Crawl In…

Crawl In Amsterdam

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In January, we took advantage of cheap flight prices to check out some cities in Europe.  Here’s our roundup of places to check out when in Amsterdam.

We did a 48 hour hop on/hop off tour, which included both bus and boat.  This was a good way to get around, but note that traffic can get BAD, so you may be sitting on the bus for awhile.  The boat seems like a more efficient way to get around, and the canals are fun to tour.  Bikes are obviously huge in Amsterdam and you can rent them, but we opted not to. Be careful when you’re walking, bike lines are not always clearly marked, and they don’t stop!

Stops on the HOHO tour:

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Brouwerij’T Ij: This is a brewery located in Amsterdam’s biggest windmill.  This is a really cool place to visit, as it combines cool history and architecture with really great beers!  From here, you can take a quick walk to Dapper Markt, which is a fun outdoor market with food an clothing.  Don’t miss the pancakes!  Another fun stop is the Vondelpark, where the famous Amsterdam sign is.  Did you even really go to Amsterdam if you don’t ‘gram yourself in front of this sign?

One of the stops on the tour was Gassan Diamonds.  Here is a free tour of the diamond factory that the tour guides push hard.  We were about to get off the tour and check it out, but luckily we talked to some people who did the tour. It’s apparently a BIG sales pitch, and not worth your time, unless you’re in the market for diamonds.  Don’t bother.

Another stop is the Anne Frank House.  A big tip, if you want to tour the house, get your tickets as soon as you book your trip.  We tried to get our tickets a few weeks before and it was already sold out.  We got to see the outside, but plan ahead if you want to go in.

Here’s a rundown of our favorite cocktail bars.  We were lucky to meet a friendly bartender at the first stop who gave us a great recommendation list.

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The Tailor: This is a fairly new hotel bar.  The bartenders were great and the drinks were good.  Not as inventive as some of the places further down the list, but we never would have found those places without the help of the bartender here.

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House Bar: This is another hotel bar, but it doesn’t feel like it.  The drinks here are crazy inventive.  Each page is themed on Amsterdam history and how the cocktails are inspired by it. One of the drinks we had here came topped with an “oyster” with a white chocolate pearl filled with lychee syrup, which complimented the drink.  Very unique!

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Porem:  Another interesting cocktail bar.  It’s hard to find from the outside.  The drink list was smaller but the staff was so nice and friendly.  The host was excited to talk about Boston once he found out that was where we were from.  He was asking us about Drink, even though he’s never been.

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Tales and Spirits: GO EARLY.  This place fills up fast and has some of the most innovative cocktails I’ve seen.  One of our drinks was chocolate inspired and came in a chocolate box.  Another was a flaming cocktail that was so fun and delicious.  Don’t miss this place.

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Flying Dutchmen: When we were there, this place had only been open a few weeks.  Another place where the staff was SO nice and friendly.  We were the first ones in, so we had a great conversation with the owner and bartender who made us feel at home.  They let us behind the bar for a picture when we left, and made a call to get us into Tales and Spirits.  Their cocktails are also story related, and well made.

We did eat occasionally, and here are our favorites:

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Cannibale Royale:  This was our favorite dinner. Don’t let the name scare you! This place is known for its steaks and burgers.  It gets crowded too, so try to make a reservation.  We were lucky to get seats at the bar.

Greenwoods:  This is a tiny café (they have an ample outdoor patio, but it wasn’t opened in January when we were there) with a line.  It was worth the wait.  They specialize in English breakfasts and it was delicious. Good coffee and tea options to start a day of sightseeing.

Restaurant Lucius: This was a nice seafood restaurant.  They have a 2 or 3 course dinner option, or you can order a la carte.  The food was fresh and well prepared.

All in all, Amsterdam was a great city to visit.  It was beautiful, and the people there are so kind. One of the best parts of the trip was just talking to people.  They loved to tell us about their city, but also seemed equally interested in us and our travels.

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Crawl In Union Square

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Union Square is an area we don’t get to as much as we should.  It’s a little out of the way (although that will change with the impending Green Line extension), but it’s an area that has a concentration of really great bars.  Every time we go, we wonder why we don’t go more often!

We started off with the reason for being in the area.  We had a Gilt City voucher for a tasting at Bantam Tap room.  This is a small but fun space with interesting ciders.  The tap room looks into the production facility, so you get a peek at the tanks and equipment. They have quite a variety, ranging from sweet to dry to hoppy.  The staff is knowledgeable and efficient, especially since it was fairly crowded when we were there. After our tasting was complete, we took a short walk down Somerville Ave to The Independent.

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The Independent is a causal pub filled with dark wood.  It has good cocktails and a nice beer list.  It was recently renovated, so it’s a spruced up version than the less polished version we visited years ago, but it’s a great place to hang out.

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Next we headed to Back Bar.  This is hidden down a small driveway and is easy to miss, but you really shouldn’t!  This is a smallish, eclectic space filled with tchotchkes with an emphasis on Star Wars and cats (if you want to make friends with your bartender/server, ask for some cat pictures!).  The staff here is so friendly, and they have extremely creative cocktails.  They will also go off book and make something tailored to your particular taste.  To balance our cocktails, we had some bar snacks here, including an insanely good buttermilk ranch popcorn, cheese puffs, and olives. These were great accompaniments for liquor-forward drinks. One drink that stood out in particular was a drink special for the day, a Fluff milk punch.  We ordered this since it was seasonally appropriate (Easter weekend), and it was fantastic.  Not too sweet, and clarified so it wasn’t as heavy as a normal milk punch, with a touch of toasted Fluff on the glass.  This place can fill up quickly, especially on May 4th, when they have Star Wars themed night, so go early or prepare to wait.  Overall this is just a fun, comfortable place with great staff, great drinks, and great ambiance.  Put this on your must-visit list if you haven’t been.

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Our next stop was next door to Bronwyn.  This is a German restaurant with outstanding food, and we never miss it on a trip to Union.  The space is cozy and comfortable, and in the summer they have a small outdoor beer garden. The feature a large beer menu focused on Central Europe – Germany, Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic.  They offer flights, a “world tour”  (a bucket of beers with a bottle from each region) and a German classic – Das Boot.  We can’t skip the food here, so we ordered quite a sampling of the menu, including the Bretzel, the wurst trio, the schnitzel and the potato salad.  Everything was delicious, and went well with our beers. We ended the meal with a schnapps tasting, in preparation for our impending trip to Oktoberfest in Munich this fall.  This place is another must-visit! German food is pretty hard to come by in Greater Boston, so it’s perfect for a schnitzel fix.

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We ended the evening with a nightcap at Brass Union.  This is another dark wood pub, with great cocktails and board games.  While we didn’t sample any food, they do have an extensive menu.

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Overall, Union Square is a great neighborhood filled with amazing gems. If it’s not in your rotation, it should be.  Go check it out!

Crawl In DTX (Part 1)

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When we’re not organizing bar crawls, we still find ourselves visiting bars and fun spots around the city.

Downtown Crossing (Part 1 as there are a ton more bars that we need to visit in this area)

 Recently we had a birthday party to attend at JJ Foley’s on Kingston Street, so we took the opportunity, as we are wont to do, do have a little bar crawl before hand.  We visited some of our favorite places in the Downtown Crossing area for some pre-party food and drinks. 

 

We started at one of our favorites, Marliave.  Marliave is a great gem in Downtown Crossing.  It’s very old school and French influenced, with a great cocktail program, and daily dollar oyster specials from 4-6 and 9-10. This is one of the few dollar oyster places that will give you a choice of oysters, and not just a single kind.  They’re well shucked and were great with the Henry Marliave cocktail (vodka, Lillet Blanc, Chambord, prosecco, lemon).  We also split and order of Henry’s Soup. This is a French onion soup filled with tender short rib and melted Gruyere.  It was delicious and warming, especially on the cold winter night we were there.  It tastes long simmered, with the decadent short rib and melty cheese.  Bonus points for the beautiful old fashioned footed crock it comes in.  They happily offered to split an order into two bowls, which we weren’t expecting, but was a nice touch.  This is truly one of the best French onion in Boston!

 

After our soup, we headed next door to Barracuda Tavern.  This place feels sort of divey, without really being a dive.  It has a great beer selection as well as wine and liquor.  The staff is very friendly, and they have a solid, seafood leaning food menu.  They have a nice selection of bar snacks, and we split an order of bacon wrapped scallops which were tasty and went well with our beers.  This is a great, casual hangout in DTX.

 

Next stop was Mast’ (the confounding apostrophe isn’t a typo).  This is a Italian  spot that prides itself on its Neapolitan pizza.  To start, we had an espresso martini (made with real espresso, not flavored liquor), and a Nutella martini, that, while good, should have been ordered for dessert.  We split a pizza with prosciutto,  artichokes, and black olives.  It was fine, but the sauce was kind of watery, and the crust didn’t seem as crisp as it could have been ,coming from a wood fired oven.  It was fine, but there are better pizzas in the area. 

 

We left Mast’ and headed down Province Street four next stop at haley.henry wine bar.  This is a charming, tiny restaurant that has friendly staff, and a particularly amazing 90s soundtrack.  This restaurant specializes in tinned fish, charcuterie, and wine.  The staff is always happy to talk about their wine, and apart from the menu of wines by the glass, they’ll open any bottle as long as you have two glasses.  We got the tuna pate, which was served with a whole grain mustard and pickled onions. Before we’ve sampled other tins as well as the charcuterie board, and we’ve never been disappointed.  We’re looking forward to the sister restaurant this team is slated to open in Fenway later this year.

 

Our final stop before the party is the iconic Omni Parker House.  There are two bars here, Parker’s and The Last Hurrah.  Both are very old school, and specialize in classic cocktails, and playful twists, such as a Boston Crème Pie martini.  We suggest getting the real thing if you’re here, the classic Boston crème pie is something not to be missed.  Both of these bars cater to locals and tourists alike, and it’s worth a stop in. 

 

Crawl In Davis

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It had been awhile since I had ventured out to Davis Square so I made the trek across the river. It was a fun day of new, innovative places, and well as old favorite haunts—and in once case, an interesting melding of the two.

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I started at a brunch favorite, The Painted Burro. This is a Mexican restaurant, with delicious food, fun drinks, and cool art to look at while you enjoy them. One of the standout brunch drinks is the Hair of the Dog. It’s based off horchata, which is a Mexican rice drink. This version is an iced coffee horchata with shots of RumChata and espresso liquor. It’s sweet and refreshing and does the job implied by the name. We also got a brunch special, El Montanero “Superbeasto”. It’s a hefty plate with 2 fried eggs, fried plantains, rice, beans, chorizo and chicharron, topped with Baja cream and chipotle mayo. This is not for the faint at heart (and probably not good for your heart), but it’s filling, tasty, and provides a good base for a day of mixological adventuring.

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My next stop is a Davis mainstay, Sligo. This is a quintessential dive bar in all the best ways. Dark, kind of dingy, with graffiti on the walls, this is a great place to get a cheap beer and hang out. Their food offering involve a selection of chips, so you’re welcome to bring in your own food (note- we don’t know if this is an official policy, but people were bringing in their own food with abandon and no one said anything, so it seems legit). One note, this place is cash only so hit up the ATM before you head in (they do have one inside in case you forget).

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Our next stop was Meju, a new Korean spot on Elm St. It’s a clean, bright space with a bar and a fairly big dining room. The menu features Korean favorites such as bibimbap and bulgolgi, along with dumplings and steamed buns. Here we had a bottle of soju, which is a Korean distilled liquor we had been newly acquainted with. It comes either plain for flavored, and we had grapefruit. You drink it neat from small cups, reminiscent of sake.

We ventured to Orleans, which a little outside the square on Holland St. This is a casual spot with lots of happenings, like Taco Tuesday, forty cent wing night on Thursdays, and live music through out he weekend. It’s a good, casual standby.

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Next we went to Sacco’s candlepin bowling alley, or, as it’s now known, Flatbread Company. Flatbread Company took it over several years ago and added a wood fired pizza oven and an expansive bar (made out of the bowling lanes that used to be there. They have an extensive beer and drink list. In addition to beers, we tried the chocolate raspberry martini (which was sort of thick, like a milkshake consistency), and an absolutely delicious warm apple cider with whiskey, served in a koozie-wrapped Mason jar. This place was hopping, and would be a great night out with good food, good drinks, and candle pin bowling.

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We continued to Saloon, a speakeasy located under Foundry on Elm. This is a dim, sleek space, with a well though out layout. The bar is small, but the corners are rounded out so small groups can sit comfortably. The drinks here are well crafted and thoughtful, without sacrificing deliciousness. One of the standout drinks we tried was the Cask of Amontillado (we can never pass up a Poe reference), which made with rye, Amontillado sherry, cacao, and pimento. We also had some surprisingly fun bar snacks for such an upscale place, including the tasty fried pickles and the chef’s popcorn of the day, which on this particular day was Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  We would highly checking this place out if you’re looking for a great atmosphere and really well made drinks.

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Our penultimate stop was Rosebud Café, a well known staple of Davis. Here we had the most whimsical drink of the day, the PB&J, made with Rittenhouse Rye, Peanut Butter Orgeat, Lejay Cassis and lemon, and topped off with a mini PB&J sandwich. Drinks with a snack area always a plus, but this was a very adult take on the childhood staple.

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Our final stop was another classic Davis establishment, The Burren. This is a classic pub with live music. It’s a spirited, fun atmosphere. It’s a staple for a reason, and it’s hard not to enjoy yourself when you’re there. On this stop, we enjoyed some good beers and some fun Irish music up front, while the line built up in anticipation of the opening of the back room.

Our day in Davis was lively and full of great drinks with good friends, and we hardly scratched the surface. There are scores of other great places in the area that are worth checking out. If you don’t get to Davis very much, make the effort to get there, it has a lot of fun to offer!

Crawl In “Fenway Favorites”

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When we’re not organizing bar crawls, we still find ourselves visiting bars and fun spots around the city.

Fenway Favorites

The Fenway area is well known for the raucous pregame bars that line Landsdowne Street, but the area is also home to some great dining and amazing cocktail bars. We recently made a day of it to try out one of the newest additions to the area, as well as hitting up our favorite joints.

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We started the outing at Sweet Cheeks Q. Ran by former Top Chef, and current and always badass Tiffani Faison, this popular spot has been open for about five years and is well known for its delicious take on southern BBQ. We had dinner plans later on, but we couldn’t help but order the bucket o’biscuits. These are monstrous and delicious, with an amazing honey butter on the side. Flaky and tender, these are a carb lover’s dream. An order comes with four, but that is plenty due to their size.

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We meant to head next to Faison’s adjacent venture Tiger Mama, but it wasn’t open yet. But we can report form previous visits that this Asian fusion spot also has great food and well-made Tiki based cocktails. We continued down Boylston St. to Citizen Oyster Bar. This place is as well known for its whiskey selection as the bivalves in the name. This isn’t a stuffy or fancy place as many oyster bars in Boston tend to be, this place is almost more of a dive bar feel (in a good way). They have a whiskey focused cocktail menu, but will just as happily serve you a shot and a beer.

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Next up was the main event of the evening, dinner at Eventide Fenway. A causal concept from the more formal Eventide Oyster Co in Portland Maine, this new counter style restaurant opened recently and we couldn’t wait to try it. True to the fast-casual style dining room set up, there are no reservations and mostly counter-style seating, so it may be tough to go with a group. We managed to snag part of a table and began perusing the menu. We sampled much of it, and it was quite a feast. We started with oysters, of course, and they were well shucked and served with the usual accoutrement. The highlight of the meal was the brown-butter lobster roll. Instead of the traditional New-England style split hot dog roll, this is served on something reminiscent of a steamed bao. Fluffy and light, this is a great an unobtrusive vehicle for the tender, buttery lobster meat. We also sampled the tuna crude, which was crisp and refreshing; the clam chowder (a rich yet thin broth, not too thick), the chicken katsu sandwich (crunchy yet juicy) and roasted cauliflower. Everything here was good, but the portions were small and the price tag was large. That is not unexpected for what is clearly fresh, well sourced seafood, but it’s a little jarring to rack up such a hefty bill in such a casual setting.

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For dessert, we headed to one of our top spots in the city, Hojoko. We reviewed Hojoko when it opened in 2015, and it remains one of our favorite spots today. A perfect post dinner drink is their frozen pina colada, served with a roasted marshmallow. They usually have one or two other frozen drinks, and also a large selection of cocktails that seem Tiki inspired with interesting Japanese influence. This place always has good music, the bartenders are fun and knowledgeable, and it’s some of the most interesting food and drink in the city. This is our go-to spot for a reason, so if you haven’t been yet, make a point to head there, preferably before the crowd head back to Fenway in April.

 

Crawl In “Boston Winter”

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When we’re not organizing bar crawls, we still find ourselves visiting bars and fun spots around the city.

Boston Winter

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The adventure began at Boston Winter located at City Hall Plaza. We found Vinopolis and enjoyed a flight of red wines while enjoying some live music.  Boston Winter, in its second year, is an extremely welcome addition to the usual eyesore that is Government Center Plaza.  With ice skating and local shops selling gifts, this Christmas market has a European feel that is unique and fun.

After an icy walk through City Hall Plaza, we remembered that a wine shop was now open in the Boston Public Market. And it didn’t take us long to find the Massachusetts Farm Winery and Growers. They were offering a $10 wine tasting which seemed perfect. I honestly thought we’d try 4 or 5 different samples. Maybe our server was bored or maybe it was par for the course, but I think we had 12 each. I lost count as they kept coming, supplied by our cheerful and chatty host. Best $10 investment ever, including souvenir wine glasses.

Next up was The Hard Rock Café. We had enough wine for the night and they have some excellent coffee drinks to warm you up on a cold night. We met a nice older couple from Quincy who comes here every week. They were favorites of everyone at the bar it seemed, and we liked them quickly as well.  She’s a fan of the Red Sox and the rodeo, he’s big into Broadway, and they were lot of laughs.

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Up next was a quick walk over to Christopher Columbus Park to check out some holiday lights.

We continued to Faneuil Hall to see the 85 foot Christmas Tree.

We quickly realized it had been a very long time since we had last eaten. And one of our favorite burgers was within walking distance. So we headed over to JM Curley which also happened to be Star Wars night. Besides burgers, this is a great spot for cocktails, beers and snacks (try the bacon popcorn!) Hidden in the back is Bogie’s, an amazing, tiny steakhouse that serves superb steaks in a cool setting.

We finished it off at No. 9 Park. The famous Tom and Jerry is only available annually from first snowfall until Valentine’s Day. It’s like a warm egg nog and a hug. One of Boston’s nicest restaurants, No. 9 Park overlooks the Common and when the Christmas lights are on, it’s one of the most romantic spots in town. They also have an extensive classic cocktail menu, and they make a mean martini.