When it comes to now-closed Boston-area restaurants, bars, and clubs, there are some names that almost seem sacred; the list is a long and varied one but includes such spots as The European, Johnnie D's, Willow Pond, Anthony's Pier 4, Buzzy's, The Rat, Locke-Ober, The Channel, The Wursthaus, Jack and Marion's, T.T. the Bear's, and so many more, including (most recently) Jacob Wirth, Doyle's, The No Name, and Durgin-Park. One other name comes to mind, and it bring back many, many memories, and for good reason, as Bunratty's in Allston was a music club with a storied past and one that saw such acts as Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith play there. Well, Bunratty's is long gone now, having disappeared in the 1990s, but you may have noticed that a new spot with a similar name quietly popped up in the northern suburbs a few years back. And while Bunratty Tavern in Reading is completely different from the Bunratty's of music fame (and no, it has no ownership connection), it happens to be a great place for food and drink--and its space is something of a throwback, not in the vein of the Allston club, but more like that of the classic old pubs found on the streets of Dublin, which happens to be where the owner grew up.
Bunratty Tavern is located right in the heart of Reading Center, which is a rather sleepy little commerical area that has a handful of dining options. Reading has never been known for its nightlife, so it makes sense that this is an Irish pub that is a bit more button-down than wild and crazy, and much like some of the best suburban Irish pubs like The Raven's Nest in Walpole, Dunn-Gaherin's in Newton Upper Falls, and The Snug in Hingham, Bunratty Tavern feels like a restaurant first and a bar second. As hinted at earlier, the place has the feel of a well-worn public house in Dublin, perhaps not to the level of the wonderful literary pubs found in that city, but with some of the touches found in those places, including the use of dark woods and old-fashioned lighting, a narrow and deep space with a front area where traditional Irish bands play, an attractive bar to the left, and further back through an echoey hall area, a dining section far enough from the music so that it is relatively quiet, but with the music still able to be heard. (A large TV that shows soccer, rugby, and more is also set up in the back.) During the warmer months, a patio can be found through a doorway to the right, and much of it is far enough away from the road so that there isn't much noise from traffic.
When an Irish pub tends to focus more on food than drink (as opposed to the many that are the other way around, and the few that actually don't even serve food), it's obviously important to make sure the food is a step above basic bar fare, and Bunratty Tavern does what the better ones--such as those mentioned above--do, offering great takes on traditional Irish and Irish-American food while also serving solid pub grub and old-fashioned American dishes. Highlights are many here, with one of the best options being the fish and chips plate which uses cod rather than haddock or another type of whitefish, and it is a great choice as the fish is lean, slightly firm, and mild, with much of the flavor coming from the delicious batter. The tavern nachos are also worth getting as an appetizer or perhaps even as a meal, with kettle chips used rather than tortilla chips, and you may be able to get them with pieces of corned beef depending on the season and the specials offered, which could definitely justify turning it into more of a meal than an app. The beef stew, chicken curry, and shepherd's pie are all great takes on Irish (and Irish-American) fare, while a "cottage pie" that is made with chicken is a different take on this classic dish, and really more like a chicken pot pie. Other top choices at Bunratty Tavern include tavern tacos that can be ordered with haddock or corned beef, the latter of which is surprisingly great because the corned beef is so tasty here, and a rather large angus burger that can be topped with barbecue sauce. An extensive list of gluten-free items is also available here and it includes gluten-free versions of many of their most popular dishes including beef stew, shepherd's pie, and a corned beef dinner. Bunratty, as you might expect, has a full bar, though many who come here opt for Irish beers such as Guinness, Smithwick's, and O'Hara's Irish Red.
It may not conjure up memories of Bunratty's in Allston, but Reading's Bunratty Tavern seems like the kind of place that may stick around long enough to help create new memories for folks in the area, and the fact that it has a settled-in feel to it even though it's only a few years old sets it apart from so many generic restaurants and bars in the area that tend to all seem the same after awhile. Boston's suburbs continue to gain interesting dining and drinking spots, and this pub is certainly one to check out for its food, drink, and atmosphere.
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