There are some restaurants that, while little-known in most of a general region, aren't considered hidden gems by people who live near them, with neighborhood restaurants and local pubs often falling into this category. And one such place in Newton Highlands certainly fits into this, as O'Hara's is both a family-friendly neighborhood spot and a local watering hole that is frequented not only by residents of this picturesque part of the city, but also by commuters who travel along the Green Line during the workweek. Yet for all of its popularity among Newton folks, ask someone in, say, Boston, Quincy, or Wakefield about O'Hara's and chances are you'll be greeted with a blank look. This could be due to the fact that Newton Highlands is a quiet little hamlet that isn't exactly on a busy thoroughfare (though lots of drivers cruise past it a few blocks to the south on Route 9) and also because Newton itself isn't really the type of dining destination that neighboring Brookline and Waltham are. It is a shame that more people don't know about this place, as it is a warm and cozy spot that has a lot more dishes than you might expect at your typical Irish pub, including items that go well beyond your basic bar food.
O'Hara's is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside, with a large bar area dominating the space where the entrance is, a small dining space to the left, and two more rooms to the right that have a mix of chairs and bench seats. With its old-fashioned hanging lights, ceiling beams, use of dark woods throughout, and slightly echoey acoustics, O'Hara's has both the feel of an old-Boston watering hole (Doyle's in Jamaica Plain comes to mind) and some of the classic urban pubs that are found across the Atlantic in Dublin. The eatery has a different look from its lesser-known sister restaurant--Paddy's Pub in West Newton--with Paddy's being smaller and slightly mellower, while O'Hara's tends to have a bit more of a bustling vibe to it.
In some ways, O'Hara's is more of a restaurant than a pub, and its menu tends to reflect this. In addition to Irish pub staples such as a hearty shepherd's pie with ground beef, mashed potatoes, veggies, and gravy, a creamy chicken curry, and tender fish and chips, the restaurant also offers such varied items as chicken bites, Portuguese-style mussels, French dip, a Montreal burger, chicken and asparagus risotto, ravioli, eggplant parm, London broil, blackened salmon, pizzas (these are similar to the excellent pizzas at Paddy's Pub), and calzones. A few highlights here include the warm and comforting French onion soup; tender fried calamari which can be ordered Rhode Island-style; lean steak tips in a zesty house-made marinade (the tips can also be ordered Kilkenny-style, with mushrooms, onions, and whipped potatoes); thin-crust pizzas that come loaded with various toppings and include both individual and family-sized options; large, juicy burgers that can be ordered with the aforementioned Montreal seasoning as well as bacon, bleu cheese, fried eggs, and more; the also aforementioned fish and chips, which are made using fresh haddock and come with a delicious tartar sauce; and specials such as an outstanding macaroni and cheese with Buffalo chicken on top. Desserts include various specials such as a moist red velvet cake, and drinks include beer, wine, mixed drinks, and a good number of Irish whiskeys and scotches.
While O'Hara's may seem like a household name to those who live, work, or commute in the Newton Highlands area, it really isn't that well-known a spot outside of the immediate area. And it just feels like a hidden gem to those who happen to stumble upon it, with the attractive exterior of this Irish spot seeming to beckon people to wander in for a bite to eat and a drink or two. A big thumbs-up to O'Hara's, which is certainly among this writer's favorite Irish spots in the Greater Boston area.
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