There's something about a well-worn bar that makes it appealing to so many; it can often be seen as a place to escape from the rain or snow, a bad day at work, or perhaps just to escape, period. And if the place has good food, as is the case with an unassuming little spot in Cambridge called Atwood's Tavern, well, so much the better. In some ways, this dining and drinking establishment is just the place for getting away from it all, and the fact that it combines the feel of a dive bar with the food and drink of an upscale gastropub makes it a place that tends to stand out, that is, if you know about it (its location several blocks east of the burgeoning restaurant scene of Inman Square keeps it just a bit hidden).
From the outside, it's a bit tough to tell exactly what Atwood's is if you have never been to the place. Is it a dive? An Irish pub? An old-school restaurant and watering hole? A music club? The answer is all of the above (to an extent), though the fact that the crowd includes college students, biotech folks, and music fans makes it only look like a dive bar, and the dark woods that you so often find in an Irish pub also gives it the look of such a spot, while in reality, it is more of a beer bar or gastropub, as implied earlier. And speaking of music, why do music fans come to Atwood's? Well, in the back of the place is a small stage where countless singers and bands perform night after night, making this a fave for those who want some tunes with their food and beer, and it has become more and more popular with music lovers due in part to the closures of several nearby clubs over the past few years. In addition to the stage out back, Atwood's has a few tables by the front entrance, a long bar that extends along the left side of the space, a larger dining area in the back where the stage is, and a "hidden" outdoor patio off to the side that opens whenever the weather is nice (so yes, it has been known to open on mild winter days).
If you like the food and drink options at places such as Deep Ellum in Allston, The Local in West Newton, Highland Kitchen in Somerville, The Publick House in Brookline, and the Fat Cat in Quincy, you'll probably want to check out Atwood's as well, as the food could probably be described as "inventive" pub grub while the drinks list features something for nearly every beer lover out there. A few of the food options here include marinated olives to start the meal; a garlicky hummus with cucumbers and house-made pita; a cheese plate and a charcuterie plate that both feature items from the outstanding Formaggio Kitchen (and the delicious sourdough bread from Iggy's); fried fish tacos that come with a garlic aioli; an incredibly rich-tasting grass-fed burger with the meat coming from Double J Farm in West Brookfield; an open-faced wild boar bratwurst and (for those who might not be quite as adventurous) a meaty quarter-pound Pearl hot dog; creamy old-school macaroni and cheese that comes with broccoli (bacon is a must for this dish, by the way); savory grilled boneless pork chops with perfectly-cooked Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and parsnips; crispy pork belly that comes with grits; and a tremendous roasted Mayflower chicken that has just the right amount of char. Desserts are not for the faint of heart, with the house-made creme brulee and the outrageously rich Taza chocolate pudding being just two of the options here. The very lengthy beer list at Atwood's includes favorites from breweries such as SingleCut, Mayflower, Nightshift, Idle Hands, Notch, Avery, and Duvel, while cocktails include a mix of oddly-named drinks and classics (a Dark and Stormy is included in the latter category).
It may not be a household name in the Boston area--or Cambridge, for that matter--but Atwood's Tavern is a fun spot that food, beer, and music lovers should certainly seek out. And because it is away from the hustle and bustle of Inman Square, parking is generally not much of an issue. (Alas, like the rest of the Inman Square area, it is not easily accessible from the T, though bus lines do run by it.) It can be tough to choose among the many restaurants and bars that line Cambridge Street, and this comfy little watering hole certainly doesn't make this any easier.
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