It's a Saturday night and I'm standing in a line that stretches down the block to get into Whiskey Priest. Next door at the Atlantic Beer Garden, there's an even longer line. Sailors from the tall ships in town are taking pictures with lovely young ladies. Bros are bro-ing about bro-ily. It's a pretty standard scene.
"OK, but why?" I think. These are popular nightlife spots, sure, but who would actually stand in a line for a bar? It's not that I think I'm too good to stand in line, mind you, rather it's that no bar is good enough to stand in line for. Then after roughly the third dozen group of scantily clad girls flip-flop up behind me, I realize the motivation. Oh, right -- access to the opposite sex makes us do illogical things all the time, like stand in line for a basic, run-of-the-mill bar.
Inside, it's packed. A cover band is toughing it out through the hits of the '90s, while an army of workers lug boxes of beer around like shell-shocked laborers fortifying a garrison against an invading army of popped collars and sundresses. Waitresses literally shove me aside as they try to get through the throng with trays. This is the worst place I've ever been, I think.
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But not wanting to write a bar off on such a packed night, I come back a week later on a Monday. My suspicion is that this isn't such a bad place when it's not crowded. How bad can a bar be when it boasts some 130 whiskeys on the menu and a nice roof deck overlooking the water?
Turns out it is a tale of two bars here after all. I take my time paging through the whiskeys and sample a flight called "Places to see." In it is Slane Castle, an Irish whiskey that's light and smooth with plenty of caramel; Knappogue Castle, a spicy Irish 12-year whiskey with notes of burnt pear; and a Tyrconnel, tasting of deep-browned citrus. The best part on this quiet night was that there wasn't anyone to bump into me while I sat here looking out over the water drinking pensively. Some of us aren't looking for a drunken hookup or to get in a fight. We're looking for something better: whiskey. You can find all of those things here, depending on when you go.
150 Northern Ave., Boston