It's surprisingly slow on Lansdowne Street for a Saturday night. There's no game at Fenway, and no show at the House of Blues, which makes for a rare, peaceful stroll down the street without dodging roving packs of bros and the women who tolerate them that usually comprise this clubby ecosystem. At Loretta's Last Call, the new country-music and southern food-themed offering from the Lyons Group, taking the space of the old La Verdad, the crowd is starting to build all the same. For now, there's a seat at the bar, which, if you didn't pay attention to the “country” trappings, would seem like any other Lansdownian tourist-damaged theme park. But behind me on the wooden stage there's a man playing acoustic covers of country songs, and on the walls all around there are hundreds of photos of old country music stars, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and so on. It's like a simulacrum of a honkey tonk for the surprisingly growing number of Massachusetts fans for whom country has become just as popular as in the rest of the US. How'd we let that happen, by the way?
Soon enough a nice fella in a cowboy hat from Houston comes over to talk. What does he want? It turns out he just wants to make a friend. We don't do that sort of thing in Boston, I tell him, half-kidding. Talk to people, that is.
Or who knows, maybe we do. Especially after a couple of mason jars of moonshine. Somewhat over the top “THEME” signifiers aside, Loretta's Last Call is a fine place to order yourself a few bowls of whiskey on a slower hour, or before a show nearby. Although I would personally avoid most of their 'shines, most of which are from the Tennessee distiller Ol Smoky, and range all the way from peach to blackberry to strawberry. The Full Moon cocktail throws all three together with sour mix for a treacly sweet concoction. Other options include the Georgia Moon Apple Pie, and a pretty decently stocked line of ryes and bourbons from around the country, all very moderately priced. A Hudson Baby Bourbon, from the crafty Tuthilltown Spirits in New York goes for $7.50. Other options include ones you don't often see on bars around here, like Dad's Hat Rye from Pennsylvania, the fine Breaking and Entering Bourbon from the rightly renowned St. George Spirits in California, and Journeyman Buggy Whip Wheat from Michigan. Beer-wise they have a better selection than you might expect, with some 25 cans, including BBQ-friendly options like Pork Slap and Lone Star.
Appropriately, Johnny Football is making his NFL debut on the TVs hung above the bar, which is packed by now. “It's like a sorority party in here,” a first-timer says as she sits down next to me, nailing the atmosphere.
If you go
Loretta's Last Call
1 Lansdowne St., Boston