BOSTON - If you can recall when dining options on Causeway Street were limited to authentic Irish pubs operated by authentic hospitality firms straight from the heart of State Street and offering authentic Irish entrees like buffalo wings and fried pickles, you’re likely recalling last Tuesday.
At best, you could consider it a weigh station for weary tourists to nurse overpriced beers after a grueling day of navigating the 500 or so square feet of the Freedom Trail. At worst… well, you’ve never been accosted by suburban soccer moms who want to touch your hair after an Ed Sheeran concert, have you?
Despite its long standing reputation as an afterthought, Causeway Street’s generated a subtle but noticeable buzz over the past two years as the next up and coming hotspot in Boston. If rebranding efforts to dub it the West End strike you as contrived, it’s not just because Causeway Street is a strictly a commercial neighborhood, it’s because no one under the age of 70 is certain whether or not the West End ever actually existed.
Much like El Dorado or rent control, you may have heard it once existed. But distinguishing between legend and fantasy isn’t all that easy in the face of multi-million dollar mixed development ventures.
Food halls being a prime example. If it wasn’t for the hyperbole, you might consider them to be nothing more than a high-end cafeteria at best but more likely the culinary equivalent of collateral damage. Instead, they’re the “next evolution” of your dining experience, an incandescent beacon guiding your path through the dark and torturous bypaths of your local food culture with the sage judgement only well-heeled editors at digital media outlets can provide.
But open air mixed developments? Consider them retail America’s interpretation of a country club prison, only manned by household names you’re not exactly certain should be household names.
Causeway Street, you’ve had it coming ever since you tore down the old North Station.
What distinguishes Hub on Causeway from its counterparts desperately vying for your attention through the burgeoning mass of social media-friendly vendors and seven-figure digital marketing promotions? Spectacle. Sheer, unadulterated spectacle. Not only a spectacle, but a shameless reveling in it. A meta-spectacle.
Yes, you can witness Tom Brady scratch his groin in high definition on a 40 foot digital screen over a $9 IPA. Yes, you can Instagram yourself wolfing down nachos formally approved by the human equivalent of a colonoscopy. Yes, you can have a VIP experience during the Exposé reunion at what appears to be Boston’s answer to a Nassau County tax shelter. And yes, you can even shell out $3,000 for a luxury studio complete with on-site pet spa and enforced curfews for those times you if you just can’t live without your own personal retail Coney Island of the Wallet. But should you?
Hub on Causeway, which officially opened this Wednesday, is just one Class E-funded injection in the unrecognizably reconstructed face of North Station. Slated to join the ranks of the next phase of retail shopping will be Hub Hall, a presumably more subdued affair at the TD Garden for those few commuters who think Mike’s Pastry have gotten too big for their britches.
Because the midway never died. It’s alive and well and living on Causeway Street.
The Hub on Causeway is located at 100 Causeway Street in Boston.
Image Via Wikimedia Commons