Monday’s Neighborhoods: Fenway Park/Kenmore Square, Boston
I still claim that the Fenway Frank is the premier regular hot dog in baseball. 81 afternoons and nights a year (hopefully 10 or so more with the postseason too) Fenway Park fills up with its 37,000 plus capacity of the Red Sox Nation making the pilgrimage to one of sport’s most quirky and exciting venues. My guess is at least 30,000 of those Sox fans each game enjoy the Fenway Frank, steamed in beer of course (the secret). Now is the time for a Fenway Frank and to visit Fenway, celebrating its 100th birthday this year…and now that the Red Sox are winning again.
Year-round though there is always a lot more going on in the Fenway-Kenmore Square area besides baseball, though baseball is always at its heart even in the hockey days of January. The two areas are really two separate micro neighborhoods, split by the Massachusetts Turnpike, and connected by an overpass. The pair though are very inter-connected, both bordered by Boston University’s campus and served by the Kenmore Square T subway stop. Right outside the T Stop, you’ll see the Barnes and Noble-Boston University Bookstore. What just seems like a bookstore is actually the famous building with the Citgo Sign on its roof, a sign every baseball fan knows from watching games at Fenway on T.V.
Kenmore Square is mostly home to various student-friendly, family-friendly eateries à la Pizzeria Uno, Bertucci’s, and Qdoba. However, right by the T station is a little gem: the Hotel Commonwealth with not one but two worthwhile eateries. The Island Creek Oyster Bar is the spot to cozy up to the bar for a dozen oysters from Wellfleet and Nantucket on the halfshell, lobster roe noodles with maitake mushrooms and braised short ribs, along with anything seafood. It’s a rare oyster bar actually owned by an oyster farm. Also in the Commonwelath, Eastern Standard is one of Boston’s go-to late night spots, in the same style as the big brasseries of Paris without the French edge. Cocktails are standouts here. In a way, it’s the Balthazar of Boston.
Across the overpass you’ll first arrive at Cask n Flagon on the corner of Brookline and Landsdowne. Cask n Flagon is arguably the marquee sports bar in a city full of them (yes, more marquee than Cheers, also known as the Bull & Finch). Landsdowne Street is the focal point of the dining and drinking activity for the area, turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare on gamedays. If going to the game, be sure to get a sausage from The Sausage Guy vendor on Landsdowne before heading into Fenway. With the Green Monster on one side of the street, various bars such as the House of Blues, the Tequila Room, and the everything in one Jillian’s line Landsdowne. At the intersection with Ipswich is the excellent La Verdad Taqueria, from Ken Oringer, one of Boston’s premier chefs at Clio, Uni, and Toro. Just a stroll on Landsdowne shows the old Fenway area with the park on one side and the new vibe of the area, with hip bars and award winning Mexican food on the other.
Off the first base side of Fenway is one of the newest and most promising bars: Jerry Remy’s, owned by the Red Sox’ beloved television analyst and former second baseman. My last visit last season involved a pumpkin ale from Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine, along with Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, very impressive draught choices in the land of Samuel Adams. Did I mention sports bars? The very similar Boston Beer Works can be found opposite Jerry Remy’s off the third base side.
A block down Boylston from Jerry Remy’s is the exciting new Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar, amidst neighboring Burger King and Subway. Again, quite the juxtaposition. Further down Boylston is another new addition, Sweet Cheeks BBQ from former Top Chef contestant Tiffani Faison, quickly becoming the darling of the neighborhood. The 4,700 pound smoker creates some of Boston’s best short ribs and briskets, on game day or any day. A few blocks off Boylston on Jersey, towards the Fens, is a tiny Northern Italian gem, Trattoria Toscana…not a sports bar at all, but a civilized, charming slice of Italy in the capital of Red Sox Nation.
It’s an intriguing area culinary-wise, with a smorgasbord of sophisticated options, sports bar, regular bars, student friendly joints, and family restaurants. The one thing in common: on game day, everyone is wearing their Sox gear and debating the latest questionable Bobby Valentine move.