Boston's 10 Hottest Bars Right Now

By Scott Kearnan | May 22, 2015 By Scott Kearnan  |  May 22, 2015

In our latest Hottest Bars installment, we turn our attention to the newest openings and most thriving scenes of the last several months. Now go, sample, sip — and spread the love. 

  • American Fresh Brewhouse

    Why It's Hot: Because 'tis the season for outdoor drinking, and this Assembly Row entry from the Somerville makers of Slumbrew is basically a beer garden composed of repurposed shipping crates. (It's also one of the area's best new alfresco options.) 

    Must-Drink: Um, everything? This is your chance to sample all the craft-suds maker's styles. So grab some board games, order up a charcuterie board and get to sippin'. 

    Insider Tip: If you'd rather stay in A/C-regulated environs, know that even newer is Slumbrew's Boynton Yards taproom (15 Ward Street), a 1,500-sq.-ft. facility filled with communal tables, plenty of overhead TVs, production space for experimenting with small test batches and retail of take-home starter kits for budding brewers.    

    301 Canal St., Somerville; 800-428-1150

  • Audubon

    Why It's Hot: Because it's Red Sox season, and not all of us want our game-day drinking to happen in sticky-floored dives. Last year this hipster- and young pro-skewing joint was taken over by the team behind Trina's Starlite Lounge, and at the helm is engaging cocktail guru Tyler Wang, one of our most recent 30 Under 30 honorees. You're guaranteed to find something much more polished than typical Fenway-area watering holes. 

    Must-Drink: We were most recently intoxicated by "Rome With a View," a Campari- and dry vermouth-based drink concocted by NYC mixology maestro Michael McIlroy. It's bright and springy, sort of like this weather. 

    Insider Tip: The veggie burger here is so good, even die-hard carnivores won't complain.  

    838 Beacon St.617-421-1910

  • Cafe ArtScience

    Why It's Hot: The Kendall Square-side restaurant is part of founder David Edwards' mission to "pioneer the future of food." (Check out our feature here.) But some of the most innovative stuff happens at the big bar, where New England's own Mr. Wizard of mixology, longtime Clio alum Todd Maul, does fascinating stuff with infusions, charred garnishes, centrifuges and other intelligently implemented high-tech tricks. 

    Must-Drink: The gin-based Singapore Sling features negative-40-degree ice cubes that have been injected with tart cherry juice. As they melt, the juice augments the drink with time-release flavor reserves.

    Insider Tip: The restaurant boasts a hivelike special event space that is used for special lectures about sustainable dining, food-science issues and other interesting topics. 

    650 Kendall St., Cambridge; 857-999-2193

  • Photo by: Michael Diskin

    Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

    Why It's Hot: Because when the folks behind South Boston's ever-buzzing Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant opened this Mexican eatery across the street, it was inevitable that it would foster a similarly high-energy scene for cocktail-tippling singles. Promise fulfilled

    Must-Drink: Loco is home to a crazy-good list of tequilas and mezcals: over 40 varieties, including the high-end "Woah Baby!" styles — like an $80 sip of DeLeon Extra Anejo. (Don't worry, you can opt to simply kick back with $10 margaritas and other funky cocktails made with housemade juices.)

    Insider Tip: The fresh scallops escabeche happens to be on our roundup of 30 Things You Must Eat & Drink This Summer, so while you're here you might as well take a bite out of your bucket list. 

    412 W. Broadway, South Boston; 617-917-5626

  • River Bar

    Why It's Hot: Who knew that Somerville's retail- and restaurant-focused commercial development Assembly Row would wind up being a new drinking hangout? Besides "elevated street food" from chef Patrick Gilmartin, River Bar boasts an impressive array of craft beers, biodynamic wines and creative cocktails for sipping in the intimate main room — or better yet, on the massive patio. 

    Must-Drink: We dig the Absinthe Frappé of Herbsaint and Benedictine. Feeling more adventurous? There's an absinthe fountain at the bar for the classic, unadulterated preparation.

    Insider Tip: Don't sweat the chillier nights. The three-seasons patio is heated and hosts several fire pits. 

    661 Assembly Row, Somerville; 617-616-5561

  • Shojo

    Why It's Hot: We'd already declared bar manager Markus Yao a Boston Bartender You Need to Know. But when O Ya alum Mark O'Leary joined the kitchen last summer, the chef enlivened the menu with polished-yet-playful additions that give us a host of new reasons to swing by for dining and drinking. 

    Must-Drink: Pucker up for Ozawa's Kiss. Hakushu Japanese whiskey aged 12 years gets cozy with Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse and house bitters. We're in love.

    Insider Tip: If you can, score some ramen while you're at it. O'Leary's is a New Boston Classic

    9 Tyler St.; 617-423-7888

  • Photo by: Natasha Moustache

    Tavern Road

    Why It's Hot: In April, Tavern Road's main menu tweaked to better reflect the more casual, whimsical fare that was being purveyed at its annexed grab-and-go concept, TR Street Foods. The Fort Point joint from brothers Louis and Michael DiBiccari has already hosted a vibrant late-night bar scene that seems particularly popular with industry types. The new dinner menu, spotlighting noshes like lamb meatball gyros and Korean BBQ chicken wings, feels like a more appropriate setup for that kind of scene.  

    Must-Drink: For a tropical summery treat, opt for the Lassi, made with rum, puréed mango, yogurt and pineapple.

    Insider Tip: Head to Tavern Road's webpage, sign up for its newsletter and score yourself a free order of chickpea bites as a thank you. You're welcome. 

    343 Congress St.; 617-790-0808

  • Tony C's Sports Bar and Grill

    Why It's Hot: You want fancy? Look elsewhere. You want a through-and-through sports-bar experience? Look up at the giant flat-screen TVs that fill this Assembly Row newcomer named for Red Sox legend Tony Conigliaro. (And then look down at those sauce-slathered Buffalo wings.) 

    Must-Drink: Sure, there's a small cocktail menu. But with over 40 selections on tap, from local craft suds to mass-market names, you're fine sticking with beer. 

    Insider Tip: Mere months after debuting in Somerville, Tony C's opened a second location at Burlington's 3rd Ave development. North Shore suburbanites can skip the traffic and stay closer to home. 

    699 Assembly Row, Somerville; 617-666-8282

  • Townsman

    Why It's Hot: We were excited when we learned that James Beard-nominated chef Matt Jennings would leave Providence to open this American restaurant in Downtown Boston. We were even more excited when we learned that presiding over its bar would be Citizen Public House alum Sean Frederick, generally regarded as one of our city's top cocktail gurus. Naturally, the large front bar and lounge hops nightly with after-work crowds.

    Must-Drink: We're partial to the Kingston Cup, a Pimm's spin made with housemade ginger beer, Sichuan pepper and fennel seed. 

    Insider Tip: Local sourcing informs not only the food, but the decor here. For instance, the kitchen uses copper pots made by Rhode Island beekeeper Jim Hamann, who previously supplied honey for Jenning's late Providence hit Farmstead Inc.

    120 Kingston St.; 617-993-0750

  • Viale

    Why It's Hot: Over the fall, the Central Square space that formerly housed Rendezvous was reborn as Viale. Important: its new owners are alums of nearby Green Street, long known as one of Cambridge's top cocktail spots. Viale, as expected, lives up that reputation. 

    Must-Drink: Keep an eye out for oft-changing cocktail specials. Past favorites have included the Clover Club, a gin tipple with raspberry syrup and egg white. Something new is always shaking up.

    Insider Tip: Viale added brunch service in March. On Sundays from 10:30 AM to 2 PM you'll now find a spread that includes rotating omelet specials (from wild boar omelets to fried calamari omelets), small plates like roasted bone marrow with escargot and larger dishes like duck egg carbonara.

    502 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-576-1900

Places Mentioned

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American Fresh Brewhouse

Brewpub Somerville
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Audubon Boston

American Fenway/Kenmore
Food22 Decor20 Service22 Cost$25
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Café ArtScience

French Cambridge
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Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar

Mexican South Boston
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River Bar

Bar Somerville
Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
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Shojo Boston

Cocktail Bar Chinatown
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Tavern Road

American Seaport District
Food22 Decor20 Service20 Cost$45
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Tony C's Sports Bar and Grill

American Somerville
Food- Decor- Service- CostI
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New England Chinatown
Food- Decor- Service- CostE
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Mediterranean Cambridge
Food- Decor- Service- CostM

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