Food

Cheers to Boston!

Omar Tomlinson

Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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Boston has all but become synonymous with the iconic American sitcom Cheers. On our recent Pepsico-sponsored trip to the East Coast metropolis — and being avowed fans of the NBC comedy that ran from 1982 to 1993 — we were all too eager to seek out the location of the bar that inspired the fictional television series. Jerry, our trusty concierge at The Colonnade Hotel, pointed us in the direction of Cheers, which was thankfully within walking distance.

Map in hand, off we went in the nippy October air, to the bar where we were pretty certain everybody wouldn’t know our names.

In half-an-hour’s time, we were there (note to prospective Boston travellers: the city is walking-friendly and ideally so, as touristy landmarks are almost on every corner) and secretly wishing we would happen upon Rhea Perlman’s caustic character Carla to serve us a cold beer with a side of sassiness. No such luck.

We settle for a familiarity lesson on the establishment from Chris Nelson, the manager of the Cheers bar.

He clues us in that “the producers of the television show had an idea of a neighbourhood bar and were looking around the country in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Boston in the early 1980s”.

“At the time Boston was a hotbed for politics and sports as it kind of still is today,” Nelson tells Thursday F o o d. “So they came here and stumbled into the pub downstairs: an English-style pub that was a little dark and dim, but it was a lot of fun and met their imagination of what the show would be. They chose this location and came and took over 200 pictures of the front room, built the set and developed the television show and the rest is history.”

The manager informs us that the centuries-old multi-storey building found on 84 Beacon Street has a storied history of its own. The bar was once the Fair Family mansion owned by the prominent Bostonian family that has an academy in the city named in their honour. “It’s an old six-storey brownstone that was sold to a gentleman who tried to run it as a hotel, who eventually sold it to its present owner Tim Kershaw in 1969 who opened up the doors.”

Today, the location immortalised on the small screen where wisecracking pub-goers Norm, Cliff, Frasier, Sam and others fraternised, is a must-do location for tourists visiting Boston.

The immediate association with the TV series has spawned great benefits. “The show has blossomed this business,” Nelson divulges. “It was a neighbourhood bar and as the owner likes to say, ‘the neighbourhood has gotten bigger’”.

What of the cast? Do they ever visit?

“If they are in town, they will stop by if they are working,” the manager tells us. “Kelsey Grammer was in town doing a Shakespeare play three years ago and he came in with his cast.”

Nelson says well over 700 out-oftowners pop in every day (numbers are guesstimated to max out at 2,500 for the Fourth of July American holiday), curious to discover the bar they grew to love on TV. Many, ourselves included, are often struck by the fact that the bar is not as we recall it on the boob tube. Nelson explains that another location in Boston at Faneuil Marketplace, a few blocks away, houses a replica ofthe TV bar.

The Beacon Street location we’re in is good enough for us. A gift shop is abuzz with tourists rifling through an assortment of Cheers memorabilia. We make acquaintance with Phoenix, Arizona residents David and Debbie Snodgrass, who made Cheers a priority stop on their sightseeing itinerary.

“I loved the show and George Wendt’s Norm,” David, who had just purchased a Cheers tee, shares with us, “so it was one of the stops I had to make on my trip.”

Next-door the gift shop is the bar-cumdiner where guests can order pub-style fare, with several items cleverly named after the sitcom’s characters. There’s Carla’s Meatballs & Linguini, the Giant Norm Burger, Lillith’s Pan Asian Salad, Sam’s Turkey Sandwich, Cliff’s More-Than-A-Grilled-Cheese sandwich and Rebecca’s Fish And Chips. Perfect comfort food to tuck into as we wish Woody Harrelson’s slow-witted bartender Woody Boyd just might pour us a cold Sam Adams beer.

Cheers Beacon Hill is located at 84 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachussets. Telephone (617) 227-9605.

Cheers Faneuil Hall Marketplace is located at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, Massachusetts. Telephone (617) 227-0150.

Restaurants and bars at both locations are open daily. Reservations are accepted for groups of 15 or more.

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