Despite its distance from the comforts of Harvard Square, the South End’s bar offerings are well worth the trip—if you know where to go. Since a journey into the trendier-by-the-minute neighborhood is best enjoyed with friends, I enlisted a slew of girlfriends for a Saturday night adventure. For the sake of diversity, we were accompanied by two male friends. Our intensive South End cultural submersion was an overall success—we found tons of great places, all only blocks apart. Throw on your chic weekend shoes and hit the ground running.
Aquitaine 569 Tremont Street. (617) 424-8527.
M-W 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Th-F 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m., Su 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
A bar and bistro situated directly in the middle of the South End, Aquitane felt exceptionally grown-up. The bar, tucked into a corner separate from the restaurant, has a wine-cellar feel and a clientele composed of both regulars and Boston-bar explorers. Bartender Brian Paccini said that the locals abound during the week. However, “During the weekend, those that want to impress come check Aquitane out.”
Assistant Manager Matt D’Olimpo characterizes the restaurant as a romantic destination. “I have seen everything from first dates to 40th wedding anniversaries have a great time here,” D’Olimpo says. He adds that the bar is a destination unto itself. “There’s constant engagement and a constant air of class at the bar,” D’Olimpo said.
Some of the review crew had been to Aquitane before. “I was here during Valentine’s Day during a snowstorm—it’s very nostalgic but casual,” Brittany J. Garza’04 said. Matthew L. Butler ’04 definitely plans to return. “It’s very Napa,” he said, referring to the wine collection.
278 Shawmut Ave. (617) 350-0010.
Daily 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.
“This looks like Daedalus on a budget,” an unimpressed Angie J. Thebaud ’04 said. While the word “budget” may be unsavory to some, it is music to the ears of others—namely diners at the Franklin Café. The restaurant is frequently rated a “best value” by Boston publications, according to Manager Jennifer Anderson, a former employee of Harvard Square’s Grafton Street. Anderson recommends that students come to the South End to escape from “the sports bar mentality” and, instead, enjoy the atmosphere.
The FM investigative drinkers had differing opinions of this particular bar. “This is super-chill; I like it here,” said Caroline L. Donchess ’04 approvingly. “I like the professional clientele…and the martinis,” added Paul G. Eisenstein ’04. “It’s too dark to read the drink menu,” Garza complained, holding a candle up to the laminated sheet and endangering the safety of all. “I want to go back to Aquitane,” Butler said, looking longingly in its direction, “It’s hard to be in the bar mood here when you can smell people’s food.”
Union Bar and Grille
1357 Washington St. (617) 423-0555.
Barely a month old, this find of finds induced Italian exclamations from my compatriots. “Mi piace!” yelled Butler and Donchess. Hostess Emily Fernandez informed us of one more reason for the glee—Union is owned by the same people as Aquitane. We all piace!
Union is easily accessible by the Silver Line on the T, as the Union Park stop is right outside the door. To add to the list of pros, Fernandez said, “The crowd here is usually amazing.” She had a roomful of attractive 20-somethings to prove her point. The brightly-lit bar feels like a daytime tailgate, which is slightly weird, but refreshing. Furthermore, the patrons (aforementioned attractive 20-somethings) look better with the lights on.
The bar menu is amazingly wide-ranging, ensuring that those attractive 20-somethings will have loosened their inhibitions enough to approach one another. “Our bartender makes the best Manhattan in Boston,” boasted Assistant Manager Chris McMahon.
Order a round for you and your friends, and enjoy appetizers at the bar, an option that other South End locales do not provide.
1415 Washington St. (617) 262-0005.
Daily 5 p.m.-1 a.m.
“I feel like I am in a Bangkok Bordello,” said Donchess as our squad entered Pho Republique. “As usual,” snapped Butler immediately.
The inebriated review crew clearly needed another drink.
Thankfully, a slew of tropical martinis were readily available at this fun locale. The décor was decidedly exotic, with red lights giving the place a sultry, though somewhat seedy, lounge look. Asian-inspired accents adorn most of the open wall space. The bartenders are friendly and the clientele runs the generational and occupational gamut.
Customers receive a small card that reads “The end of the day is the beginning” before feasting on the French-Vietnamese cuisine that is the stuff of a late-night muncher’s dreams.
Hostess Kate Shepherd says, “The atmosphere here is the best feature.” With a bar, a restaurant, and plenty of room to scope out the patrons, Pho Republique makes for a fun night.
The reviewers were more than entertained. “Get your gong on!” Thebaud said, referring to the large gong that hangs near the entrance and rings throughout the day and night when drunken patrons muster the courage to ring it. As we soaked up the ambiance, we overheard a fellow patron praise the coconut martini profusely. “This is an orgasm in a glass!” he said. We took his word for it.