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.