In discussing the Hillside Pub in Canton, a number of questions may come to mind. One is, "Where is the Hillside Pub?" And when told it is on Royall Avenue, a typical response may be, "Where is Royall Avenue"? And when actually shown the shoebox-sized place that is nestled along the southern edge of the Blue Hills Reservation, a possible answer may be, "That place is a restaurant?" Yes, the Hillside Pub is in a rather odd location, and sure, it appears to be just a shade bigger than some SUVs on the road, but it is a friendly little place that is a nice spot for food and drink, as well as catching games on any number of the TVs above the bar and tables.
If you are a hiker, there is a chance that you have seen the Hillside Pub--from a distance, anyway. Situated between two gas stations near the intersection of Route 138 and Hillside Street (and just north of the Route 128/138 intersection), the place can be seen from the summit of Great Blue Hill, which looms directly above it to the northeast. Because of its location between two gas stations--and because it is so small--the Hillside Pub is nearly invisible to drivers on Route 138. But while the exterior appears almost impossibly tiny, the interior of the place is actually rather spacious and comfortable, as nearly the entire structure is used for the bar and dining section. A handful of seats can be found at the homey-feeling bar area on the left, and it is used not only by drinkers but also by folks looking to have a bite to eat while chatting with the folks working behind the counter. To the right are a number of tables of various sizes that are spaced apart enough so that patrons do not feel packed in. The overall atmosphere feels a bit like a mix of a sports bar and an Irish pub, but this is certainly the latter, and indeed, Irish brogues can be heard as often as (and at times, more often than) Boston accents.
Pub grub at local watering holes generally does not waver a whole lot in quality from place to place, so don't expect expertly plated meals and farm-to-table freshness here. But the food at the Hillside Pub is quite good compared to your basic bar, including some delicious soups that change daily (the hearty beef and barley soup has huge chunks of tender beef and a rich broth), a particularly good reuben on toasted rye bread with very lean corned beef, a decent half-pound burger on a bulkie roll, tender grilled steak tips with a mild but tasty marinade and peppers, onions, and mushrooms mixed in, a hearty beef stew with lots of root veggies (this is a special that isn't always available), a classic steak and cheese sub, and pizza straddles the fence between thin-crust Italian and bar pies (the Irish pizza, with mashed potatoes, scallions, and the choice of bacon or ham is particularly tasty). Some classic bar appetizers are offered, including jalapeno poppers, a very cheesy chili, wings, and nachos, and a children's menu is also available. The bar has a surprisingly large number of whiskey and scotch options, and several beers are on tap including a very well-poured Guinness and an always-good Smithwick's.
The Hillside Pub has a number of qualities that help make it a real hidden gem, including good food, a friendly staff, a nearly invisible location, and a loyal following among locals. And for a little-known place, it is actually one of the most convenient dining and drinking establishments to get to for many, as it is within 5 minutes of the Braintree Split, the Route 128/24 intersection, and the Route 95/128/93 intersection. It may not exactly be a household name, but the Hillside Pub is an appealing little spot that lovers of Irish pubs and comfort food joints will probably want to check out.
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