Tuesday, January 05, 2016

P.A.'s Lounge Gives it to you straight no chaser

By Doug Holder

So I am in Union Square, and the cold winter winds are whipping me like a frenzied sadist, when I entered P.A.'s Lounge. I needed a story and P.A.'s seemed to fit the bill. In one corner of the bar Jon Dorsett nursed a beer, and stared at a flat screen. He had the look of a guy who has seen and done that, and has no time for happy horseshit. The bartender and co-owner Tony Amaral, Jr. looked at me with world-weary eyes, as if to say, “ So, what are you selling?” I told him I am Doug Holder from The Somerville Times—he was not impressed. But I sat down, and as the bar was basically empty this afternoon; he agreed to chew the fat.

It seems that Tony runs the bar with his brother Jerry and his old man Tony Sr.  P.A.'s was founded in 1971. It was called the Portuguese American Lounge back in the day. It specialty was seafood, but later the lounge morphed into a live music venue and bar. The restaurant was in its heyday from 1975 to 1989. Tony Jr., told me they served a Spanish/Portuguesa dish Mariscada that Boston Magazine raved about. It was a savory concoction of shrimp and other seafood that made many a mouth tremble and water with delight.

Speaking of Tony Sr. who birthed this lounge, he is a spry 75 years old and still keeps his finger on the pulse of the joint, and keeps his sons in line. In fact P.A.'s is a family affair. Tony Jr's girlfriend works here as well as the brothers.

Tony Jr., is the real McCoy. He was born in Somerville Hospital, and he went to school with Mayor Curatone—who he says stops in now and then to say hello to his old classmate.

The bar is a no-nonsense kind of place. You are probably not going to get a craft beer, more likely a Miller, Guinness or Bud. Dorsett ,the lone patron piped up: “It's sort of like Cheers, where everyone knows your name. And they are always glad you came.” Dorsett has lived in Somerville since 2001 and is a fan of the music and entertainment the joint has to offer.

I noticed a white guitar mounted on the wall. “Makes sense,” I thought. According to Tony Jr.--many an up and coming band has played here. Dorsett said “ Three years ago Arcade Fire played here.” According to Tony Jr., mostly indie rock bands are the standard fare, but they have “Americana Mondays” where Hank Williams-style music is the flavor of the week. Some local bands that have or will play here are  "Big Screen Radio," " Amateur Athletes," " Triax Coalition" to name a few. The bar has also hosted poetry readings, acoustic open mikes, and throughout the week they have different acts.

But it is not only musicians, poets and other stumble-bums who make the scene, but comedians as well. Most notably, according to Tony Jr., and Dorsett, the comedian Eugene Mirman strutted his stuff here. Dorsett told me that Mirman now hosts his own TV show. No joke.

Tony Jr. has seen the neighborhood change in the last 10 to 15 years—for the good and bad. He thinks the Green Line ( If it ever makes it here) will certainly bring new business. But he has seen real estate taxes rise, and many people displaced.

Tony Jr., told me that the family owns the building; so they will be around awhile. He figures they might put more emphasis on food in the future. But I think in this dark and moody gin joint—they will keep it—straight... with no chaser.

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