The Greater Boston area has countless Italian restaurants as well as a large number of bars and pubs, and every now and then you'll find a place that seems to intersect both categories. A couple such spots are La Hacienda in Somerville and Monte's in Lynn, with a third being the now-closed Salem Wood Cafe in Malden. Another such spot can be found within the Boston city limits, with the Kelley Square Pub featuring a mix of Italian and American cuisine, and it happens to reside in a section of the city--East Boston--that used to be mostly Italian (and still has a handful of Italian eateries). And much like the places mentioned above, this homey-feeling eating and drinking establishment isn't the easiest place to find, being off the beaten path in a neighborhood that isn't really known for its restaurants.
The Kelley Square Pub looks a little like a dive bar from the outside, but it is definitely more of a neighborhood joint than a hole in the wall. Located in a mostly residential area a short distance northeast of Central Square--and a few blocks from the entrance to the Sumner Tunnel--this is one of those places that you tend to stumble upon, since it is on a road that doesn't really take you from point A to point B all that easily. It may appear that parking is nearly impossible to find around the Kelley Square Pub, but if you look closely, you'll see a parking lot for the place just to the right of the building, which is indeed a rarity for a restaurant in Boston. The interior is classic old-school Boston, with a long, narrow dining area in the front that is partitioned off from a bar that runs alongside of it, and a private-feeling room in the back with a huge number of photos of local athletes (and others) adorning the walls. By the way, the back room is called "The Andelman Room," in homage to sports radio legend Eddie Andelman, who has been known to have more than a few hot dogs here.
There is certainly something for everyone at the Kelley Square Pub, with the menu including soups, salads, wings, sandwiches (including outstanding eggplant parmigiana and chicken parmigiana subs), pizza, pasta, calzones (the chicken parm calzone is well worth getting), grill items, seafood, BBQ, and more. A good place to start is with an order of their wonderfully crunchy garlic bread, which is a lot less greasy than that which is found at many other dining and drinking spots. As for meals, one of the highlights here is the pizza, and unlike many places of its kind in the Boston area, this spot offers both Italian-style thin-crust pizza and thick Sicilian-style sheet pizza that is cut into squares. So which is better? Well, that is up for debate, but this writer gives the (slight) nod to the outstanding Sicilian pizza, which is loaded with cheese and sauce and has a more flavorful dough than many of its competitors. The thin-crust pizza is no slouch, either, with some of the toppings available being the breaded eggplant, shrimp scampi, anchovy, garlic, meatball, and hot pepper. Two other signature dishes at the Kelley Square Pub are both appetizers--the stuffed peppers, which are loaded with meat and covered in a terrific red sauce, and the bacon-wrapped scallops, which are huge and have fall-apart tender scallops enclosed by ultra-crisp bacon. (Another app--the steak and cheese eggrolls--are worth looking into as well.) The grill items here are also worth looking at, with the sweet Italian sausage and steak tips rivaling some of the best found in the cities and neighborhoods immediately to the north of downtown Boston. Two other dishes that need to be considered are the chicken parmigiana plate, which includes their fantastic red sauce, and the old-fashioned pork chops with vinegar peppers, and don't forget to take a look at the daily specials, as the meatloaf and the very old-fashioned stuffed rigatoni with meatballs are both excellent. Don't expect high-end beers, wines, or cocktails at this place, but a few craft beers are typically available here.
Each year it seems like there are fewer and fewer local neighborhood joints in and around Boston that serve good food and drink cheap, which makes the Kelley Square Pub that much more of a go-to spot to those who love such old-Boston places. And the fact that this one features both Italian and American dishes makes it good for large groups with diverse tastes. It may not be a household name (even after more than 20 years in business), but the Kelly Square Pub is definitely a popular place among folks who live nearby as well as those outside of the area who have somehow learned about it.
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