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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!

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