Not too long ago, it seemed like you could easily find a basic, comfortable neighborhood bar in many if not most parts of the Greater Boston area (that is, except in dry towns), but now, it's tougher and tougher to find such spots, especially in the city of Boston itself, where real estate prices and lease/rental rates continue to go through the roof. There is a spot in Brighton that is one such place, though for how much longer is anyone’s guess since originally, it looks like its home could be the site of new development as soon as later next year, though now we are hearing that it plans to remain in the space for at least six more years. Still, if you lean toward simple and friendly local watering holes and find yourself on Commonwealth Avenue, you may want to hit Harry’s Bar and Grill sooner rather than later, because it’s a real gem, and one whose future may eventually be in question.
Harry's sits in a slightly out-of-the-way location, just up the hill from Allston Village and a few minutes east of Boston College. The place (which some consider to actually be in Allston, by the way) certainly draws from the BC crowds but it also gets some students from Boston University, which isn’t all that far away as you head east on Comm. Ave. toward downtown Boston. But the dining and drinking spot really caters to a mix of people in addition to college students, including middle-aged folks who never left the Allston/Brighton area, locals who live in the nearby residential neighborhoods including in Brookline (which is within walking distance), and office workers who come from all around, including the Longwood Medical Area and various pockets in Newton, Brookline, and elsewhere. The overall feel of Harry’s is that of a slightly nerdy or geeky spot (right down to their featuring the popular Geeks Who Drink trivia nights), which perhaps goes somewhat against the layout of the place, whose long bar to the left, pool table on the upper level, and dark atmosphere make it look a bit more like a frat hangout or perhaps even a dive bar, neither of which really applies. High-top tables are set up on the lower level while a mix of high-tops and low-tops can be found on the upper level, and it’s not a particularly noisy place even with the high ceiling, exposed brick, and uncarpeted floors.
You don’t come to Harry’s for tuna tartare, seared foie gras, or caviar, instead choosing from a menu full of bar bites, comfort food, and American classics along with beer and mixed drinks. Some of the pub grub is really quite excellent here, with some of the highlights includes buffalo chicken tenders that may not look all that special, but are among the best in the city thanks to a terrific marinade and tender—but not too tender—meat; outstanding wings with the same buffalo sauce, or if you’d like, a number of other marinades such as teriyaki, garlic parmesan, Memphis dry rub, BBQ, or sweet chili; a plate of “Irish” nachos that includes waffle fries, plenty of cheese, scallions, and sour cream, and can basically be made into a meal since it is so filling; a bowl of chili made with both beef and pork along with sour cream and plenty of jack and cheddar cheese; big, hefty 1/2-pound burgers with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and Harry’s special sauce which appears to be made using a secret recipe; a terrific baked macaroni and cheese that has four different cheeses and breadcrumbs—and which can be made even better with the addition of such options as corned beef, ham, or chicken; a smoky, charred plate of steak tips with very garlicky mashed potatoes; and a classic old fish and chips dinner with tartar sauce. The beer list at Harry’s includes some real gems (as of this writing, Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine is available), and their beer blends should not be overlooked, as options (depending on the season) include a rich-tasting winter black velvet (Guinness and Downeast Winter Blend), a slightly spicy “pumkin” black velvet (Guinness and Downeast Pumpkin Blend), and a hearty black pumkin (Guinness and Captain Lawrence Autumn Blaze Pumpkin Ale). A number of more traditional mixed drinks are also offered, and you can also order a “happy meal” that includes a can of cheap beer and a shot of whiskey.
It would be a shame if Harry’s Bar and Grill eventually lost its home, because it seems to be part of a dying breed--an unpretentious, inexpensive neighborhood restaurant and bar that doesn't pretend to be anything that it's not. It remains to be seen what the long-term future holds for this place, but for now, Harry's is a very fine option for those looking to have a fun night out without dealing with attitudes or complex menus, and without breaking the bank.
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