83. 1-12-2007 Tommy Doyle's 96 Winthrop Street. Summary: Cozy, friendly atmosphere plus excellent food.
96 Winthrop Street has had its fair share of restaurants lately. Of note was the House of Blues, which rocked the street for a number of years. Brother Jimmy's BBQ was also there. Turns out 96 Winthrop is listed as an Historical Landmark in Cambridge, meaning the owners of Tommy Doyle's had to abide by pretty stringent restrictions on any changes they wanted to make to the building. Bully for them they pulled it off - the building looks 'historical' from the outside, but works well as a three-level bar/restaurant on the inside.
I really like the atmosphere of Tommy Doyle's. It's a nice blend between a down-and-dirty Irish pub, where everything inside is old/authentic from the local neighborhood, and a tourist trap, where everything inside is clearly purchased by some expert buyer. There are plenty of TV's (this is a bar, after all) but they don't overwhelm the place. It's dark, but not too dark during lunch, when on the street level a decent amount of natural light comes in through the windows.
The lower level is clearly a drinking area - it's basically an open area with a couple of tables, plus a bar.
The street level is mostly a dining area - seating for about 30, plus a bar you can eat at as well.
The upper level is the "party room," according to my server, where bands play and things can get a bit crazy.
I sat at the bar and had a friendly conversation with the bartender, who wasn't Irish but instead from Albany - but who confessed that she picked up an Irish accent and could hold her own with native Irish speakers. She suggested the fish and chips as a "special" dish, and she was right - it was excellent. The fish was fried in a crispy light batter and was very hot on the inside - juicy, full of flavor. Alongside, the chips were steak fries and were also a nice mix of crunchy on the outside yet hot and chewy on the inside.
Tommy Doyle's has an excellent location right in the heart of the Square, next door neighbors to The Red House, Om, Upstairs on the Square and Grendels - and it holds its own against these storied restaurants.
Excellent location, nice pub atmosphere, friendly service, and perfectly cooked food, all for about $16 including tip. A good find and one I'll recommend to others.