Boston has Irish pubs seemingly at every turn, and while the lines can often be blurred, these drinking spots can more or less be categorized in a number of ways. Some are touristy spots that can be fun but don't really feel authentic; others are closer to dive bars that have more of a true "old-Boston" feel to them; still others are popular college spots that have a dynamic vibe; and yes, some really do feel like the type of dark and moody pubs that you might find in Dublin, Cork, or Galway. And in the case of one watering hole in an often-overlooked section of the city, these last two categories meld together to help form a bit of a hidden gem in Flann O'Brien's that is a favorite haunt of students, lovers of traditional pubs, and many more.
Flann O'Brien's resides on the southern edge of Brigham Circle in Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood, which has a number of restaurants and bars that cater to locals, workers from the medical buildings and offices a few blocks to the north, and college students mainly from nearby Northeastern University, MassArt, Simmons, and Wentworth. The pub definitely attracts all of these folks, and it also is popular with Irish immigrants who can be found across the street at the Puddingstone Tavern as well. The space in which Flann's resides is a cozy one, with a fireplace near the front door, stone walls, a long bar in the main room, and pictures of various Irish writers hanging on the walls (Flann O'Brien was the pen name of Irish novelist Brian O'Nolan), while there is also a small room out back with a pool table. The front area can get pretty cold whenever the door opens, so on a chilly winter night, it is best to sit at the far end of the bar or at one of the tables closer to the back room.
Like many Irish pubs, the menu at Flann O'Brien's features a mix of pub grub, American classics, and Irish fare. A few of the highlights include some outstanding sweet potato fries with a honey mustard sauce, curry fries with some of the best curry tried in the Boston area, Asian pot stickers with a sweet chili sauce, a meaty chili that could be considered a meal in itself, a moderately thick clam chowder, a BLT with Irish bacon included, an 8-ounce burger that can be ordered with a fried egg on top, steak tips that come with garlic bread, fries, and coleslaw, a hearty beef stew with lots of root vegetables, fish and chips with peas and coleslaw, and for its weekend brunch, a full Irish breakfast that can be ordered in three sizes--small, large, or extra large. Drinks at Flann's include a perfectly-poured Guinness and an equally well-poured Murphy's, while Smithwicks and Harp can also be ordered along with such top local and international beers as Jack's Abby, Chimay, and Duvel. A few wine options are also available and there is a full bar as well, with Bloody Marys and dessert coffee drinks being included on the menu.
Flann O'Brien's doesn't have the name recognition of a college fave such as The Burren in Somerville, a traditional Irish pub such as the Brendan Behan in Jamaica Plain, or a neighborhood mainstay such as Doyle's (also in JP), but it is certainly a watering hole worth seeking out, and with the Brigham Circle/Mission Hill section of Boston starting to see more and more businesses coming into the neighborhood, it is one of a number of reasons to come to this little pocket of the city. If you like charming drinking spots with good food and drink, fireplaces, and a bit of Irish history displayed on the walls, Flann's isn't a bad choice at all.
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