Finding a good or a bad bar is simple. Trying to pinpoint something in between is surprisingly difficult. Since most of us have become so accustomed to accepting boring and milquetoast as standard, it throws off the grading curve.
What is a mediocre bar, you might ask? It’s not an exact science, but in general, after drinking at a mediocre bar, you leave feeling like you were never even there, and more frequently feeling like you’ve just eaten a giant plate of nachos, even if you only had drinks.
No one working there really seems to have any affinity for what they’re doing on the bar, treating bottles of unfamiliar spirits like they’re mysterious chemicals they don’t want to spill on themselves, but the service is polite enough to get by.
It’s a seemingly popular place, and yet no one you know ever really wants to go there. The space is big, and the menus are even bigger, loaded with a little bit of everything, you know, just in case.
No palate goes unfulfilled. And there’s always entertainment galore; walls covered in televisions, trivia nights, karaoke, and anything else they can dream up to distract people from the depressing, middle-of-the-road reality. A bad bar wouldn’t bother trying. A mediocre bar, just like a boring friend, wants you to like it.
I was thinking about this on a recent trip to Tavern in the Square in Central Square the other day, feeling like a marooned soul at happy hour in purgatory, and it finally dawned on me: This is the most aggressively mediocre bar in the city! It’s an impression aided by the fact that they’ve got so many locations now — Allston, Newton, Porter Square, Salem — and only seem to be growing.
Other bars may put up a good fight — Boston Beer Works, Joshua Tree, Beantown Pub, The Pour House, or literally everything in Faneuil Hall — but I don’t keep going back to them like I do with the Tavern.
There’s a certain appeal here that mystifies me. It’s a good place to watch sports, and the beer selection is a lot more interesting than you might expect, but I can’t help feeling like it’s an exact replica of a bar that exists in every town in America.
It’s superlatively average, which is pretty remarkable, really. Sometimes you want a taste of the familiar, because if you’re anything like me, being really mediocre is one thing you’re great at.