New England Dining>>> Raven's Nest, Walpole, Mass.
Raven's Nest Becomes An Instant Hometown Favorite Restaurant in Walpole, Mass.
Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz
Raven's Nest husband and wife owners Mark and Maura McAuliffe took the former dives of 998 Main Street, renovated the site in a way that would make Ty Pennington proud, and brought in a selection of food and drinks to appeal to all walks of life.
The painstaking renovation efforts resulted in a appreciative, standing room-only opening night crowd, as well as an added instant boost to Main Street Walpole at night -- typically, a sleepy, roll-up-the-sidewalks type of place after 7 p.m. Business people, singles, blue-collar workers, teachers and families all came together that night -- and on following days -- to enjoy a night out in an inherently attractive southwest suburban Boston downtown that has experienced some steady revitalization in the past year.
The Raven's Nest is truly a "build-it-and-they-will come" story, right out of the starting gates -- what a little pride of ownership will do! The exterior of the building is an "appetizer" on its own with colorful hanging flower baskets, multiple big picture windows that open up like doors for some fresh air, and purple and yellow trim nicely juxtaposed with old bricks. The conversations inside permeate outside to announce sort of a "local gathering place" to this classic, New England small town downtown.
The sights, sounds and aromas inside bear no resemblance to the previous Paddock and Barleycorn pubs at this location. The bar, formerly located in the middle of the previous restaurants (thus, making a small overall space look even smaller) was moved to the left. The current version is a truly handsome-looking front-to-back bar with enough room for everyone, and its location opens up the rest of the restaurant to a more spacious setting. Making the bar experience extra special are the 16 beers with many high quality on-tap selections.
Gone are the drab walls and low ceilings -- the former opened up to original brick (each one hand-painted) and the latter with a beautiful new post and beam design (it's amazing how high ceilings can make a modest space seem bigger). Hanging yellow lights and a fireplace lend a classic, cozy Irish pub-like ambiance and a hanging but secure old factory ceiling pipe reminds locals of Walpole's glory days as a blue collar industrial town.
The yellow/gold walls brighten up the place even more, while seven 50-inch televisions provide all the sports viewing anyone could ever want in a pub. Newly redone wooden floors and upscale booth and table seating lend the restaurant an even more updated look than the predominantly dingy bar presence of the past. Soon, the Raven's Nest will open up a deck out back for some additional dining.
None of this "extreme restaurant makeover" would mean much, however, if the food wasn't good. On our first night here, we had fantastic meals including a mixed greens salad that tasted like it came fresh out of the garden, a flavorful spinach and artichoke dip, and a fabulous Creole Jambalaya with blackened chicken, shrimp, sausage, scallions, tomatoes and okra in a creole broth served over rice. The homemade rolls were also quite tasty!
We look forward to trying many of the diverse offerings in the near future. It is quite apparent that this is not just a pub with Irish dishes. Sure, you'll find Shepherd's Pie, steak and turkey tips, and fish n' chips on the menu, but the Raven's Nest goes well beyond the standard Irish pub fare, including wild mushroom ravioli, hand-tossed specialty pizzas, chicken ala Milanese, and healthy offerings like fillet of salmon, apple and walnut salad and the "Birdhouse Salad" with mixed field greens, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and bermuda onions. Add a Sunday brunch, homemade soups of the day, a wide variety of appetizers (including crispy calamari and hot and spicy chicken wings), burgers and sandwiches and you have menus that have something for everyone.
Mark McAuliffe, a Cork, Ireland, native, has kept in mind, when creating the Raven's Nest, the way a pub in his homeland would look (his first restaurant, the Mad Raven, is located in Waltham, Mass., and is terrific, too!). The result: an Irish-American pub with tons of character (as opposed to tons of characters in the past at this location), a cozy, welcoming atmosphere and food that we found to be truly "magically delicious!"
998 Main St.
Tel. (508) 734-9377
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