Living History in Charlestown: Warren Tavern Has Been Local Mainstay Since 1780

The sign at the Warren Tavern

The Warren Tavern has been a local haunt since 1780, making it one of the oldest bars in Massachusetts. It was known to be Paul Revere’s mainstay watering hole, and was also frequented by George Washington. Since then, the clientele has changed from historical heroes to Charlestown’s modern-day workers, and the 2 Pleasant Street location has seen some environmental changes, but one thing is for certain: The Warren Tavern is still Charlestown’s favored bar.

“I merit  The Warren Tavern’s success to the fact that it offers a mixture of everything. You can get a burger, beer and watch the ball game on five high-definition TVs in the bar area or sit down for a full course meal in our dining area. And all for a reasonable price…People leave satisfied without breaking the bank and that’s why they come back. Add in the historical aspects and you have a formula for success,” said owner John Harnett.

Stroll into The Warren Tavern on any afternoon and you’ll notice it attracts Charlestown veterans as well as new families populating the area. The restaurant and bar are resident-friendly, making it easy to come and stay awhile. “We cover the whole spectrum,” said Harnett. “At any given time we could have a table full of babies and infants in one room while in another a table of older ladies are singing Irish songs.”

But locals aren’t the only infiltrators of the popular hangout. Tourists in search of a tangible way to feel like they are being immersed in a part of history often step into the tavern with cameras and awe. “People come from all over the country and are just amazed that they are having a drink in the same building  that George Washington and Paul Revere had a drink,” said Harnett, who is no longer phased by their wonderment. Unlike other Charlestown hotspots where tourists are brought in to admire the celebrity of the place (for example, anywhere ‘The Town’ was filmed), The Warren Tavern has maintained its humbleness and integrity. “The tourists do not change the vibe of the place,” Harnett assured.

The successful owner believes that The Warren Tavern was and always will be a comfortable place to come and relax or unwind with a drink or some food at the bar. “I sometimes wish I didn’t work because this place would be where I would go to for a drink,” Harnett added. But given the choice of what he’d order if Harnett was a regular customer, he had a tough time deciding. “It really depends on what I’m in the mood for,” he said. “I love the fish ‘n chips, steak tips, fish tacos and all of the sandwiches. People rave about our lobster roll and you can’t beat our burgers. We recently added a chicken buffalo dip and a seafood casserole which have become very popular.” No matter which great dish he ordered, Harnett would be seen eating it in the nook with the signature low, wood-beamed ceiling. The cozy area is not only comfortable, but also evokes a sense of historical dreaming where you could envision yourself seated alongside Paul Revere during a secret Patriots meeting in the thick of the Revolution.

“I like to think that the Warren Tavern reflects the social fabric of Charlestown, that it is part of the identity which represents the past, present and future of Charlestown,” Harnett said. From the warm staff to the neighbor you will inevitably spot seated at the bar, The Warren Tavern is Charlestown’s oldest and best mainstay.

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