date published: October 19, 2009

The many faces of hot and happening Hub nightlife
by Josh B. Wardrop

For Dancing Fools
Whether you consider yourself a modern-day Johnny Castle or more closely resemble Elaine Benes when you shake your groove thang, it doesn’t change the fact that a night on the dance floor is good for what ails you. One popular spot in Boston for showing off fancy footwork is The Alley (Boylston Place), a cluster of nightclubs in the Theatre District that includes The Estate, Suite and Sweetwater Café. Nearby is Rise (306 Stuart St., 617-423-7473), a Hub curiosity not only because it doesn’t serve alcohol (often a necessary element in eliciting dancing) but also because it stays open until 6:30 a.m.

Also try: Redline (59 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-491-9851); The Roxy (279 Tremont St., 617-338-7699); Rumor and Venu (100 Warrenton St., 617-422-0045, 617-338-8061); An Tua Nua (835 Beacon St., 617-262-2121).

A Good Laugh
The Boston comedy scene isn’t what it was in the 1980s when it produced folks like Denis Leary, Jay Leno, Steven Wright and others, but there’s still no shortage of places to garner some giggles. The Comedy Connection at the Wilbur Theatre brings in national headliners like Joan Rivers and Joel McHale, The Comedy Studio hosts some of the region’s top up-and-comers experimenting with new material nightly, and the creative Improv Asylum troupe plays off audience feedback, ensuring you never see the same show twice.

Also try: ImprovBoston, Dick Doherty’s Comedy Vault, Tommy’s Comedy Lounge (74 Warrenton St., 617-426-6912).

Fun and Games
In already sports-crazy Boston, October and November find the excitement level reaching fever pitch. With the Red Sox in the playoffs, and the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins seasons all underway, sports fans have at least one game to watch practically every night, and the city abounds with fun, high-energy spots in which to watch them. Fans who can’t get a seat for a playoff game at Fenway Park can try the next best thing—sleek and sexy sports bar/nightclub Game On! and casual bar/restaurant Bleacher Bar, both located within Fenway Park itself. Across the street from Fenway, the Cask ‘N Flagon (refer to listing, page 61) draws enthusiastic crowds to eat, drink, dance and watch sports, while Allston’s Sports Depot (353 Cambridge St., 617-783-2300) is a sprawling sports bar packed with plasma TVs perfect for watching all the pro and college action anytime.

Also try: Champions (Marriott Copley Place, 2nd level, 110 Huntington Ave., 617-927-5304); McGreevy’s (911 Boylston St., 617-262-0911); The Four’s (166 Canal St., 617-720-4455); The Baseball Tavern (1270 Boylston St., 617-867-6526).

Lounging Around
As we all know, chatting, flirting and drinking can be exhausting. So it’s no wonder that the hottest concept in nightlife these days is lounges—the comfy couches and soft mood lighting have made leisure time relaxing again. In the South End, 28 Degrees (1 Appleton St., 617-728-0728) offers an appropriately chill atmosphere as well as funky two-way mirrors in the restrooms. Boston’s newest lounge, Splash Ultra-Lounge and Burger Bar (150 Kneeland St., 617-426-6397) brings a touch of Miami/Vegas vibe to Beantown with its roofdeck, complete with mini-pool. The Foundation Lounge (500 Commonwealth Ave., 617-859-9900) brings an air of sophistication to Red Sox-centric Kenmore Square, and Gypsy Bar lures Boston’s many international students and singles out to see, be seen and hook up in a stylish and sultry setting.

Also try: Alibi Lounge (215 Charles St., 857-241-1144); Daisy Buchanan’s (240 Newbury St., 617-247-8516); Match (94 Massachusetts Ave., 617-247-9922); Whiskey Park (64 Arlington St., 617-542-1482); Felt; The Living Room; District (180 Lincoln St., 617-426-0180).

You’re the Star
Few nightlife activities inspire such polarizing opinions as the art of karaoke: either you can’t get enough of taking your turn in the spotlight belting out your favorite tunes, or there’s nothing less appealing to you than suffering through another toneless rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” If you’re in the former camp, you’ll want to check out Limelight, which offers onstage performance Thursday–Saturday, as well as private studio space nightly. Or if you’re more pub singer than “American idol” wannabe, try the British tavern Elephant & Castle on Saturday evenings, choose from more than 120,000 songs and let ’er rip!

Also try: Courtside Restaurant & Pub (291 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-547-4374); Bell in Hand Tavern (45 Union St., 617-227-2098).

True Brew
If your idea of a great night out requires nothing more than some good friends, a couple of barstools and an unending variety of quality beers, a must-visit is Allston’s Sunset Grill & Tap. Proprietor/beer nut Marc Kadish’s restaurant accentuates its awesome food menu with the city’s biggest, most imaginative beer selection, including 112 beers on tap and close to 400 more in bottles. Nearby, The Publick House (1648 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-277-2880) prides itself on an extensive and unconventional beer list geared toward Belgian ales. And discerning beer drinkers are also drawn to Deep Ellum (477 Cambridge St., Allston, 617-787-2337), a craft beer bar named in homage to a nightlife-heavy section of Dallas.

Also try: Boston Beer Works (112 Canal St., 617-896-2337; 61 Brookline Ave., 617-536-2337); Bukowski’s Tavern (1281 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-497-7077; 50 Dalton St., 617-437-9999); The Lansdowne (9 Lansdowne St., 617-247-1222); The Lower Depths Tap Room (476 Commonwealth Ave., 617-266-6662); Cambridge Brewing Company (1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-494-1994).

Something Swanky
Boston isn’t a city that stands too much on ceremony—you’re just as likely to see nightlifers dressed in T-shirts and jeans as in fancy cocktail dresses. However, there are some nights when you just want to get dolled up, and those nights call for an appropriately classy venue. When it comes to a fancy night out, why not start at the top—specifically, the Top of the Hub, a chic restaurant located on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Center that has the city’s best views, gourmet cuisine and live jazz seven nights a week. Stylish Newbury Street boasts Sonsie, a dark and romantic restaurant which boasts a subterranean wine bar for cozy canoodling. In the Financial District, Bond Restaurant and Lounge in the Langham Hotel is one of the city’s top new upscale nightspots for cocktails and people-watching. And Barbara Lynch’s minimalist yet oh-so-classy Drink (348 Congress St., 617-695-1806) is so chic it doesn’t even have a cocktail list—instead, bartenders quiz you on your likes and dislikes before creating unique libations to suit your taste.

Also try: The Oak Bar (Fairmont Copley Place, 138 St. James Ave., 617-267-5300); Om (92 Winthrop St., Cambridge, 617-576-2800); RumBa (Intercontinental Hotel, 510 Atlantic Ave., 617-747-1000); The Vault (105 Water St., 617-292-3355); Les Zygomates (129 South St., 617-542-5108); Eastern Standard (528 Commonwealth Ave., 617-532-9100).

Turn it up to 11
Live music lovers have plenty of spots in Boston where they can rock out, bebop or sing along. The House of Blues hosts national pop, rock and blues acts in its brand-new Lansdowne Street location, while the venerable Paradise Rock Club offers intimate exposure to up-and-coming and established rockers. Over in Cambridge, funky mainstay The Middle East (472/480 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-3278) provides three separate spaces for eclectic local and national acts and Club Passim recently celebrated 50 years of bringing top-notch folk performances to the area. Jazz lovers can bop to top performers at Scullers and Regattabar, and the divey but friendly Cantab Lounge (738 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2687) hosts everything from bluegrass to soul.

Also try: Ryles Jazz Club (212 Hampshire St., Cambridge, 617-876-9330); Johnny D’s (17 Holland St., Somerville, 617-776-2004); Lizard Lounge (1667 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-547-0759); T.T. the Bear’s (10 Brookline St., Cambridge, 617-492-0082); The Beehive; Church (69 Kilmarnock St., 617-830-1233).

And What if I Want To...
...pick up the 7-10 split while enjoying a Cosmopolitan? Head to Kings in the Back Bay, where you and your crew can engage in ten-pin bowling, sip cocktails at DeVille Lounge or shoot pool in the billiards room.

...ride a mechanical bull? Head over to The Liquor Store (120 Boylston St., 617-357-6800), home to the city’s only faux bovine.

...drink a scorpion bowl the size of my head? The Hong Kong in Harvard Square is known for having the best bowls in the area. Warning: share it with a friend! a cannoli at 2:45 a.m.? Follow the sweet smells of baked goods to the Italian North End neighborhood and hit up Bova Bakery (134 Salem St., 617-523-5601) which stays open 24/7 making sweet Italian pastries, breads, pizza and more. off my grammar skills? Try your hand at the Tuesday night Spelling Bee at bar/restaurant Highland Kitchen (150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131). a bunch of silent men with blue latex heads play unique musical instruments? Best bet would be to check out Blue Man Group, with shows nightly Tuesday–Sunday at the Charles Playhouse. 

...get attitude from my waitress? If you’re really in the mood to spar, Dick’s Last Resort is known for its snarky waitstaff, who are encouraged to give their customers a good-natured hard time as they chow down on bountiful food and cocktails.

...learn to Riverdance? Popular Irish pub The Burren (247 Elm St., Somerville, 617-776-6896) offers traditional set dancing classes every Monday from 8–10 p.m. Give it a whirl, and you’ll be a regular Michael Flatley in no time.

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