As any local can tell you, the Greater Boston area has restaurants and bars of all kinds, but you know what it doesn’t really have? Roadhouses. And it’s not hard to figure out why this is the case, since these types of bars tend to be roadside establishments found in the middle of nowhere, or perhaps in an area that has little else in the way of commercial or retail development. One such spot that was a classic roadhouse was the Willow Pond in Concord, which was a fraying, tired old dive in the middle of farmland. It pretty much defined the word, with cheap beer, loud music, greasy bar food, and a contingent of bikers, blue-collar workers, and yes, a smattering of middle- and upper-class suburban folk all enjoying a night out among the crickets and the stars. Sadly, the Willow Pond is long gone now, but a relatively similar place on the other side of Boston called the Village Manor also has a definite roadhouse feel to it, though it is in a slightly less rural part of the area than the Willow had been.
Unless you live near the place, the Village Manor is in what many would consider an obscure location, somewhere between the edge of a quiet residential neighborhood in Dedham and a somewhat industrial part of the Readville section of Hyde Park (including lots of railroad tracks) at the far end of Boston. Add to this the fact that just south of the bar is the vast Neponset River Reservation that connects to the even more vast Blue Hills Reservation, and you get the feeling that you are on a bit of an island as you make your way into the cracked, bumpy parking lot behind the watering hole (from which you can actually see the Blue Hills in the distance). A large deck sits out front—though it seems to be more for smoking than for outdoor dining—while the front entrance opens up to a roomy bar area with high-top tables, a mahogany bar, a stone fireplace, and a small section off to the side where live acts play music. A short walkway leads to the back of the house-like structure, where a very old-school (and very quiet) dining area with booths and tables for larger groups can be found.
People don’t come to the Village Manor for foie gras, lamb tartare, and Belgian farmhouse ale, but its pub grub and classic American fare is a cut above what you might normally find at such a place. A few of the highlights here include a beefy and cheesy chili that comes with a nearly endless supply of tortilla chips; wings with a moderately hot buffalo sauce; a nacho plate that looks like a small mountain and includes a huge amount of beef, beans, and chips; a “colossal” burger topped with onion rings; tender steak tips and turkey tips with a house, BBQ, or teriyaki marinade; a sufficiently greasy pastrami sandwich that comes with steak fries; and a rich-tasting mac and cheese with Italian sausage mixed in. The drink menu is what you would expect from a neighborhood joint like this (basic beers and wines, a decent selection of the hard stuff), and prices for both food and drink are very reasonable overall.
Being the densely populated metropolis that it is, the metro Boston area isn’t exactly conducive to roadhouses, but if you look hard enough, you can certainly find these rural-feeling gems where you least expect them. And the Village Manor is a good one, with lots of character (and characters), solid bar food, cheap prices, a salt-of-the-earth waitstaff, and easy parking. Sure, it will never get on the annual list of local hotspots, but it seems quite comfortable in being what it is—a laid-back local joint where everyone is made to feel right at home.
THE VILLAGE MANOR. 427 SPRAGUE ST., DEDHAM. THEVILLAGEMANOR.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.