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Doyle's in Jamaica Plain to close and leave us with more Old School Boston memories

Doyle's Cafe, Jamaica, Plain, Mass. Photo source: Wikipedia.
Some of the saddest news in Old School Boston restaurant history happened on Sept, 10, 2019 as media reports confirmed that Doyle's Cafe in Jamaica Plain, Mass. would close later in the year.

At 137-years old, Doyle's Cafe seemed to be as much as part of the traditional neighborhood landscape as the thick Boston accents, two-family, triple-decker and brownstone homes, one-way streets and love of family and local sports. Many from the hood have forever considered Doyle's a go-to bar and restaurant for food, drink, conversation and maybe the chance to see a famous politician dining out there. Elected and appointed officials have always loved dining out at Doyle's but soon they will have to find other working-class platforms for dining out in the city. Those places still exist, however, and hopefully will not go the route of Doyle's.

Suburbanites like me always enjoyed going to Doyle's as a means of finding a way to instantly get into the spirit of enjoying the real Boston. By real, Boston I mean people of all races, colors and creeds working hard to make a living, loving their neighborhoods and enjoying the art of conversation -- especially local talk. Bostonians generally have a keen sense of telling the difference between authentic and phony in Boston and knew of Doyle's to be 100 percent genuine. That's why they have come here from the days of being a one-room bar to, eventually, a three-room, family-friendly bar and restaurant!

Growing up in nearby Arlington and attending Boston and Suffolk Universities in Boston, Doyle's always seemed like coming to a second home with a welcoming staff, good food and an unpretentious atmosphere that seemed like a respite from the changing, increasingly upscale face of Boston. Often, while some talked loudly and let off some steam from the hard work or school week, I made sure to set aside some quiet moments at Doyle's. Like one of those movies with a new-to-town person gazing and being mesmerized at the beauty of a small town through the lens of a revolving 360-degree camera and epiphany-moment background music, I felt spellbound by this community in the form of a neighborhood bar and restaurant. It was almost like going into a hallowed museum of Boston history without the admission fee and lunch or dinner prices that didn't overcharge like many tourist attractions.

Most called Doyle's by its name, but others like me would always say, "Hey, let's go to Braddock's!" That was its formal name dating back to the 1930s as the result of a collaboration with a whiskey company called Braddock's. I still call it Braddock's, much as it annoys some people.

I liked to look at every nook and cranny of the building -- the weathered parts combined with renovations, the walls lined with pictures of famous and some infamous politicians -- and listen to the local talk that all blended together like one likeminded conversation. I could hear those conversations going on and, at times, would imagine the stories told from the past centering on birth, school, work and death. Before the advent of the cell phone and other technologies, people had this ritual called conversation and there were few better places to talk about life in the Boston area than Doyle's Cafe.

Although many people have traditionally arrived at Doyle's Cafe to drink, the staff never made me, a non-drinker, feel out of place by ordering, say, a club soda with lemon. Yes, a few people I knew would put me in the Mr. Wuss category for not imbibing at a place to drink but the staff was just glad that I liked Doyle's fantastic nachos, pizzas, clam chowder, burgers, fries, tuna melts, club sandwiches and scrod.

Notice I didn't mention any trendy dishes there? Well, Doyles, to this very day, has stuck to the basics, rarely offering anything remotely fashionable or precious in a culinary sense. Its idea of going international: knockwurst, quesadillas and Irish nachos. Anything close to deviating from the no-frills menu today would include quiche, broiled Alaskan citrus salmon and veggie burgers.  But that's not exactly serving avacado toast and brie at outrageous prices.

Boston has become so gentrified, as of late, and expensive, too. From the sounds of it, the owner didn't want to continue operating Doyle's Cafe because things were getting too expensive to continue. What a shame. That's not the Boston we once knew that could accommodate all classes of people working hard to earn a living.

Yes, all good things have to come to an end. Doyle's was not immune to that. Keep in mind, however, that no matter how sad it will be to see Doyle's Cafe close, the memories can never be taken away. As Ringo Starr once said, "All I have is a photograph," in his aply named song "Photograph" from 1973. We do, too, with Doyle's at the forefront of our old school Boston restaurant memory banks. From politicians like Albert "Dapper O'Neil and Tom Menino (they have a Thomas Menino function room here where banquets are held!) to us working-class people, Doyle's became a legend in our own minds and rightfully so.

Like the good conversations at Doyle's, let's keep the talks going here in the comments box by sharing your favorite memories and anything else you can say about this landmark Boston restaurant. We love you, forever, Doyle's Cafe!

The Midget Deli, Cambridge, Mass.

I need your help. People don't believe me when I tell them there was a Midget Deli in Cambridge, Mass.

It's like I am the only one who ever saw this place, Cambridge residents included.

The Midget Deli was located at the current Changsho Chinese restaurant at 1712 Mass. Ave., between Porter and Harvard Square. I remember it best in the late 1960s as the only Jewish deli in Cambridge, although I had not yet been to 90 percent of the rest of Cambridge. So maybe it was the only Jewish deli within the 10 percent of the Cambridge I knew! Maybe even less, as I was often so preoccupied with playing car bingo.

Most delis are small in size, but the Midget was pretty big. How's that for irony?  I loved its pastrami sandwiches and the bustling nature of the place. Having just visited New York City and a few of its then-famous delis (like the Stage Deli), the Midget seemed to have that classic, busy delicatessen vibe.

Could someone please back me up on this -- that there was a Midget Deli in Cambridge? Please feel free to comment below, including stories on your dining experiences at the Midget Deli. Or, maybe someone who worked there can chime in to help me regain my credibility because they think I am joking. Thank you!

6 Businesses I Miss in Downtown Lexington, Mass.

Downtown Lexington, Mass., remains an impressive central district with many outstanding mom and pop shops and restaurants, but I do miss greatly some of the businesses of yesteryear. Ahh, the memories. Here are six Lexington businesses that I wish still existed...

Lexington Drug

Located at the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Waltham, St., where Rancatore's Ice Cream is now situated, Lexington Drug thrived as a cornerstone business in downtown Lexington for many years. Most people went there for prescriptions and the newspaper, but we often went as a family on Sunday mornings for the candy and postcard sections. I loved the Fruito candy bars with real artificial fruit in the middle of a mediocre chocolate bar, as well as twirling the postcard display to receive a mini history lesson on the significant history of Lexington. The gray-haired man behind the counter actually reminded me of a Colonial era politician with wavy locks, a distinct nose, not-from-this generation glasses, a certain old world formality and a gentle diplomacy that endured no matter how crowded Lexington Drug became with locals and tourists. Sorry to see this place close, but not a bad thing that a quality ice cream shop took over!

Bargain Basement

Many remember Decelle's for its discount clothing that, I believe, often surpassed Marshalls, but Bargain Basement might have been ever better at this location. We could always find what we were looking even though the displays were kind of a mess with no rhyme or reason. Bargain Basement truly represented Old School Lexington -- that is, a large downtown space with no pretentiousness and a mission to save locals lots of money on clothing. You would unlikely see this kind of store in downtown Lexington today as the whole central district has become more upscale.

Ingalls Stationery

Generally, stationery stores are about as exciting as a piece of paper (hey, that was a good one!) but Ingalls made the experience a wonderful one -- "willing and label" to go the extra distance (hey, that was a good one, too!). With well-organized isles, an always fully-stocked supply of the basics and beyond, and knowledgeable, friendly staff to help the customer, Ingalls was certainly a "staple" on our shopping list. Pardon the puns, but those are the "fax!"

Peking Garden

I always loved going here with friends on a half-day (one Wednesday a month at Arlington High School, as I recall) for the huge luncheon buffet. Peking Garden didn't look tacky like some other old school Chinese restaurants, the service was generally more friendly and the food clearly created by a master chef. One thing, however, that irked the staff at Peking Garden: asking for separate checks!
As kids, we were always amused by the response: "NO, NO SEPARATE CHECKS!" We got the message loud and clear time after time, but kept asking the question on virtually every visit because we liked the animated, predictable answer.

Bel Canto

Located on the second floor at 1709 Massachusetts Ave., Bel Canto won high praise regionally as a restaurant chain serving outstanding deep dish pizzas and calzones with either regular or whole wheat dough. They also allowed customers to order unbaked calzones to bring home to cook. Bel Canto was unlike any other pizza place and served as a great alternative to traditional local pizza joints like Regina Pizzeria, Santarpio's and The Pleasant Cafe. The ingredients used to make the pizzas and calzones were beyond the norm -- so fresh and bursting with flavor. What's more, Bel Canto  featured a clean-looking atmosphere with spotless surroundings (including the kitchen) and a bright interior with contemporary decor and furniture. Unfortunately, Bel Canto suffered a fire at the Lexington location and the chain eventually started slipping in quality. I wish someone would bring back the Bel Canto name and concept to its original glory.  They would do very well today, I believe!

Battle Green Motor Inn

This intown motel would also never cut it in downtown Lexington today with its basic lodging offerings and affordable prices. Many travelers back in the day needed no more than a carpeted room with television, telephone and individual bathroom and thermostat. That's why the Battle Green Motor Inn lasted from 1959 to 2007!

Because I lived in neighboring Arlington, there was no reason to stay at the motel, but I was continuously curious about the place. I always thought the underground parking was so cool! It didn't take much for me to be happy, as you can see.

The Battle Green Motor Inn gave way to condo development. I suppose that's the way of the world, as Earth, Wind and Fire once said.

Old School Lexington Still Exists!

Yes, downtown Lexington has become more exclusive and expensive, but I am so glad to see so many long-time businesses still thriving like The Crafty Yankee gift shop, Mario's Italian restaurant (try the baked ziti, it's amazing!), Michaelson's Shoes, Spectrum Music and Theater Pharmacy.

Yes, it is sad that so many old-time businesses are no longer with us in Lexington center, but the mix of new and old shops and restaurants comprises one of the more impressive downtowns in all of New England. Shop local, buy local while discovering the wonderful history of this beautiful town!

Related article:
Fond memories of a wonderful Lexington pediatrician

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