T. Boyles Tavern, where good intentions to lose weight go awry
By Erica Wayne 01/02/2014
“I know a dark secluded place, a place where no one knows your face; a glass of wine, a fast embrace; it’s called…” nope, not Hernando’s Hideaway (as in the song from “Pajama Game”) but T. Boyle’s Tavern.
It’s hell to find. The address is 37 N. Catalina Ave., but unless you’ve been there before and know to walk west down the narrow step-down pedestrian alley adjacent to the self-pay parking lot off of Catalina Avenue, behind the Academy Theater, you’d never guess its location. (You can also access T. Boyle’s through the walkway leading east from North Mentor to the Ice House entrance and beyond.)
Once you find it, you don’t have to “knock three times and whisper low that you (and I) were sent by Joe.” But from the alley, and down a short flight of stairs, you will eventually find yourselves at the rear of a cavernous, dimly lit room with nary a clue as to how to integrate yourselves into the surroundings. These consist of a bunch of huge mismatched wooden tables, chairs and stools set up on a cracked concrete floor, and a double layer of televisions (14 in all) as mismatched as the furniture, all tuned to three or four sports channels.
At the front, beneath most of the sets, is a massive bar. Above the TVs, two enormous taxidermed heads — a deer and a moose — peer out of the darkness. Taped ducting hangs from an enormously high wood-trussed ceiling. The walls are brick, and stairs lead to a second level overhanging the main space where, we find out later, dartboards and shuffleboard tables can be found. A radio blares rock, two pool tables take up space at the rear, perimeter walls are lined with empty kegs, and the place is filled with folks of all ages drinking, munching, laughing and glancing now and again at the televised games.
There are menus on the table, so my husband made an exploratory foray to the bar, to ask the tender how to order. Turns out that he’s the one to see, so we pored over the menu, brought our choices back and picked our beverage from the white board nearby (T. Boyle’s specializes in a wide selection of draft and bottled beers). We took the $18, 60-ounce pitcher of Stella (and a stand with our number) back to the table to wait for our last “no-no” meal before buckling down to the healthy-eating resolution we vowed to adhere to in 2014.
Almost everything we ordered was deep-fried. And almost anything that wasn’t fried was laden with cheese and/or mayonnaise. I suppose we could have ordered ceviche ($6.75), a sausage sampler ($9.75), grilled fish tacos ($7.75), barbecue baby back ribs ($11.75) or gumbo ($7.75) and had a healthier meal. But we were craving fats and carbs (not the good kind), and T. Boyle’s menu provides both in spades.
We ordered Buffalo wings ($7.50 for six), calamari ($7.75), fish and chips ($9.75) and a stuffed bleu cheeseburger ($8.75). The wings were succulent, meat moist, Louisiana hot sauce coating not overwhelming but not wimpy, either. The squid is described on the menu as “lightly breaded,” but the large rings were heavily coated in a crunchy cornmeal armor. Don’t expect a tempura-like prep at T. Boyle’s; head to a Japanese or Italian place if you’re looking for tendrils. We weren’t and were perfectly happy.
The fish and chips included three hefty rectangles of beer-battered Atlantic cod, moist and sweet, its breading a lot lighter than the calamari’s, some tasty slaw and a huge side of fries. Our burger was also gi-normous — a mere one-third of a pound of meat, but the cheese layered within plumped and lubricated it with luscious blue cream as it melted. A slice of tomato, a sprinkle of bleu cheese crumbles, some lettuce and lots of sharp raw onion garnished the sandwich; it too was paired with enough fries to sink any hopes of kitchen-imposed restraint.
And, no, there is no indication that T. Boyle’s beef is organic, free-range, grass-fed, hormone-free, Angus or Kobe. It’s simply juicy chuck like its four brethren: pastrami burger with Swiss cheese; BBQ bacon burger with cheddar, crispy onion strings and ancho chili BBQ beer sauce; “spice of life” burger with jalapeno peppers, chipotle sauce and pepper jack cheese; and ground peppercorn burger with onion rings, pepper jack cheese and bleu cheese dressing (each $9.95).
Desserts? Not nonexistent. There was a whiteboard at the entrance that mentioned two; I think one was carrot cake. But it’s obvious that almost nobody comes to T. Boyle’s for sweets. Their Web site lists close to 40 bottled beers and ciders and about 20 craft brews on tap. These rotate, but there’s always plenty of choice.
And, if you want to interact with your fellow drinkers, Action Trivia games are held on Sundays and Tuesdays and there’s occasional live music. By the way, I have no idea who T. Boyle is or was. Unlike Lucky Baldwin, there’s no Googleable information, and we were too busy stuffing our faces to bother to ask while we were there. But if his Tavern is any indication, I’m certain he is (was) a fair fellow well met.
Having polished off everything (for a net calorie consumption of around a zillion apiece) and washed the last few morsels down with the dregs of our beer, we were able to hide our gluttonous shame (and guilty enjoyment) in the dusky light and sneak off through the dark alley into the night.
Of course, we’re on the straight and narrow now: sushi, salads and lots of green veggies. But if we fall off the wagon, we know just where to go for great pub food and beer without meeting “Uncle Max and everyone we know”: T. Boyle’s Tavern (open till 2 a.m. every night). It’s like Hernando’s Hideaway, Ole!
T. Boyle’s Tavern
37 N. Mentor Ave.,
Beer and wine