Patrick Lyons runs 30 restaurants and bars around Boston. While I enjoy his famous-chef projects like Scampo and Towne, I don't love many of his more casual efforts. Nothing wrong with a well-kept saloon, but they're more about drinks and a scene than food. Bleacher Bar boasts the novelty of being tucked under Fenway Park's Section 35, its huge window providing a spectacular center-field warning-track view of that hallowed field. You might expect an unremarkable American pub menu here, and you'd be right, but for a couple of welcome surprises.
First, the ugly whiffs: dull, mushy onion rings ($5), grilled beef skewers ($8) made from off-tasting (probably old) flank steak, a flatbread ($11) with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil built on one of the saddest, most flavorless excuses for a cracker-like crust in my memory. The kitchen's average improves with fried pickles ($5), oddly using spears instead of chips but benefiting from a delectable fried-batter coating, and buttery, warm soft-pretzel sticks ($5). All-beef sliders ($10) are more like three normal-size griddled hamburgers layered with cheese, caramelized onions, tomato, shredded lettuce, and mayo on respectable rolls: a tasty bargain. Deli sandwiches are similarly workmanlike, good and generous, like a salty grilled Reuben ($11) or liverwurst ($8) with onions and mustard on a quality onion roll. Chicken salad ($9) is chunky, well-seasoned, and crunchy with iceberg lettuce: a cool, substantial, comforting sandwich on soft bread. This being a sports bar, flat-screen TVs broadcast games from every corner, and there's a decent selection of draft and bottled beers ($4–$5.50).
Then come the late-inning thrills: an icy bucket of eight Miller High Life seven-ounce ponies ($20) — a format I love for how it protects me from ever tasting a lukewarm swallow of beer — and an excellent beef on weck ($10), Buffalo's other great contribution to culinary Americana. This sandwich piles a lot of tender, thin-sliced roast beef au jus with horseradish sauce onto a kümmelweck roll, essentially a bulkie topped with salt and caraway seeds. It's not quite perfect — the horseradish is prepared (not fresh), the roll a bit too soft, the topping salt too fine, lacking the strength and texture of the coarser salt used on the shores of Lake Erie — but it's a terrific sandwich nonetheless. Add very friendly service and that unique view, and you can almost ignore the parade of camera-wielding tourists. Bleacher Bar may have a few holes in its swing, but mostly puts up solid singles, and once in a while hits a righteous moonshot.
Bleacher Bar, located at 82A Lansdowne Street in Boston, is open Sunday–Wednesday, 11 am–1 am, and Thursday–Saturday, 11 am–2 am. Call 617.262.2424 or visit bleacherbarboston.com.