While I’m still worried that the No. 1 Red Sox will break my heart the 1986 way, the NBA playoff drama between the Bucks and Suns seems like an epic seven-game round-trip, the Games. Olympics are on the horizon and the European Cup final is approaching. It’s the season for sports fans. Where are the good sports bars in Cambridge? There isn’t a ton. Cambridge Common, with television from all angles, was the old staple, but has yet to reopen for internal affairs; Somerville’s Olde Magoun’s Saloon is a good choice, as are the Newtowne Grille and the Joe Sent Me. My stealth viewing spot is Source, the old Cambridge, 1. spot in Harvard Square, which has two perfectly positioned TVs and a kitchen staff who knows all the details of all the teams. But the place that has been playing sports for a few years is the Shine Square Pub, not far from Massachusetts Avenue from Porter Square. The menu is limited, but what’s on it is good – really good – and the dishes are generous and the staff are friendly and engaging. Each seat is meant for a big screen and when there is a big event, and especially when the home team is in, the volume is turned on.
About that limited menu: Shine always seems to be coming back from the pandemic, but it has retained the best of what has been done so well in a short history – sliders and wings. You can get the wings with a sauce (Buffalo, “Chernobyl”, citrus chipotle, jerk, garlic parmesan, golden barbecue, honey garlic, mango habanero, sriracha maple, sweet chili and teriyaki among the options) or a dry rub (barbecue, Buffalo, Cajun, Garlic Parmesan or Jerk). At my recent venture I had the southern fried chicken slider then got another and another. The sliders also come in Beef, Impossible Meat, and Chicken Parmesan versions, so maybe I’m not very adventurous, but these few southern fried bites are perfect. The chicken is pounded, breaded and seasoned with golden, crispy, but not too crispy cooked spices, and served on a brioche bun with just a little mayonnaise and a few pickles. I dare you to eat just one. They are also affordable at $ 5.
The space occupied by Shine has been a lot over the past decade. The bar is named after John Shine, which makes sense as the area is commemorated as Shine Square, where John Shine operated the classic old-fashioned Porter House Cafe. Since then, the cramped but cozy space has opened and closed as Spirit Bar, Dubliner Pub, and McCabe’s Bar & Grille. This latest incarnation was the sister bar of Bull McCabe’s, a longtime Union Square regular, which closed permanently during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, Dave Wells and a few friends who worked at McCabe’s and Highland Kitchen took over the operation, promising customers attention to detail, and delivered extensively. I will say that if you are looking for an open, sunny atmosphere and calm conversation, Shine is not your jam; it’s a classic pub in the nth degree, as are Newtowne and Magoun’s. The place is full of fun distractions in video games, darts and more, as well as wine and a very comprehensive tap list.
Shine, like the Abbey half a mile down Massachusetts Avenue, is one of those pubs where the quality of the food is always high and you always get what you came for as good as last time, without soaking up when. you wonder if there is a new chief or general manager. If there’s one thing I’d like Wells & Co. to bring back, it would be the glorious Zucchini Fries with Ranch Sauce, which is a perfect comfort food to accompany that southern fried slider for Game 7 of the Finals. .
The pub reopens its vacation on Friday.
Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories, and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, Boston Phoenix, Boston Globe, Rumpus, Charleston City Paper, and the literary journal SLAB. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.