Let’s face it: people suck. Sure, there are a few decent ones here and there - nurses, kindergarten teachers, and whoever invented cup holders. But the rest of us are pretty terrible, going about our days watching movies on the T without headphones and collectively destroying the only habitable planet in the known universe because it’s so hard to carry around an empty plastic water bottle all day long. We’re the worst.
As a result, sometimes you just need to be by yourself. And when that time comes, there are few better ways to do it than by sitting alone at a bar with a burger. Here are our 12 favorite places to do just that. Spend one night at one of these spots with a drink and the most perfect sandwich known to man and you may even think humans aren’t so bad after all.
Dark taverns with wood-beam ceilings and fireplaces are ideal spots to hang by yourself. That’s what you’ll find at Citizen Public House in the Fenway, a place that feels like it’s old enough to have been a bar where your grandfather used to come and smoke cigars, even though it’s in a brand new building that also houses a spin studio. The burger here is really big and slathered in truffle aioli, so you may not finish it, but that just means you can have a second meal by yourself in your kitchen later that night.
You have two bars to choose from at The Westland near Symphony Hall. We like the more casual bar in the front as opposed to the one in the back, which is a little clubby and seems like the type of place where people complain about the entitled millennial in their office who didn’t laugh at that hilarious Obama joke. But at either spot, you can get a juicy, sloppy burger topped with crispy shallots that’s pretty much exactly what you want out of a meat sandwich at a pub.
The Met in Back Bay is one of those plush leather places where people wear business attire, drink brown liquor, and finalize deals to purchase metalworks companies in South Korea. But the Met Bar downstairs is a casual place where neighborhood people and salaried workers hang out to watch the game and grab some decent bar bites. There are six different burgers to choose from (we prefer the Paris with brie and a fried egg) and on Monday nights they only cost $5.
Lively Latin places are usually where you go with groups of friends, not by yourself. But Tico in Back Bay is a lively Latin place that also has a big, dark bar and a really good burger with crispy onions, bacon, and a horseradish sauce. And go ahead, get a margarita while you’re here - just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun.
Head to Saloon when you really want to be alone, because this place has pretty horrible cell service as a result of being buried underground in Davis Square. It’s a speakeasy with some really good cocktails and fancy scotch if you’re in the mood to treat yourself, and the burger with whiskey barbecue sauce, maple smoked cheddar, and a blend of brisket, chuck, and short rib seems too fancy to cost just $16.
The Russell House Tavern is located right in the middle of what is probably Boston’s busiest square. And if you’re downstairs in the large main dining room, you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by as many people down there as you were when you were cutting through all the Harvard Square pedestrian traffic outside. But upstairs, you’ll find a more comfortable pub, and while it will still be crowded, it’s a good place to watch the tour groups through the window, order something from their expansive cocktail list, and enjoy a pretty good burger that’s served on an English muffin.
The Rosebud in Davis Square used to be one of those old-fashioned railcar diners which, according to every period piece set in the ’30s, were havens for solo travelers who may or may not have been hitchhiking across Kansas after robbing three banks outside St. Louis. The space has been built out and the bar isn’t even located in the railcar part of the restaurant anymore, but it’s still a great place to grab a drink, thanks to a dark interior and crowds that are usually big enough to make the place not feel completely empty, but small enough that you don’t feel like you’re alone at a party.
For being a bar that’s essentially death-themed (it’s located on the spot where the city hanged criminals in the 18th century) The Gallows is a pretty comfortable place to hang out in. It’s got a bright bar area in the front, candles on the tables, and some modern art on the wall to go along with a giant ouija board (and, depending on what time of year you’re there, severed hands hanging from the ceiling). The burgers here are done flat-top style so the beef gets good and charred. Get the pub burger with bacon and aioli if you’re looking for something basic but good.
If they let you choose the temperature it was cooked at, the burger at JM Curley’s in Downtown Crossing would be just about perfect. It’s a sloppy mess of cheddar, russian dressing, and grilled onions on top of a grass-fed patty that fills you up without making you wonder if there’s a brick in your stomach two hours later. The dark, brick-walled spot gets crowded after work, but you can usually find an open stool to enjoy something from their extensive tap list or one of their pretty good original cocktails.
The Automatic in Kendall Square is kind of a tiki bar, kind of a diner, and kind of a 1950s Vegas lounge. Those are three pretty different things, but somehow it works. What also works is the flat patty burger with a really buttery sesame seed bun. If you want to revert to childhood for a night, on Mondays they make a pretty good Big Mac tribute burger.
Ten Tables is a tiny little restaurant with a tiny little bar. But if you can grab one of the approximately seven stools, there’s no homier place to hang out by yourself for an hour (and chat up the bartender, if you want, who will probably be happy to help you pair your burger with something really good from their nice wine collection). The burger here is a really good one thanks to a lot of cheddar, crispy pancetta, and red pepper remoulade.
If you’re smart, you’ll go to RF O’Sullivan’s on a day when it’s raining. That way, you’ll already be wearing something to protect your shirt from the geysers of juice that spill out of the giant, perfectly cooked patties. There are over 20 different kinds of burgers here, they’re all huge, they’re all cooked to order, and they’re all served on a bun that basically turns into a sesame seed sponge by the time you finish. Grab a beer, watch the game, and enjoy what is essentially the platonic ideal of a pub burger.