, and the bar can also accommodate private events for up to 110 people.