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Townsend's (CLOSED)

81 Fairmount Avenue, Hyde Park, MA 02136
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--- Winner, Best Irish Pub/Restaurant in Boston Area, 2011 (also 2010) ---

Photo of Townsend's, Hyde Park, MA It has often been said that Boston is perhaps America's most Irish of cities, and its dynamic pub scene is one of many aspects of Beantown that reflects this. But one type of place that is tough to find within the Boston restaurant scene is an upscale, dignified Irish dining and drinking establishment that one might find in, say, Dublin or Galway. This is one reason why Townsend's in Hyde Park is such a special spot, as it truly has the feel of a classy eatery that wouldn't be out of place near Dublin's St. Stephen's Green or along Galway's Quay Street. And speaking of Galway, that is where the owners of Townsend's happen to be from (the bar manager hails from the southwest corner of the Emerald Isle).

Townsend's resides on the eastern edge of Logan Square (just east of Cleary Square), heading toward the residential Fairmount Hill neighborhood of Hyde Park and the Milton border. Its relatively obscure location makes Townsend's a place that is very easy to miss, as does its unassuming exterior. But even though it looks like a small restaurant from the outside, Townsend's is actually quite a spacious spot, with a cozy bar to the left, a comfortable dining area in the middle and to the right, more tables heading toward the back that have a private feel, an outdoor patio further to the back, and a quiet upstairs room that is perfect for functions or large groups. Lots of dark wood throughout adds to the warmth of the restaurant, as does a working fireplace in the downstairs dining area.

Don't expect a lot of pub grub at Townsend's, as the menu leans more toward American, New American, and Irish restaurant fare. The menu is broken up into small plates and full meals, with the former including a delicious artisanal cheese plate with crisp crostini, perfectly toasted walnut pieces, and a tart rhubarb jam. A small plate that seafood lovers may want to try is the lightly battered tempura coconut shrimp with mango dipping sauce, while those who like Mediterranean food can opt for the hummus plate, which includes roasted vegetables, olives and pita chips. Mussels and frites are also on the menu at Townsends, with each item having three seasoning/sauce/broth options (including a creamy basil pesto broth for the mussels and a spicy curry for the fries). Starters include a terrific pureed vegetable soup that unfortunately is not available every day and a wonderful grilled romaine heart with Caesar dressing, anchovies and house-made croutons. Full meals run the gamut from a rich and juicy half-pound Wagyu burger to a traditional fish and chips plate to mushroom ravioli in a mild cream sauce with tart cranberries and sweet onions to grilled herbed salmon with tempura battered green beans to a meaty bone-in pork chop with roast apple garlic jam and much more. One of the best items at Townsend's comes from the dessert menu, and while the butterscotch pudding doesn't come in a very large portion, the mix of caramel and butterscotch flavors is out of this world. The beer and wine selections are quite impressive at Townsend's, with one option being a sampler of three beers, which allows diners to try some local favorites as well as beers from all over the world (including Ireland, of course). Service is friendly and professional here, and the owners and bartender are friendly, personable folks who can often be found chatting with patrons.

There really is no place in Boston quite like Townsend's, as it is more upscale and refined than your typical neighborhood Irish pub, yet it has a distinct Irish feel that sets it apart from American and New American eateries throughout the city. And the bar is a wonderful place to spend a rainy afternoon or evening, especially on a weeknight when it is typically quiet and serene. Hyde Park may not be seen as a dining destination by many, but Townsend's is certainly one reason to head to this Boston neighborhood for a bite to eat and a drink or two.