Wednesday, May 16, 2012

City-Like Dining in Suburban Spaces at The Raven's Nest in Walpole, Mass.

Apple goat cheese salmon with asparagus, rice,
and cinnamon and cranberry balsamic glaze from
The Raven's Nest, Walpole, Mass. (photo by Eric)

Driving into the city for a "date night" out can be such a pain -- fighting traffic and rude drivers, paying more for parking and tolls than a meal, and having our car value go down about 60 percent in one night from hitting pothole after pothole.

Fortunately, the past 10 or 15 years have been good to us Boston suburbanites looking for a quality meal, close to home. Many restaurant business types, chefs and entrepreneurs have opened up restaurants in the suburbs closer in concept and quality to those high-profile city restaurants that I think sometimes have more appeal as a conversation pieces than places we'd like to go.

We have found a southwest Boston suburban dining gem called The Raven's Nest Pub and Eatery in downtown Walpole, Mass. Built much like the Irish pubs owner Mark McAuliffe grew up with in this native land, the Raven's Nest is very cool and cozy -- an upscale yet casual dining spot without an ounce of trendiness or pretension.  The comfortable dining room with fireplace, long wall with hand-painted bricks, handsome front-to-back bar, the open air windows, high ceilings, attractive lighting, seven plasma televisions and outside patio create an overall atmosphere that makes for an extremely accommodating atmosphere. Add 15 different draft beers, an extensive wine list and many signature cocktails to its impressive food choices -- along with live Irish music on Sundays from 4-7 p.m. -- and you have a restaurant where it's easy to become a "regular." The Raven's Nest also features a brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Because of the appealing hometown atmosphere, professional but friendly service, and high quality food, The Raven's Nest certainly qualifies as a date night place, but also a family-friendly spot where you don't have to dress up. That's the beauty of the place!

The "contemporary cuisine and upscale pub fare" dishes we have experienced at The Raven's Nest are as good, if not better than at some of the date night restaurants we've tried in Boston. Good news, too, for the "budget-minded": the prices are much lower than many higher-profile Boston restaurants. We would first recommend the mouthwatering apple goat cheese salmon with asparagus, real mashed potatoes (or rice), and cinnamon and cranberry balsamic glaze. Phenomenal! Another fantastic dish is the pistachio chicken, a breast of chicken with roasted pistachios, grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes, pesto cream sauce and balsamic nectar. The Raven's Nest also makes a great baked mac and cheese, steak tips, roasted pork chops (with honey and cinnamon glaze, roasted potatoes, honey-glazed carrots),
Shepherd's pie, eggplant Parmesan, burger and grilled pizza (especially the "Goat Broke Loose" with goat cheese, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and fresh mozzarella). I also have frequent cravings for the delicious pesto chicken sandwich with grilled chicken, basil pesto, roasted peppers, cheddar American cheese and rosemary. I could eat that sandwich every day!

Mark and his wife Maura have been so embraced by this friendly little New England town that they have decided to open a coffee shop called The Coffee Perch a few doors down from The Raven's Nest. As the Walpole community has been in need of a coffee shop for several years, the arrival of the Coffee Perch should also be embraced by Walpole. The Coffee Perch web site describes its soon-to-be-opened coffeehouse as a "place to rest, chat with with friends, escape in a great read, write your first novel, catch up on work, surf the Internet, gaze at beautiful art, sketch your next masterpiece... all while enjoying exceptional coffee, delicious pastries, eclectic music - in a comfortable neighborhood coffeehouse!" Like The Raven's Nest, The Coffee Perch will overlook the beautiful Walpole Town Common -- a great spot to relax after a cup of coffee, or take in the Walpole Farmers Market during the summer and fall on Wednesdays, 2-6 p.m.

We'll let you know at the Weekly New England Travel and Vacation Gazette when The Coffee Perch grand opening takes place.

Back to The Raven's Nest: isn't it nice to have restaurants like this not too far from where you live? Please feel free to share your favorite date night "neighborhood restaurants" in New England by posting a comment below.

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

Editor's note: for full disclosure, The Ravens' Nest is an advertiser on Its status as an advertiser does not affect our opinion on this Walpole restaurant. We are paying customers that write straight from the heart -- and our taste buds! You will never find a good-review-for-an-advertisement scenario on our web sites. We have too much pride and integrity for that nonsense!

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