After the most popular question I get on my tour, the second is: “Where’s a good bar to get a drink at around here?” Despite a dearth of great Italian restaurants, the North End is lacking in locations that focus on alcohol. Of course, most of the restaurants have a wine menu but the food is their emphasis.
Yet, there are some places in the North End or within short walking distance (10 minutes or less) where one can grab a beer or cocktail. All these serve food, too, some of which is quite excellent! Below I’ve included five of my favorites.
Saus began in the late 2000s with this tiny shop located on The Freedom Trail. Saus's notoriety is for their hand-cut fries and accompanying dipping sauces. The fries are some of the best in the city. They also do excellent poutine (at least for one that’s outside Quebec) and have some tasty sandwiches and Belgian waffles.
But, Saus also has a wide array of beers. What’s on tap is rotating so you never know what you might get (although they usually list it on their social media). All the beers are from New England, though, so you’ll get a taste of the local flavor. No Budweiser or Miller here—just some of the best of what the area has to offer in IPAs, sours, and ciders. (They also do some wine.) If you like craft beer, you’ll find something to enjoy to go with your steaming hot hand-cut fries paired with an array of dipping sauces.
I’ve been going to Caffe Paradiso almost every week for about two years now. But it’s not for espresso or a martini. I get cannoli there (it’s a long story, but they make some of the best in the North End). I love the vibe of the place. Caffe Paradiso is right on the main drag in the North End, Hanover Street, but it’s rare to find it inundated with tourists. Instead, it’s more of a locals' joint. I always hear people speaking Italian and it seems at least one of the TVs is playing an Italian station, especially if there’s a soccer match on.
Caffe Paradiso has been around since 1962 and is now operated by the third generation of a family from Italy. They’re open from 7 AM to 2 AM. So, you can come in early for a cappuccino and then end the night with a martini after your dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. Caffe Paradiso has a full bar and you can find everything from beer and wine, to over a dozen cocktails. Prices are reasonable and the staff knows their stuff.
As mentioned, they make some of the best cannoli in the North End and also offer well over a dozen gelato flavors. It's my recommendation of where to go if you want some of the delicious Italian dessert. A quick tip, though: Don’t ever refer to the gelato as ice cream. As in, “I’ll take a scoop of the strawberry cheesecake ice cream.” It’s gelato. There’s a difference. And the owner will let you know it. :-)
Sam Adams Taproom
Sam Adams couldn’t have picked a better spot for a taproom than the one at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Why? It is a few yards from the statue of Sam Adams that dates back to 1880. The company has their headquarters and another taproom in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston, so I wasn’t sure I saw the need for a second location. But, I found it a pleasant surprise when I visited after it opened in January of 2020. I didn’t know what to expect but the design is modern and spacious with both bar seating and communal tables. And they serve their well-known classics such as the Sam Adams lager and the Boston area favorite, Brick Red. From the front the space may not look that big but once inside there’s room quite a ways into the back. Too, during warmer months there is rooftop seating.
Sam Adams is a huge company. They market themselves as a microbrewery but they’re one of the largest in the category. So, as someone who usually sides with the little guy, I want to dislike Sam Adams, but I’ll be honest: they make pretty good beer. (They also do a lot to support smaller breweries.) The taproom allows Sam Adams to showcase some newer, smaller batches that you won’t find in stores or on tap much of anywhere else. I tried many different options when I went. I left surprised by how tasty they all were. I also saw the mayor there and he waved at me and I said, “Howdy!” Yes, I met the mayor of our large, industrious city and my greeting to him was to sound like a cowboy. I’m not sure what I was thinking.
Night Shift Brewery at Lovejoy Wharf
Night Shift is an up-and-comer in the microbrewery scene. The company started in 2012 by three friends who began brewing in their apartment. They are now based in Everett, Massachusetts, north of Boston. The location at Lovejoy Wharf is on the waterfront on the first floor of Converse Shoes' world headquarters. It’s also a couple of blocks from TD Garden, where the Bruins and Celtics play. At this location there is some brewing and you can see some of the equipment when you enter, but there aren’t any tours. Instead, there is a bar area, a restaurant area and a small shop where you can get Night Shift merchandise and beer. The space is industrial without being dark or lacking any feeling. The artwork on the walls is very cool and tells the story of the company.
I’ve been to the Lovejoy Wharf location many times and it’s always interesting to see what the brewery is doing. The company calls this location an innovation house and the brewers have permission to try new things. So some of the stuff on the beer menu may seem out there but it’s always fun to try these experiments. Night Shift brews a wide variety of beer: sours, darks, IPAs, wheats, and light ones, too (their Lime Light is probably my favorite).
Besides their beers, there is also a great food menu with something for everyone, including delicious hot pretzels. Some of the items on the food menu also have Night Shift beer worked into them, such as with sauces or dressings. It’s another way Night Shift is keeping things interesting.
The Ginger Man
The Ginger Man has over 100 beers between those on tap, in bottles, and in cans. They have over 100 whiskeys from all over the world. And you can drink in an old bank vault located downstairs. That’s really all you need to know. While the other locations on this list are great and highly recommended; The Ginger Man is one of a kind.
Don’t forget! Before you go out drinking, make sure and go on our North End Crime Tour! Click the Book Now button on this page to purchase tickets.