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Raven's Nest Pub and Eatery: A Cozy Spot With Delicious Contemporary Cuisine and Upscale Pub Fare

The Raven's Nest, Walpole, Massachusetts
Article by Eric J. Hurwitz. Article updated on Jan. 3, 2017.

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Call the Raven's Nest Pub and Eatery in Walpole, Mass., a "101" on how to create the perfect Main Street USA pub.

Several years ago, 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 any HGTV renovater proud, and brought in a selection of food and drinks to appeal to all walks of life.

The painstaking renovation efforts on opening night resulted in a 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 with a beautiful town common. The Raven's Nest helped signify a turnaround for downtown Walpole as it became a more bustling, thriving central district that now features 14 places to eat in only two blocks and a nicer variety of locally-owned shops. 

The Raven's Nest is truly a "build-it-and-they-will come" story. 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, classic mill 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. Nice 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. The Raven's Nest also features a cozy outdoor deck out back for some additional dining in the warmer weather.

None of this "extreme restaurant makeover" would mean much, however, if the food wasn't good.  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, fish n' chips and mac and cheese on the menu, but the Raven's Nest goes well beyond standard Irish pub fare. The open-faced short ribs sliders make a great appetizer with its stout-braised, tender flavor. The maple chicken salad is phenomenal with maple glazed chicken, mixed greens, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese, grilled apples and a burgundy vinaigrette. Dinner standouts: the Atlantic salmon with apple goat cheese and fresh vegetable of the day; the filet mignon with espresso crust, port cream sauce, balsamic nectar, grilled asparagus, and mashed potatoes; and the roasted eggplant featuring basil pesto, fresh mozzarella served with cavatappi or grilled asparagus (chicken can be added at an additional charge). For sandwiches, I love the Bishoptown Burger (with mushrooms, onions, pepper and swiss cheese), and the flavorful Poe's Pesto Chicken with grilled chicken, basil walnut pesto, grilled peppers, and mild cheddar on a delicious grilled herb focaccia bread.           

Poe's pesto chicken with grilled chicken, basil walnut pesto, grilled peppers and mild cheddar on a grilled focaccia bread from the Raven's Nest in Walpole MAPoe's pesto chicken with sweet potato fries.                                                   

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!"

The Raven's Nest
998 Main St.
Walpole MA
Tel. (508) 734-9377

Breaking news: the McAuliffe's just opened up The Raven's Vine and Tap a few doors down from The Ravens' Nest. Read about the Raven's Vine and Tap here


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