I've been going to Jillian's Boston for probably over 10 years now, off and on. I still recall the days when it was more family-oriented with a sizable arcade blending in with a bar; a floor above with nothing but nice pool tables and ping pong tables and a restaurant for people who like greasy bar food. I've gone here for four separate occasions: a 4th of July celebration, a work-related get together, a buddy's bachelor party and an ongoing meeting place for my best friend and I.
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When people pick places out in Boston as their own kind of personal sanctuary, they'll pick a small bar in a neighborhood far away from the excesses of downtown Boston and any tourist-friendly businesses. People tend to pick out greasy spoons near any neighboring college joints or dive bars in the streets of Dorchester or an Irish bar in South Boston. My friend and I pick what would essentially a brick and mortar store equivalent to bars in the city. However, we pick this particular site out because it's far away from any other bars that anyone we know may frequent; we've established a rapport with some of the staff and we're close enough to a neighboring movie theater that's absolutely dead on week days and nights. He and I love this for not only it's proximity to the movie theater but for the fact that we can pretty much be ourselves and say whatever the hell we want. It might be crude, decent and downright vulgar but our philosophy is, do whatever we want. No girlfriends, no family. Just ourselves as we feel like.
I will get the cons of Jillian's right out of the way. It can be pretty expensive and I'm not just talking about food which is about average. The drinks alone can get up there in price and for six drinks, the bar tab could run upwards of fifty bucks. When I got a regular glass of Stella Artois beer, it cost me $5.00 and the same price could probably apply to shots if not more. If you want to run up a tab, you naturally can rack up a serious charge on your credit card. Service is fairly solid and the waitresses/servers are very attentive, be it at one of the many pool tables or bowling lanes available. A limited number of dining booths and tables are set up for diners, although the tables unsurprisingly, are more for the bar crowd than the food crowd. The sizable bar is round and there are enough attentive bartenders, a majority of them twentysomething females to be there and serve you. Service can be a hit or miss but fortunately, my friend and I have gotten to know some of the bartenders and find that their service is personable. Granted that we've been going there for a few years that they know who we are, and we're not obnoxious. The bartenders who have served us in the past with lack of personality, usually don't turn up when we make a repeat visit which might indicate they don't work there anymore.
As for the pros, Jillian's main floor is the scaled back version of when I first visited it in 1998. There are no arcade games and there's no family vibe anymore, with this floor designated more for a young crowd who want to play pool, bowl, drink, eat or watch sports. Jillian's is served by a finite amount of widescreen TV sets mounted everywhere in addition to a series of TV screens to make up one image. Either way, it's virtually impossible to miss any kind of sports game, let alone a New England one that you can see it. I gotta say that I enjoy the main floor itself, given that it has a modest yet hip atmosphere, with a nice assortment of pool tables evenly spread out for customers. Ambient lighting only serves for a more relaxing atmosphere. It's no surprise to see the place commands a lot of incoming visitors during Red Sox season, particularly when there are home games. The pool tables themselves are nice, and you can get the balls from a booth near the entrance, but a credit card or license card is required. Plus pool tables are not general pick, they're assigned.
The menu is decent but nothing exceptional. The most expensive thing on the menu, excluding booze is a Flank Steak sandwich at 12 bucks while median prices range from $7.00 to $10.00 for burgers, pizza and salads. The food is typical bar food and if you were to ask about the boneless buffalo wings, they're pretty standard from every pub you've dined.
Over the years, Jillian's has changed and since they've incorporated the likes of Lucky Strike Lanes, they've been able to appeal to a more broader customer base. As you recall, I mentioned how one floor, which is the third floor was designated to pool tables. Lucky Strike just happened to move in on that territory so there are just as many lanes as there might be many pool tables. Unfortunately I didn't explore this area as my friend and I stick to the main Jillian's floor only. But I'm also not into ten pin bowling so that's to my disadvantage but Lucky Strike, at the very least is a very hip joint for people who want to have a fun Saturday night. The first floor is Tequila Rain, which is described as being Spring Break 52 weeks a year. This club is definitely the type of place to cater to girls' nights out or bachelorette parties. Tequila Rain also offers a fine assortment of themed celebrations ranging from holidays to of course, spring break. The same goes for Tequila Rain as it went for Lucky Strike, I skipped it because I'm a bar kind of guy, not a dance club guy.
Jillian's is no different from any other bar you've been to in Boston and it's about as commercial as one might possibly expect. But I certainly can't knock it for the joy I've gotten out of it over the years, given that my friend and I prefer this as a regular joint. It's certainly a mainstream bar and it certainly caters to those who like pool, bowling and sports. It's for those who don't mind decent bar food or want to go to a dance club in the city. Jillian's is designed as an entertainment megaplex and admirably, it's held up over the years to do just that. Parking in the area, as it is with Boston can be a real pain in the butt. You can get cheap parking on a night when there's no ball game in the summer, but if there is, prepare to pay upwards of 30 bucks. On nights when there's no ball game, it goes for a fairly cheap price of 10 bucks. Surrounding Jillian's of course, is Fenway Park and surrounding Fenway Park is a buttload of popular sports bars and restaurants. Truthfully speaking, the adjacent Mexican restaurant next door, of which the name escapes me, has terrible food. I didn't think my chicken enchilada was supposed to be sour so skip it.
Jillian's is close to a host of places in the Boston area, down past Fenway Park is the Landmark Center, an eclecticly designed shopping mall that's home to a Regal Cinema, Best Buy, Staples and Bed, Bath & Beyond. As with Boston and considering it's size as a city, there's usually something nearby. I have to say though in terms of driving, Fenway is a tough area to navigate. A particularly huge pain in the butt is that the street in front of Jillian's is under construction, which makes it painful to drive around the area since the freaking street has been in construction for nearly if not, a year. But other than that, Jillian's is a decent area to go if you want to bowl, play pool or go for a drink. Either way, it can't disappoint.
Kid Friendliness: No
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations This is the place you go for an enjoyable Saturday night, but prepare to bring money. Parking garages rip you off during a hometown ball game.
Best Suited For: Friends