New taverns for the times

Hot spots in Hub cater to a thirst for nostalgia

At Post 390, low-hanging, oversized lanterns (above), dark wood paneling (right), and a fireplaces lend an old-time feel to go with its American classic fare. At Post 390, low-hanging, oversized lanterns (above), dark wood paneling (right), and a fireplaces lend an old-time feel to go with its American classic fare. (Photos By Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Kara Baskin
Globe Correspondent / January 14, 2010

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It’s the dawn of a fresh decade, but new spots like Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale, Woodward, and Post 390 want guests to party like it’s 1899, not 2010. Why the nostalgia for designs reminiscent of bygone days? “At this juncture in the economy and the state of the country, people are trading down from the luxury four- or five-star-type dining establishments,’’ says Peter Niemitz, president and founder of Niemitz Design Group and designer of Post 390, which models itself after an urban tavern with stone, rough-hewn wood, and brick. “They want something that’s not pretentious, doesn’t smack of elite high-end-ism.’’ So throw back a glass of rye and explore these old-fashioned newcomers to the city’s restaurant scene.

Post 390
406 Stuart St., Boston, 617-399-0015,

Essentials: Post 390 occupies the land where the old Back Bay Post Office Annex once stood. Now the Clarendon Building, it affords clear views of Trinity Church and the John Hancock Tower.

Aesthetic: “A tavern was the go-to spot for a warm bed, a warm meal, and camaraderie for tradesmen and merchants,’’ says Niemitz. He was inspired by that history: “We wanted to pull the elements that are indicative of what a neighborhood tavern is - heavy timber, stones, steel, brick, rich colors, lots of texture, fireplaces. The whole palate is very muted, and it’s all very textural and purposeful.’’

Special Features: A four-sided fireplace anchors the downstairs dining area; Niemitz is smitten with the low-hanging, oversized lanterns and the beer taps that emerge from a stone slab, just like old taverns in the United Kingdom.

Don’t Miss: Irregular white-pinewood siding inspires a real tavern feel. If you snag a seat near the wall, you’ll be cozier in the 13,000-square-foot, two-story space.

Eat: The menu leans toward American classics like pot pie and burgers. There’s also a reasonably priced wine list.

Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale
48 Temple Place, Boston, 617-426-0048,

Essentials: Built in 1868, Stoddard’s is listed on the Temple Place National Historic Register. The building withstood the Great Fire of 1872, thanks to its Quincy granite exterior. It has since housed a corset shop, a sewing machine store, and Stoddard’s Fine Cutlery.

Aesthetic: True to period. Proprietor William Ashmore preserved as many 19th-century details as possible. “The goal was to create a pub that would have existed when the building was built. We’re retaining everything from 1868,’’ Ashmore says. He marvels at the original beams, salvaged as benches for the waiting area and etched with each craftsman’s signature.

Special Features: Stoddard’s offers a subterranean private club, accessed via narrow passageway. The club was modeled on the mid-19th-century University Boston Club, whose mission was “to delight in the art of dining, and to take freely in after-dinner discussion without malice or irritation.’’

Don’t Miss: Ashmore festooned his alehouse with artifacts. Check out corsets from the original store; a 30-foot-long bar replicated from a model in the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company catalog, which sold bars at the turn of the century; railings snagged from the original Downtown Crossing Filene’s; and chandeliers from the Mary Baker Eddy Library. Gents will appreciate the shoeshine stand. Ladies, meanwhile, needn’t teeter downstairs on high heels - there’s a manually operated antique elevator.

Eat: Dine and drink like your forefathers did, with rickeys, coolers, and slings. Fare is straight-ahead New England pub food.

1 Court St., Boston, 617-979-8200,

Essentials: In 1879, the Ames was the world’s tallest building and served as headquarters for the Ames family’s farm-tool company. Today, it’s home to the Ames Hotel and Woodward. Architect-designer David Rockwell, of Oscar set-design fame, spearheaded the project.

Aesthetic: The Morgans Hotel Group Co., which owns the property, envisioned a “Benjamin Franklin meets supermodel’’ vibe for the building. “We wanted to bring in something new and marry it with something old,’’ says Mari Balestrazzi, Morgans’ senior vice president of design. Boston’s essence was rooted in her planning: “You’d be foolish to ignore Boston’s history. It’s a listed building - a building that has historical importance. This is a response out of respect.’’ (There are no powdered wigs in the airy, angular Woodward, but plenty of power players and bright young things.)

Special Features: After dinner, gawk at the “Cabinet of Curiosities.’’ The custom-made Victorian shelving unit encases quirky, antiquated finds - some kitschy (a bust of JFK Jr.), some ogle-worthy (a hoop skirt from a child’s Victorian dress; a model ship).

Don’t Miss: The Ames lobby is impressive. Gaze upward to the original mosaic, barrel-vaulted ceiling; pause to admire the white marble staircase with cast-iron banister and mahogany rail, also original.

Eat: Woodward is named after a tavern once owned by the Ames family. But the fare caters to today’s comfort-food diner: duck confit flatbread, short rib tortellini.

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