Local Small Business Stories
Raven's Nest Pub and Eatery: A Cozy Spot With Delicious
Contemporary Cuisine and Upscale Pub Fare
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
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
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 outdoor dining in the front of the restaurant and a cozy
deck out back for some additional dining in the warmer weather. The front dining offers nice views of the quaint, historic downtown and the back, a more intimate quiet setting.
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. A personal favorite: the Boston baked eggplant with thick cut roasted eggplant, grilled peppers, garlic olio, basil pistou and fresh mozzarella on a baguette (pictured below). The accompanying perfectly cooked, wonderfully tasting sweet potato fries add that much more to an already outstanding dish,
Dinner standouts: the
Atlantic salmon with apple goat cheese and fresh vegetable of the day;
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). I also 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 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.
Tel. (508) 734-9377
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Massachusetts travel! Read
Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel
town commons. Includes a chapter on the Walpole town green!
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