Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Metro’s Best of 2010 – Boston

From the Back Bay to the best french fries you’ve ever tasted, we covered it all in 2010.

Nightlife

Best snobby beer joint in town:
Publick House
1706 Beacon St., Brookline
www.eatgoodfooddrinkbetterbeer.com/publickhouse
The folks at Publick House serve real beer — craft brewed, artisanal, you-can’t-pronounce-it beer — and literally hundreds of ‘em. Earthy, exotic, dark, light, crisp, spicy, citrus —they’ve got it.


Best place to chilllllll:
The Enormous Room

Sure, they have DJs, but the big draw here is the perimeter of couches and inventive cocktails if you want to be a wallflower and just watch the dancing unravel. It’s almost like a comfy grandstand. (569 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, www.enormous.tv)

Best odds of seeing a good band:
The Middle East

This Cambridge mainstay has so many different performance spaces, and they host everything from local punk matinees to major national indie groups. So you’re bound to see something you like.
(472-480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, www.mideastclub.com)

Best place to see a band right before they graduate to having a big hit:
Great Scott

Located in the heart of “Allston Rock City,” G.S. has had some of the hottest indie acts in the nation. The Anderson Comedy Group has a weekly residency, and “The Pill” is the club’s dance night. Featuring Britpop and modern indie jams, it just won a Boston Music Award for Best DJ/Dance Night. (1222 Comm. Ave., Allston, www.greatscottboston.com)

Best place to see a band with a hit who will have a bigger hit with their next album:
The Paradise

This mid-sized venue plays host to major acts that haven’t yet risen to that theater-filling level, but are definitely nobody’s secret. (967 Comm. Ave., Boston, www.thedise.com)

Best place to hipster watch:
ZuZu

Once you pass through the cloud of cigarette smoke outside of ZuZu, a scene unto itself is revealed, filled with so many skinny jean-wearing, bearded, wan beings waiting for something to happen. C’mon hipsters, ZuZu’s cover is only, like $3 — get inside and clear the street. (474 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, www.mideastclub.com/zuzu)

Live venue with the steepest balcony:
Orpheum Theatre

Hosting the occasional comedian and mostly well-established major label and indie artists (Weezer plays there next week), this old-time, kinda-beat-up place has been around since 1852 — and if you’re lucky, this won’t be the night it falls down (just kidding, it’s doing fine). (One Hamilton Pl., Boston, www.orpheum-theater.com)

Venue with a 50/50 chance of seeing comedy or music:
Wilbur Theatre

Another one of downtown Boston’s weathered theaters, this venue mainly hosts comedians but has the occasional music show as well (Wu-Tang Clan and Third Eye Blind play there this month ... not together, though). Upcoming performances include Joan Rivers, Bob Saget and Maz Jobrani. (246 Tremont St., Boston, www.thewilburtheatre.com)

Best dance club to get an actually well-made cocktail:
Middlesex Lounge

315 Mass. Ave., Cambridge www.middlesexlounge.us
At most clubs, you’re lucky to get a hastily thrown-together vodka tonic pushed in your face after 10 mi-nutes of waiting. Middlesex is different. They know their way around a cock-tail. The folks at ZuZu do too, but we already nominated them for the hipster-watch thing. We also wanted to nominate Middle-sex’s “Make It New” night as the best place to watch the big game while dan-cing to esoteric techno. One of the highlights of the Celtics’ run to the finals last year was dancing to some obscure minimalist techno throb over the speakers in a room full of a revelers while the C’s played on the big screen. Even hipsters need their sports fix! Would’ve been nice if they won, but dancing away the pain made it easier.

Venue with a 50/50 chance of being at a dance show or an early-ending rock show:
Royale

Describing itself as “Boston’s only true mega-club,” Royale replaced the Roxy this summer with a mix of rock shows from big-name indie acts (upcoming: Justin Townes Earle, Yann Tiersen and The Low Anthem) and dance-club evenings. (279 Tremont St., Boston, www.royaleboston.com)

Best chain concert venue that actually has character:
House of Blues

They seem to be popping up like Starbucks, don’t they? In all fairness, the first HOB was in the Boston area, and this is a good venue for big-name acts like Robert Plant and the Decemberists, who play there next month. The front room features local bands every night for free. (15 Lansdowne St., Boston, www.hob.com)

Best place to watch (or opt not to watch) music:
T.T. the Bear’s Place

T.T.’s may be right down the street from the Middle East, but it has its own thing going on, booking lesser-known touring acts and more local favorites. The way the setup is, you can also go into the bar area if the band playing is insulting your sensibilities. (10 Brookline St., Cambridge, www.ttthebears.com)

Best place to get dragged to a show in Allston:
ICC Church

It depends on whether you favor cap and tats (in which case head to O’Brien’s) or skinny jeans and beards (Great Scott is for you). But there’s no scene like no scene, so head to the ICC Church for some fresh musical meat. Best memory: Halfway through Texan post-rockers This Will Destroy You’s set a couple of years back in the drop dead heat of summer, some sweaty fat guy in a wife-beater charged the stage screaming and grabbed the drummer, yelling, “Stop this noise.” The disgruntled neighbor was manhandled from the stage and the show went on! So, the ICC is also the best place to get dragged out of a show in Allston. (557 Cambridge St., Boston, www.icc-boston.com)

Best place to interact with the band:
P.A.’s Lounge

A cool little spot with a big hardwood floor, hosting mostly local acts from the super-obscure to the kinda-well-known. The decor: a single, beat-up sousaphone hanging from the wall. The divide between audience and performer is minimal, which helps the venue feel so much more intimate. (345 Somerville Ave., Somerville, www.paslounge.com)

Best place to feel bold about going to see a show:
Wonderland Entertainment Complex

This operation includes Club Lido, specializing in live performances by Latino and Caribbean artists (it’s a great place to see dance-hall), with the occasional rock show thrown in for good measure. They also show boxing matches and mixed martial arts here — but sadly, not at the same time. (1290 North Shore Rd., Revere, www.wonderland-ballroom.com)

Best fancy cocktail at a recession price:
Grendel’s Den

Harvard Square is no stranger to the $10-plus martini. Grendel’s, overlooking the green, not only serves great food and a wonderful selection of craft beers, but its cocktails are well-made and cost half of what the swankier joints charge. A well-made drink for $6? Repeat. And at that price, you can afford to. (89 Winthrop St., Cambridge, www.grendelsden.com)

Best place to enjoy an adult beverage while doing a kids’ activity:
Highland Kitchen

Not only does the Highland have a kick-ass karaoke night on Wednesdays, but on the first Tuesday of the month, Victor and Nicole of Egoart host a spelling bee. Take care while indulging Highland’s classy cocktails though, because too many Mark and Stormies (Maker’s Mark and spicy ginger beer) will make spelling a lot harder. (150 Highland Ave., Somerville, www.highlandkitchen.com)

Best use of ice cream and booze:
Sunset Grill and Tap

It’s almost like Guinness was made for ice cream. Or any bitter stout or porter, for that matter. A good ice cream adds sweetness, and the vanilla buoys the heaviness of thick, dark beers. Sunset Grill’s stout ice cream is specially made across the street at Herrell’s and generously used on desserts. Be warned, however; as much as a pour of the dark stuff begs for ice cream, you’re going to look a complete wuss if you ask for a scoop in your pint.
(130 Brighton Ave., Allston, www.allstonsfinest.com)

Best place to try all the classic cocktails we’re always talking about without breaking the bank: Green Street Grill

Every bar has a few token classic cocktails on their menus now. Not many have pages and pages of them. And while you’ll pay upwards of $12 at most places, Green Street, one of the best at making them, actually charges way less than everywhere else. It’s a lot easier to take a chance on something new when it’s only $8. (280 Green St., Cambridge, www.greenstreetgrill.com)

Best bar to enjoy a drink with your best friend, the one with a waggly tail:
The Liberty Hotel’s Lobby Bar

It’s Friday night and all your so-called friends have let you down and left you alone. Except for one, the one with a waggly tail. But where can you woof it up with your best friend? The Liberty Hotel is a dog-friendly hostelry, and its lobby is spacious enough for a larger pal — not just purse dogs. Wait staff offer a bowl of water along with a stiff martini, and you can share the sliders. During clement weather, Yappier Hour is a dog-mixer held outside in the Liberty Yard. (215 Charles St., Boston, www.libertyhotel.com)

Best new local rock scene:
Rosebud

381 Summer St., Somerville, www.rosebudbardavis.com
Everyone was bummed when the Abbey Lounge closed a few years ago, but its ghost relocated a couple miles down the street to Davis Square. This dive club, tucked away behind the iconic diner, has become the new center of Boston’s local rock scene in Somerville. Check out the Watts CD release Friday with the Cheap Trick tribute Clock Strikes Ten.

Local eats

Best thing to happen to fries since potatoes:
MET Back Bay

279 Dartmouth St., Boston, www.metbackbay.com
Many bon vivants opt to max out their frites experience by dressing up a pile of good old blue-collar french fries with truffle oil or parmesan. Some might call it enhancing the taste, but it seems to boil down to dominating the flavor of the potato as much as ketchup does. Therefore, it is the resort of people who don’t actually like the flavor of potatoes. But the sweet potato fries at MET are undoubtedly the best addition to the fries oeuvre.

Best 24-hour spot:
South Street Diner

For its milkshakes and odd people-of-the-night-watching, the South Street Diner is Boston’s best dawn-to-dawn hangout. By odd, we’re not talking sparse person here and there, either. Like, odd. It’s true; the Hub doesn’t have much in the way of choice in (safe, legal) 24-hour joints. But South Street Diner, an original that was built in 1947, stoically serves breakfast and dinner all night long. (78 Kneeland St., Boston, www.southstreetdiner.com)

Best dining experience that doesn’t make veggies feel like lepers: TIE!
Veggie Planet & Upstairs on the Square

It’s tough fighting through the blood and guts to find your daily bread. Two places in Boston that honor veggies are Club Passim’s lowbrow, high-yum cafe Veggie Planet and — for special occasions perhaps, UpStairs on the Square, whose nightly vegan and vegetarian tasting menus are pure epicurean thrill rides. (Veggie Planet, 47 Palmer St., Cambridge, www.veggieplanet.net; Upstairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge, www.upstairsonthesquare.com)

Best still-in-business, almost-indie coffee shop:
Espresso Royale

Its quirky, cozy ambiance would mean nothing if the coffee wasn’t great. But it is. So are the bagel sandwiches, organic teas and — this time of year especially — the hot apple cider. Yes, it’s kind of a chain, but nothing on the level of world domination threat like some other coffee shops we know. (286 Newbury St., Boston, www.espressoroyale.com)

Best place to class it up in Davis Square:
Foundry On Elm

Davis has enough sports pubs and fratty haunts. About time they got a bar that aspired to something better than cheap pints and nachos. Foundry harkens back to a time when bar-tenders had class, and servers actually knew what they were doing. The drinks are pretty good too. (255 Elm St., Somerville, www.foundryonelm.com)

Best overall pizza experience:
Pizzeria Regina

11 Thatcher St., Boston, www.pizzeriaregina.com
The actual pizza is only part of the equation, which is why we didn’t award this honor to a place like Crazy Doughs or Little Stevie’s or even Santarpio’s. Guys, you all put out great pies, but you don’t do it in a tiny place in the North End with waitresses who call you “hon” above the din of the jukebox. Oh, and their soupy, floppy slices rule!

Best food at a place where you can hear great live music:
The Beehive

The Beehive not only makes you feel like you’re in another country, but it makes you feel like you’re in another world. Their Mediterranean menu meshes well with live jazz that never gets so loud to be disruptive, but will draw you in gradually. Then you’ll look around at the brick walls, chandeliers, velvety maroon curtain and say, “Wait, I’m really in Boston? In 2010?” (541 Tremont St., Boston, www.beehiveboston.com)

Best secret awesomeness:
Sam’s

It’s with great hesitation that we write up this place. Not because it stinks. On the contrary. There’s a Yogi Berra quote to the extent of “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” One of the many things that makes Sam’s special, aside from the amazing panoramic view, delicious dishes and affordable drinks, is that there’s never that many people there, vying for the space-age white leather benches that look out on the Harbor. Crap. You like it already! Please don’t tell too many people. (60 Northern Ave., Boston, www.samsatlouis.com)

Best place to go to impress a date, even if you’re broke:
Top of the Hub

Dates don’t have to cost a paycheck. Cocktails in the bar at the Top of the Hub are a great way to start or end an evening. Should you stay, there’s a bar menu for some nibbles. No one can fail to be impressed by drinking 52 floors above the hoi polloi. Just leave before your date realizes you aren’t having dinner there. (800 Boylston St., Boston, www.topofthehub.net)

Best unassuming dive that serves top-of-the-line food:
Deep Ellum

In the heart of college bar central, this gem gets classified as a dive mostly for its location. The menu tells another story, one of duck confit mac-and-cheese, vegan cassoulet and truffled gorgonzola fries. (477 Cambridge St., Allston, www.deepellum-boston.com)

Best reason to get dressed up for sushi:
Basho

This Fenway-area sushi bar and Japanese grill hits all the right spots on the food front. But its sleek, stylish atmosphere and beat-driven soundtrack give it an almost nightclub feel. (1338 Boylston St., Boston, www.bashosushi.com)

Best food truck:
Clover Food Lab

It’s fast food with decidedly non-fast-food features: fresh, local and unpredic-table. Vegan BLTs and chickpea fritters go for $5, and everything’s vegetarian. (No permanent address; for details, check www.cloverfoodlab.com)

–contributed by Matthew Dinaro, Nora Dunne, Pat Healy, Linda Laban and Luke O'Neil

 
Consider AlsoFurther Articles