After sliding across the soft leather of a horseshoe-shaped booth or finding a spot on the sunshine-dappled patio, visitors can begin their journey through Incontro’s award-winning Italian dishes and wines. The upscale yet cozy restaurant inhabits the recently restored, 14,000-square-foot historic Brookdale Mill, with a dining room, lounge, billiards room, and private banquet rooms offering multifarious settings for romantic dinners, receptions, or celebratory meals following the end of a grueling pasta strike. Incontro's chefs prepare much more than just pasta, however: they also crisp Napoletana-style pizzas in a wood-fired oven; arrange parmesan-crusted pork tenderloin beside porcini risotto and garlicky spinach; and grill citrus-spiced salmon until the fish’s bathing suit completely burns off.
A past winner of Boston magazine's Best Pool Hall award, Flat Top Johnny's complements its felt-topped tables with home-cooked food and a laid-back atmosphere. Games of billiards ($12 an hour/table) at any of a dozen tournament-size pool tables send balls bouncing while several old-school pinball machines mutter nervously nearby. Fuel a rousing game of eight-ball with an appetizing bowl ($3) or cup ($5) of homemade chili, complemented by Johnny's house-made corn bread, or with a crew of sandwiches, wraps, and snacks from Flat Top Johnny's menu. Johnny's can stuff grilled chicken and feta cheese into a corner pocket of ciabatta bread ($6), or mix pork, beef, or veggie sliders with two other identical sliders (three for $7). Toast an evening of trick shots and twisted dough by hoisting a beer mug filled with pretzels ($3), chased by a shot of mustard.
Boston Bowl buffs and polishes 20 lanes to accommodate fat tenpins and 14 lanes for their thin, stern candlepin cousins, ensuring smooth trips for the spherical projectiles eager to greet them. While groups of two and clans of four frolic beneath a multicolored bowling mural, automated scoring screens dutifully account for every pin conquered, awarding extra points for any particularly stinging impression of another bowler's form.
Rhode Island Billiard Bar & Bistro has kept the polished pool balls clicking seven days a week for more than 100 years, recently returning the tin ceilings and mahogany bars of its billiards room to their full luster. Hone your skills at felt croquet on any of 15 9-foot tables and one 7-foot table ($3.50/hour for members, $5.50 for nonmembers). In between rounds of foosball, pinball, or watching the bocce bomb tournament on 15 TVs, mad gourmands can commingle menu items such as the calamari fritti ($7.99) and chicken fingers ($6.99) into clawed, ink-spraying gullet monsters.
Inside Kings, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of clattering sounds and uproarious cheers. The noise might stem from the bowling section, where glowing squares of abstract, retro wall art bookend the alleys. It might also come from ricocheting billiard balls, a well-aimed skee-ball, or a shuffleboard shot in the game room. Maybe someone spotted a celebrity—Bill Murray, Salma Hayek, and Lady Gaga are all on an extensive list of past famous visitors.
Wherever their origins, the telltale echoes of competition and camaraderie beckon to guests throughout the venue. They're accompanied in the air by the scents of comfort food, from staples such as sesame ginger wings to inventive fusions such as cheeseburger spring rolls. Sweeter aromas waft from multiple bars as the staff flavors martinis with gummy bears, pop rocks, and ice cream instead of the traditional fixings, olives or entire lemons on toothpicks.
As for sights, the surroundings blend vintage flair with luminous technology. More than 30 high-definition televisions line the space, broadcasting sports games and bowling scores. The Back Bay location has six Brunswick Gold Crown pool tables and hosts group events, including parties and corporate getaways where you can finally laugh at your boss's ridiculous shoes. Weekly themed nights for the public also encourage dancing, karaoke, and trivia.
Tex-Mex culture influences every aspect of Sunset Cantina, from the distinctive Southwestern cuisine to the selection of more than 110 tequilas that helps create classic frozen margaritas—named on Boston magazine's list of 30 Best Cocktails. These icy oases offer tongues much-needed respite after they explore an expansive menu of Mexican comfort food, Texas-style barbecue, grilled new york strip steaks, and other cookout cuisine. Chefs create signature beer-bathed burgers—perhaps their centerpiece—by searing half-pound patties of ground sirloin on a steam grill. These treats as well as 38 beers on tap are available throughout the day and well into the night, as the kitchen stays open and cooking until 1 a.m.
The high-ceilinged dining area combines the scattered booth seating of a roadside diner with the intimate lighting and ambiance of a neighborhood bar. Metal lanterns hang over each table, framed collections of beer-bottle labels decorate the walls, and flat-screen televisions entertain patrons with sports and endless footage of the United States’ secretary of education playing Trivial Pursuit.