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Where Boston's Politicos Drink and Dine

By Scott Kearnan
January 7, 2014

This week Boston welcomes Mayor Marty Walsh - our first new Big Man in City Hall in 20 years. Of course, politics are a pastime here in Boston (and occasionally a blood sport), and even our restaurants have historic ties to the power players who have ruled City Hall over the years. In honor of this week's inauguration, here are a few spots with some historic political significance. 

  • Ruth's Chris Steak House

    If these walls could talk, they'd probably need to be put in the witness protection program. The Boston outpost of the high-end steakhouse brand is located in the historic building known as Old City Hall. Built in 1865, it was here that more than 30 Boston mayors served before City Hall moved to the current icon/monstrosity of brutalist architecture over at Government Center in 1969. The last mayor to walk these halls was one of Boston's most well known: Kevin White, who spent the first of his somewhat turbulent 16 years as mayor here before Old City Hall turned into an office building and home to several restaurants - including the former French gem Maison Robert, which closed in 2004. 

  • jm Curley

    Four-term mayor John Michael Curley had a twofold reputation: as a hugely popular working-class icon and accessible "man of the people," and also as scofflaw tied to corruption scandals and convicted twice on fraud counts. Somehow it makes perfect sense that this Downtown Crossing gastropub would be named in his honor. Under chef Sam Monsour (who just departed in December), it earned a reputation as a foodie favorite that served quality American but flouted convention. ("White trash charcuterie" once made an appearance.)

  • Alibi

    Oh, yeah. About that Mayor Curley and his fraud convictions? He served his second sentence in the Charles Street Jail, which is now home to the Liberty Hotel and the lounge spot Alibi. The design pays clear homage to the building's past, from the dramatic center rotunda to Alibi's prison bars and brick walls decorated with oversized mug shots of contemporary jailbirds like Paris Hilton and Hugh Grant. Incidentally, Curley was reelected mayor while he was serving time here, so Hilton's was not the only case in which jail time served as a career boost.

  • J.J. Foley's Cafe

    Sure, you can grab a Guinness at its Downtown Crossing offshoot too. But it's the 100-plus-year-old South End original on East Berkeley Street that has even more history. As the historic photos on the walls attest, the pub (which serves up some surprisingly solid grub) has been a favorite spot for Boston's legions of Irish-American politicos to meet up, drink down - and occasionally, we're told, spill beans to eavesdropping Boston Herald reporters that were among Foley's biggest regulars (the former Herald office was across the street). 

  • Parker's

    The elegant, storied restaurant in the Omni Parker House Hotel, birthplace of the Boston cream pie, has plenty of history to spare. (Even one of its past busboys became famous: Malcolm X once cleared tables here.) For the ultimate romantic gesture, request Table 40: that's the table where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier.

  • Union Oyster House

    Speaking of JFK, here's another seat with special significance. JFK was known to be a devotee of Union Oyster House, the country's oldest continuously operating restaurant. (Actually, the entire political family have been fans.) In fact, Booth 18 is recognized as the "Kennedy Booth," because it is here that the President most frequently enjoyed his clam chowder. 

  • Legal Sea Foods

    The chowder at Union Oyster House may have captivated Kennedy, but this Boston-born chain is no slouch when it comes to impressing politicians, either. Slurp down a bowl and know that you're eating like a king of the free world: Legal Sea Foods chowder has been served at each and every presidential inauguration since Ronald Reagan's in 1981. 

  • Doyle's Cafe

    This Irish pub in Jamaica Plain was established in 1882, and indeed, it's practically a museum, with nearly every decor element having some kind of historic significance attached. But it's also been a favorite watering hole for Boston politicians, including a pre-mayor Menino and former Mayor John F. Fitzgerald, to whom a room at Doyle's was dedicated in his honor by grandson Ted Kennedy (know him?) on St. Patrick's Day, 1988. Oh, one other historic note: this pub is where Boston-born beer Sam Adams was first put on tap. 

  • Warren Tavern

    This Charlestown landmark is the oldest watering hole in Massachusetts and one of the oldest in the country. In fact, it was a favorite tavern for none other than America's first president, George Washington. (Paul Revere was a regular too.) Today you can stop in for solid American pub fare, a brew or a Washington Apple Martini (Crown Royal, Apple Pucker & cranberry juice). If you opt for the last, tip out a bit for George: this is also the spot where his funeral speech was given. 

  • China Pearl

    Secretary of State John Kerry doesn't really strike us as a Chinatown cheap eats kind of guy. But the former senator from Massachusetts is apparently a big fan. In a USA Today interview during his '04 presidential run, Kerry named China Pearl as one of his favorite spots in Boston. "[It is] the best spot for dim sum on weekends," Kerry told the paper.

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