When I spent a college semester in Ireland, I noticed how welcoming the pubs were to kids. Pubs were really more of a family affair, where the whole crew could gather for some fish stew and card games. So many years later, as a mom raising her kids in the very Irish Boston area, I love finding a good family-friendly pub. Here are a few of my favorites:
Doyle’s Cafe (Jamaica Plain)
Located just down the street from the Sam Adams Brewery, Doyle’s is the real deal. Steeped in local history (just check out the faded framed photographs that pepper the walls), it’s the only place that has a shout-out from Clint Eastwood on its website. (Eastwood chose Doyle’s for the bar scene in “Mystic River.”) Plus, Doyle’s meets a couple of my major criteria for a family-friendly establishment: It’s big, and it’s loud. Both factors ensure that my wild brood of five will simply blend in — rather than stand out. When dining with my kids, anonymity is a good thing.
The Green Dragon (Boston)
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you bring your toddler to Faneuil Hall late on a Saturday night. But for a post-aquarium lunch or an early dinner, Faneuil pubs are surprisingly family friendly. At the top of the list stands the Green Dragon, established in 1654 and once frequented by Paul Revere himself. A bit touristy today, the Green Dragon is still a good bet for appeasing the whole family. With dishes like “victory fish and chips” on the kids’ menu, and the “redcoat wing sampler” for adults, the place caters to all ages.
Emmets Irish Pub and Restaurant (Boston)
Another downtown pub, Emmets is the authentic counterpoint to the touristy Green Dragon. It’s tucked away in the financial district, and once inside, the cozy atmosphere is true Ireland. Emmets offers a fantastic pour of Guinness (not as easy as you might think), as well as a tasty Emmets home brew. Can’t decide? There’s a sampler that features both beers. To keep the little ones happy while you sip, the kids’ menu boasts crowd-pleasing favorites like chicken tenders and grilled cheese.
Mick Morgan’s (Newton and Sharon)
If we hadn’t spent our summer in temporary housing at the Avalon in Newton Highlands, we never would have discovered this place. But in search of something other than fast food along busy Needham Street, we found ourselves pushing the stroller over to Mick Morgan’s one night. And we’re glad we did. Casual and not a bit pretentious, Mick serves a regular crowd who smiled at our kiddos and couldn’t care less when I stood clumsily eating fish tacos while the baby snoozed in my pack. There are crayons for little diners and a good kids’ menu. (Plus, did I mention the delicious fish tacos?) Our stint at the Avalon has since ended, but we’re still regulars at Mick Morgan’s.
The Publick House (Brookline)
It’s a special kind of pub that can be both large and cozy at the same time. The Publick House is just that. It also boasts one of the most impressive draft lists I’ve seen, tucked-away booths for larger families, and outside seating in the summer. More American than Irish, I had to include The Publick House on this list because it’s my neighborhood pub. Plus, when I’m digging into the savory shepherd’s pie and O’Hara’s stout, I happen to feel quite Irish. This is another one that’s best to visit early with the kids; we tend to go around 5:30 p.m., when we — and our large stroller — are welcomed with open arms.
Other good options are The Burren (Somerville), Napper Tandy’s (Walpole, Norwood, Roslindale, and Jamaica Plain), and The Tinker’s Son in Norwell (thanks to my friend Kelly at KidNosh — an expert in dining out with kids — for this last one!). I’m sure there are more — and that researching them would be fun!