Founded to commemorate local US veterans, Lowell Memorial Auditorium's imposing, neoclassical exterior is ringed with inscriptions immortalizing famous generals and pivotal battles throughout the years, including Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and San Juan Hill. The venue's history hasn't been all serious, however?in its early years, shortly after Word War I, its most popular event was the weekly Bingo game, which often attracted up to 3,000 participants and prompted Life to call Lowell a "natural Bingopolis." The decades following saw everything from conventions and civic affairs to performances by Benny Goodman and the Golden Gloves boxing tournament. By 1979 the building was so worn down from floods, hurricanes, and economic depression that it necessitated a major renovation to bring it into the modern era. Today, its stage is fit for Broadway-scale shows, the behind-the-stage balcony is gone, and air conditioning protects against summer heat and litigious snowmen.
Part Mexican cantina, part Irish pub, and all cop, Garcia Brogan's blends disparate cultures in both its menu and its decor, which features murals and folk art from Mexico and Ireland. Whether guests want a glass of Irish whiskey or a fine tequila, Garcia Brogan's bartenders keep the drinks flowing, pouring a river of alcohol in which tacos and shepherd's pie bob appetizingly. The restaurant hosts pub trivia nights and live Irish music on the weekends.
Aromatic spices blend with hearty meats and veggies on Madras Grill's extensive menu, which is filled with traditional Indian cuisine. A house blend of coriander, red chilies, cumin, and turmeric joins chicken for a dip in a pool of light onion-and-tomato sauce in the Madras chicken curry, which is finished with a refreshing splash of coconut milk ($13.95). Artisan Indian breads ($2.50–$8.95) soak up runaway sauces and bake in a range of styles, from unleavened and deep-fried to stuffed or invisible. The smoked-eggplant punjab specialty, baigan bharta ($12.95), sates vegetarians, while a meat-filled trio of chicken tikkas, lamb kebabs, and shrimp cooked in a tandoor oven pairs with protein seekers in the Madras mixed grill ($17.95). Warm yellow tones surround wooden tables and chairs cushioned with burnt-orange cushioned seats. Decorative lighting illuminates entrees, and a wall-mounted wooden wheel stares unblinkingly at a large TV flickering behind the sleek bar.
A wall of glass flanks one side of the dining room at Hokkaido Restaurant, starting at the floor and stretching up to include a slanted portion of the ceiling. Punctuated only by wooden beams, this wall of windows floods the entire restaurant with sunlight, keeps out sushi-stealing birds, and offers a view of leafy, green trees. The sunlight slides across the bar's glossy, marble top, speckles a wall of leafy bamboo, and, most importantly, illuminates colorful plates of Japanese, Thai, and Chinese cuisine. Under photo murals of serene Asian landscapes, diners can dig into dishes ranging from pad thai and curry to orange chicken and specialty sushi rolls. Add in the karaoke that animates restaurant-goers on weekends, and the result is a vibrant environment equally suited to intimate dinners and convivial gatherings.
Sports, Steaks & Spirits combines the television-studded walls of a sports bar with the hearty comfort food of a neighborhood pub. Menu items include baby back ribs and half-pound burgers, as well as more internationally inspired dishes, such as tempura-fried shrimp with coconut breading. Cooks can also top hand-stretched, thin-crust pizzas with a combination of 17 available toppings, including basil, sausage, and red onion.
Although its menu might distinguish Sports, Steaks & Spirits from other bars, guests are also welcome to just knock back a beer while watching Boston sports teams compete for control of the world’s supply of silver-plated trophies. Sixty plasma televisions line the bar’s walls, and all booths boast their own small screen, which may have prompted Patch to describe the spot as “a veritable North Reading sports haven.” Even the color scheme evokes the feel of well-trodden sports turf, surrounding visitors with yellow-green walls and pool tables lined with emerald-green felt.
After a round of golf or a dip in the pool at The Groton Country Club, guests can stop inside The Tavern on the grounds, where chilled beers populate the tables in a pub setting. Groups can share plates of onion rings and coconut beer-battered shrimp before navigating their way through lobster rolls and sandwiches stuffed with pulled pork and chipotle aioli. Chefs dress 10-inch artisan thin crust pizzas and build creative burgers, including the Tom Tom, an eight-ounce handmade patty held between two grilled cheese sandwiches. On select nights, a corner of the eatery transforms into a live performance space for musicians and tumblers.