A few restaurants and bars that have been featured on this site have been of the "hidden in plain view" variety, including such spots as City Streets in Waltham and J & J Restaurant in Somerville, and that certainly includes the Irish pub that is the focus of this review, with James's Gate sitting on the corner of a very busy street in Jamaica Plain, though even to folks who have been there before it is still rather easy to miss. And this neighborhood favorite is a true hidden gem, with good food, great atmosphere, and a surprise or two within its space.
James's Gate is located in a rather ordinary-looking building (at least from the outside) a bit south of the heart of Jamaica Plain's commercial district heading toward Forest Hills and the Arnold Arboretum. Its unassuming exterior (which almost looks like a gussied-up storage space) and plain white sign out front make this place very easy to overlook, especially since it resides next to a more traditional-looking strip of businesses to the right. But the interior of Jame's Gate is charming and attractive, with its pub area consisting of lots of dark woods, ceiling beams, attractive lights in all shapes and sizes, old wooden tables, and a fireplace that's blazing in the colder months, while a dining area that is hidden away in the back has an almost artsy feel to it, with spotlights shining on paintings along the walls, earthy colors used throughout, and a quiet, funky-looking bar along the left wall (yes, James's Gate actually has two bars). The pub area is probably the room to go to for ambiance (it looks a lot like some of the rural pubs found in Ireland), while the dining room is best for a bit of peace and quiet.
Two different menus are available at James's Gate, with the bar side having a pub menu and the dining side having a restaurant menu. The pub menu includes above-average takes on chips and curry, classic toasties (including toasted ham and cheese sandwiches found in countless pubs in Ireland), burgers, shepherd's pie, chicken curry, macaroni and cheese, and fish and chips, while the restaurant menu includes some of what's on the pub menu plus items such as asparagus in hollandaise sauce, clam chowder, pan-seared salmon, and a rack of lamb. Standouts among these include the shepherd's pie, which is made using a rich mixture of beef and lamb, fish and chips (one of the best versions this writer has had in the Boston area), and the creamy baked macaroni and cheese. Drinks at James's gate include a nicely-poured Guinness as well as a variety of domestic and imported beers, Irish whiskey, and much more, while desserts include a rotating list of freshly-made specials such as a wonderfully rich chocolate mousse cake.
Like some of the other Irish pubs in Jamaica Plain, James's Gate is a place that is frequented mainly by locals, and it also happens to have a special charm that is not always found in pubs in and around Boston, especially within its warm and inviting pub area. Whether you are looking to have a pint and a fun night out by a real working fireplace, or a quiet dinner with good food and drink, James's Gate is definitely worth checking out.
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