|A bowl of chili at the ''Home of the Perfect Pint.''|
In Hingham, a cozy Irish pub filled with music, comfort food
116 North St., Hingham
Open Monday through Thursday for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. until midnight;
Saturday and Sunday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7 a.m. until midnight
Kitchen closes each night at 9:30 p.m.
Anyone who thinks there isn't a good time to be found on the South Shore on a Monday evening hasn't been to The Snug in Hingham for the restaurant/pub's traditional Irish session.
Led by the versatile singer/musician Skip Toomey, the music begins each Monday at 5:30 p.m. - perfect timing for working stiffs looking to unwind, parents wanting to teach the kiddies a little Celtic culture, or homesick Irish immigrants seeking an authentic homage to the Emerald Isle.
When we visited, Toomey was joined by 11 other musicians, though the hostess told me quite a few more often show up. All were gathered around several small tables pushed together in the pub's front window, and all had brought along instruments, including a Celtic drum, several violins, and at least one accordion.
I recognized lots of tunes from my parents' collection of Irish music, but we also picked out one or two contemporary songs performed with a Gaelic lilt.
Some of the music, which typically lasts until 8:30 p.m. or beyond, was instrumental, but most included singing by the musicians and even some diners, and the applause was long and hearty. (In addition to the Irish sessions, The Snug hosts folk and acoustic-rock musicians Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from about 9 p.m. to closing.)
The entertainment never interfered with our ability to enjoy what we all agreed was a fine meal.
If you go, you would be wise to go early. The Snug - with its classic wooden bar, warm golden walls, and Celtic-themed artwork - is as cozy as its name suggests, and the place fills up fast. We arrived at nearly 7 p.m. and found the tiny dining room packed.
While we waited (the bar stools were all occupied, too), my husband and I enjoyed pints of Bass Ale and a Blue Moon lager ($5 each) drawn from The Snug's European draft system, and agreed that the place earns its self-proclaimed nickname "Home of the Perfect Pint."
With their sodas and juices in hand, our three children milled around, which didn't annoy the busy staff in the least.
We were seated within a half-hour, and served in record time. My bowl of chili, with melted cheddar cheese, diced onions, and multicolored tortilla chips on the side, was a hearty bargain at $6.50 ($5.50 without cheese and onions). For $10, we all shared the Snug Basket, which included fried shrimp, asiago cheese-stuffed olives, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, french fries, and several dipping sauces.
Since we spied delectable-looking onion rings on the way to another table, we could not resist a half-size portion ($2.50). The basketful of crispy, crunchy rings was more than ample, so we were grateful to our waitress for talking us out of the full-size order.
Our entrees included one of The Snug's signature dishes - steak tips ($14), which were marinated in the restaurant's secret recipe and cooked to order. We all (children included) pronounced them juicy and delicious. Side orders of mashed potatoes and cole slaw, which accompanied the dish, garnered high marks as well.
But the hit of the evening was the shepherd's pie ($12), a casserole of seasoned ground beef, corn, and mashed potatoes. We stirred the ingredients together, scarfed it down while still piping hot, and decided it was the essence of comfort food. The Irish soda bread on the side was fresh and moist.
At this point we were all pretty full, but the children rallied to eat their hot dogs ($5 for two dogs), chicken fingers ($8), and cheeseburger ($7).
We asked our affable waitress to wrap up everything remaining on the table, then shared a generous hunk of apple pie ($5), dusted with confectioner's sugar, which tasted as if it had been baked that day.
The Snug is also known for its reasonably priced weekend breakfasts and everyday lunches. Stand-out breakfast items include corned beef hash ($5.50) and steak and eggs ($7.50), as well as all varieties of eggs and pancakes. The grilled Reuben ($6.99) and the corned beef sandwich ($6.50) are two ideal lunches from the sandwich menu.
The Snug is owned and run by the husband-and-wife team of Ed Brown and Ellen Nally, who dreamed of buying a pub for a decade before finding the space (formerly The Colonial Tavern) right in their hometown. They named it after a pub they had visited and loved in Ireland. (A "snug" is the coziest spot in a pub, usually by the fireplace.)
We left the restaurant just as the musicians were putting down their instruments and lifting their own pints of Guinness. They had most definitely earned it. As for us, we went home with full bellies, light hearts, and an Irish tune playing in our heads.