A reader writes:
I am stunned that with the sheer number of people that read you, and the percentage of those in Boston, no one has mentioned the pub culture here.
We don't usually call them pubs, of course, but exactly what the first post described is what we have: small, friendly places that are walking-distance from wherever you are, where you can grab a bite and a pint and make a new friend for an hour. Cambridge, Somerville, Allston, Brookline, even Quincy are all places with this type of culture. No loud music, just friendly people who don't want to have to deal with parking, but still want to go out for an evening.
Even in my hometown of Scituate, about an hour outside of Boston, we have our local harbor sports bar. Always a seat, always some cheap beer, always some decent food, everyone knows who you are, and if they don't, they will in twenty minutes ... we call them bars, but isn't this what everyone is describing?
Why do you think Cheers was set in Boston?
One exception doesn't negate the rule, but if you're interested in English-style pubs as you describe, I'd point you to The Sevens Pub on Charles St in Boston. Filled to varying degrees on any given day/time with 20 something professionals, older locals reading books or cheering the celtics, or people who have popped in after a run (often still sweating). It's the definition of neighborhood pub.
I just got back from my first trip to London, and, like with other European cities I've been too, I was pleasantly surprised at how similar it is to my hometown of Boston.
You know Boston and Cambridge - and especially some of the neighbourhoods between Harvard Square and Davis Square, in Somerville - are full of pubs, just like London. New Yorkers come to Boston and woefully complain about the nightlife, but I can't think of anything better than a hot cider made with port next to a plate of fish and mashed potatoes, enjoying being able to actually hear the conversation at my table at Grendel's Den. Or trivia night, Thursdays, at Harvard's own pub, the Queenshead, which has terrible food but also rocking chairs. The Thirsty Scholar was great, until "The Social Network" came out and made it too popular and too crowded, but they also advertise their chef.
If someone is driving there, it's not a pub. There's something glorious about walking five minutes and nodding to the bartender when you take off your coat, and he remembers your favourite beer.
(Photo by Flickrite HuTDoG83)