Roslindale Village is an up-and-coming area for restaurant lovers, with a variety of dining spots that feature Japanese, Italian, Mediterranean, New American, and Nigerian food, to name a few. But what about the rest of this Boston neighborhood? Well, there are a few places along Washington Street (both north and south of the village) and a handful of spots situated in mostly residential areas. And then there is Kelleher's Bar and Grille, which sits on the outer edge of Rozzie, near where it meets Jamaica Plain (and not too far from West Roxbury). And while this neighborhood watering hole is located on a busy street, it can be easily overlooked, in part because it is NOT in Roslindale Village, and also because, well, it simply doesn't look like the type of place that would welcome people with opens arms. This latter point, however, couldn't be further from the truth, as Kelleher's rather gruff exterior disguises a place that is friendly and very low-key.
The Kelleher's space has quite a long history, with a bar called Flynn's first opening up there back in the 1950s. The place eventually became Kelly & Whalen's, then P.J. Kelleher's, which closed its doors in 2008. The following year, the spot reopened as Kelleher's Bar and Grille, which, while not exactly upscale, is a bit less of a working-class joint than its predecessor, with a mix of blue-collar and white-collar workers frequenting the place for both its food and drink. Both the exterior and the interior do have the feel of a dive bar, though, with the outside having a classic juke joint look with its brick front, tiny windows, and neon beer signs, and the inside being dominated by a sprawling four-sided bar, with a dark side room to the right having a brick tile floor, sconces that add minimal light, wood paneling, and the type of soft tile ceiling that is perfect for sticking pencils in. Both rooms have plenty of TVs, with all kinds of sports events shown on any given evening, though this is by no means a sports bar; it is really more along the lines of a bar that just happens to have a lot of TVs.
You probably wouldn't expect farm-to-table ingredients, an extensive wine list, or exquisitely-presented dishes at a place such as Kelleher's, and you would indeed be correct on all three counts. This is more of a comfort food place that doesn't need to announce that it is a comfort food place, with such items as chili, mozzarella sticks, nachos, char-grilled burgers (one of the better burgers from a bar in the Boston area, by the way), sausage subs, and chicken parmesan gracing the menu. And its menu features several "signature" dishes, including a delicious buffalo chicken dip that contains chunks of meat mixed in a cheesy sauce and nachos on the side (more restaurants should feature this app on their menus, in this writer's opinion), a classic New England clam chowder, steak tips that are marinated in a sauce that is mellow but tasty, a bar pizza that has a very crispy crust with a hint of char on it, a chicken marsala dish with a rich wine sauce, a 12-ounce NY strip that is downright cheap, and a hot pastrami sandwich with cheese. Desserts are limited to an oreo cookie ice cream pie (when it is available), and the drinks list includes mostly cheap American beers (Miller, Bud, Coors) and a handful of basic wines, along with your standard shots and mixed drinks. The folks who work at Kelleher's are laid back, friendly, and funny, and seem to know much of the clientele on a first-name basis.
Roslindale seems to be more of a happening place for restaurants each year, but it still has some beer-and-a-shot type places mixed in with the upscale eateries and ethnic spots. And Kelleher's is certainly closer to the former, though the decent bar food makes this more than just a place to run a tab while spending the afternoon watching football or hockey (or both). It may not look like much from the outside, but Kelleher's Bar and Grille holds some surprises, and is anything but a menacing fight-a-night watering hole.
Copyright © 2012-2014, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).