Looking for a great Boston happy hour? Love a good old fashioned Irish pub? Sprout co-editor Sam Jones did the scouting for you and has found a true gem in the north Boston suburbs.
Hugh O’Neill’s has the best happy hour in Boston. Even if it is not technically in Boston and even if Boston does not technically allow “happy hour.” During the seven dreary months I spent living in Malden, Massachusetts, I ate and/or drank at O’Neill’s more times than I can count. I keep going back to O’Neill’s for the stout and fries, yes, but also because I’m a creature of habit.
Since moving to the Boston area, I have admittedly picked up a new habit of watching the NBA. Whenever I go to O’Neill’s, the hosts are quick to turn one of their many TVs to the Celtics game and seat me with an excellent view of the screen. When I am ready to order, Kelsey, my favorite server, sits down at my table and tells me about what she got her boyfriend, Troy the Bartender, for his birthday. I order a Guinness, for which she no longer cards me even though I barely look old enough to drive, and then I’m back to the game.
Even without the existence of an alcoholic happy hour in Massachusetts, O’Neill’s makes up for it with their appetizer happy hour from 4-6:30pm every Monday through Friday. All appetizers are $5. I’m talking an entrée-sized portion of moules-frites for $5. Nine times out of ten, the fries are perfectly crispy with fresh fryer oil coating every cranny. The mussels are never grainy and are made even better when scooped in the creamy white wine sauce and slurped right out of the shell. O’Neill’s doesn’t even provide those silly little fork things that fancy people use to eat shellfish.
The chicken wings come with any of four different sauces and are crispy, hot, messy and 50 cents on Mondays—everything any sane person would want in a chicken wing. The calamari and the fish tacos, however, I have only ordered once and would not recommend. They lack crispiness and flavor aside from that of the underwhelming deep-fry batter.
The sad truth of it all is that as much as I love O’Neill’s’ happy hour, it doesn’t necessarily love me. If I care anything for my waistline, I can’t just eat Irish-American pub food every time I go out. Luckily, and not surprisingly, O’Neill’s has a few lighter options. On the rare occasion I am not having appetizers for dinner, I get the black bean burger. The pepper-jack and chipotle mayo add a subtle kick while the slaw and pickles add crunch and acidity. Plus, the texture is as soft, chewy, and crumbly as any beef burger, but without all the fat.
However, if you’re looking for a truly healthy meal, O’Neill’s has one salad that takes the cake and throws it in the bin. The Power Up! salad has arugula, tomatoes, avocado, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, goat cheese, chia seeds, and a low-fat dressing. It’s tangy, creamy, and, unlike so many healthy food options, completely and utterly satisfying. But, if you’re a salad traditionalist, there’s also the Chopped, Cobb, Taco, and Caesar—the gangs all here. But the portions are large and the goodies-to-greens ratio is high.
After all, O’Neill’s isn’t here to reinvent the wheel, it’s here to give you a good craic, as the Irish say. It is a place where you can stuff your face unabashedly, trade wise-cracks with your servers, and toast to another Celtics victory with a cold one. While the Celtics and the Boston ‘burbs are new to me, O’Neill’s is a welcome respite that feels like an old friend.
45 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148
Atmosphere: This dimly lit space has a classic Irish pub feel, with green booths and carved wood banisters. There is also outdoor seating available.
Service: Friendly and accommodating, but the hosts are slow to greet and seat you.
Sound level: Very loud at peak times.
Recommend: Moules-frites, black bean burger, chicken wings, Power-UP! salad.
Drinks: 35 rotating drafts ($5-$11), hefty wine pours ($5.50-$7 per glass), and seasonal cocktails ($8-$10).
Prices: $5 Appetizer Happy Hour, $9-$16 Entreés.
Open: 7 days a week for lunch, dinner, late night, and weekend brunch.
Sam Jones is a second-year AFE student and is also the co-editor of The Friedman Sprout. When she is not drinking Guinness, she spends her free time cooking, reading the news, and listening to true crime podcasts. She currently works at 88 Acres Foods, Inc. as the Nutrition Communication Intern.