Fenway is a special place. It’s also an expensive place, a cramped place, and a place where, if you’re not careful, you could get randomly hit in the face with a flying pizza. As a result, the quality of your Sox game experience is highly dependent not just on what happens in the ballpark, but where you go beforehand. It’s a big decision. Don’t screw it up.
when it’s your first time
When it’s your first time, you need to bathe in the energy of the ballpark like you’re washing yourself in the River Jordan. You need a bar with pictures of Yaz on the walls. You need the college kids sneaking sips of vodka from a water bottle. You need people in 20-year-old Nomar jerseys arguing about whatever Felger and Mazz are pretending to be angry about this week. The Baseball Tavern is your spot. Head to the roof where you can hear the pregame organ music from across the street, and where a miniature replica of the Fenway scoreboard ensures that the Yankees are always getting their asses kicked.
You know how Fox always has a camera in a bar during playoff games? The one they cut to after a Sox home run to show hundreds of strangers dousing themselves in overpriced light beer? That’s the Cask ’n Flagon. It’s so close to the ballpark that you might get hit by a batting practice homer while you’re waiting in line to get in. It’ll be crowded and rowdy inside, but that’ll just get you ready for the game.
When It’s Your 101st Time
While the bars immediately surrounding the ballpark are fun, eventually you’re going to get sick of waiting 15 minutes just to get a Solo cup filled with foamy beer. Get out of Kenmore Square and head to Bukowski’s on Dalton Street instead. You’ll get craft beers, proper glassware, a decent selection of bar burgers, and you’ll actually be able to sit down. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the ballpark from here, but you’ll be cutting through the Fens, so there’s nothing to complain about.
Audubon is even closer to the ballpark than Bukowski’s, but people must have some kind of phobia about crossing Beacon Street and the parking lots lining Brookline Ave, because it’s rarely uncomfortably crowded here before the game. Get here early enough and you can even grab a table on the bamboo-lined patio out back. With things like pork schnitzel, kale salad, and acorn squash with risotto, you don’t have to settle for bar food, either.
When You Care More About Eating Than Drinking, And You Planned Ahead
On any given night of the year it’s pretty hard to get into Island Creek in Kenmore Square. When the Sox are at home, it goes from regular-hard to looking-cool-while-putting-on-chap-stick hard. If you got your tickets a few weeks in advance, though, you should also think ahead to get a reservation here. Down several trays of oysters and the lobster pasta with the confidence that you won’t eat nearly as well inside the ballpark.
Eastern Standard is roughly the size of a coal-powered steamship, and yet it’s almost always packed. If you have the organizational foresight of the secretary of a Fortune 500 CEO, though, you might be able to think far enough ahead to book a pre-game table. If you do, you’ll get to enjoy a great brasserie menu with things like seared foie gras, grilled ribeyes, and a shellfish platter stocked with more seafood than the aquarium.
When You Care More About Eating Than Drinking, And You Didn’t Plan Ahead
Just because you can’t get into any of the neighborhood’s best sit-down restaurants, doesn’t mean you need to settle for fast food. Eventide is a fast-casual spot on Boylston filled with beer, wine, and a brown butter lobster roll that’s so good you’ll later consider leaving the game in the 7th inning to get another one. Order at the counter, have some great seafood, and make it into the ballpark in time for the first pitch.
Mei Mei is a bright fast-casual Asian fusion place in Audubon Circle, just far enough from the ballpark that you might be the only person in there wearing a jersey. The scallion pancake sandwiches are seriously good, the ma la cucumbers will leave your lips vibrating, and they serve beer and wine, too.
When You’re A Fan Of The Opposing Team
You’re going to have to get to Bleacher Bar early in order to get in, but as the old saying goes, the early bird gets to drink and stuff its face with fries while having a direct, field-level view of its team taking batting practice. As the name implies, Bleacher Bar is built directly into the centerfield bleachers, with only a wire garage door separating the players on the field from the fans licking hot sauce off their fingers. It’s definitely a little bit of a hassle to get in here and get a good table, but your team only comes to Fenway a couple of times a year, so it’s worth it to get a really good view of your guys stretching hamstrings on the field while the Sox take BP inside.
When You’re A Fan Of The Opposing Team And That Team Is The Yankees
It’s a Scottish place, we think. You’ll love it.