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Campus Eats: Bleacher Bar

The food is good, the view is better at this Fenway hole in the wall

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Gaze onto Fenway Park without buying tickets, at the Bleacher Bar. Photos by Edward A. Brown

Let’s get the hyperventilating over with right away: You can watch the Red Sox at Fenway with no tickets! You can see right onto the field! You can smell the outfield grass!

I’ll admit it: I’m a little giddy about the Bleacher Bar, a new spot that’s built into the side of Fenway Park, just as advertised — under the bleachers. It’s a small, dimly lit, triangle-shaped place, accessible from Lansdowne Street, with cool Sox memorabilia, knowingly retro décor, and a view that kills, thanks to a garage-door-sized window that looks out at center field. The window is open when there isn’t a game (with mesh fencing preventing any Field of Dreams escapades); during games, a clear glass door pulls down so players won’t be distracted. Either way, looking out onto the field at ground level gives you the sense that the ballpark is your own domain.

Several coveted tables and a short bar get the prime views; if you’ve lucked into one of these tables, enjoy it and eat fast. A strictly observed turnover policy will limit your superiority to 45 minutes, after which you’ll be ushered back to the larger bar with the rest of the gawkers or to another, less-well-placed table.

An initial, obvious complaint: it would be better if the window opening onto the field were larger. But that’s like saying it would be better if we also got presents the day before and the day after our birthday. Sure it would. But this is pretty good, too.

The food is vintage New York deli, which works very well as an idealized version of the best ballpark meal you ever ate. There’s high-end pastrami, salami, beef brisket, corned beef, even liverwurst, in addition to well-prepared staples like turkey club, grilled cheese with bacon, and “sliders,” a plate of three mini burgers. No nachos, no chicken wings, no quesadillas. No cheesy sports bar, this.

On a recent visit, during which the grass was being tended and the ballpark aromas made us mellow, we ordered the warm mortadella and provolone sandwich, which was salty and full of flavor, very rich but not too fatty. We also tried the brisket and roast beef on light rye: tender, moist, flavorful, with a spicy kick. Sandwiches are served with chips (in a small-fries paper pouch) and a pickle; we upped the artery-clogging ante by sampling the fried pickles as a starter: good, but not necessary.

On another visit, we started with the chicken noodle soup, which was absolutely delicious, as old-school as the Ted Williams keepsakes on the wall. We also tried the turkey club, which — like most everything else on the menu — could easily cover you for two meals. Simple and fresh, with perfectly roasted turkey and good white bread — a classic. And we had a corned beef Reuben, which stands up very respectably to its New York cousin. Finally, we hit the gravy fries: crisp and hearty, covered with a thick, salty, home-style gravy. So good. So bad. (In a nod to cardiac health, we did not try the bacon cheesy fries.)

The Bleacher Bar is not cheap, but compared in price and quality to the food and drink served inside the ballpark, it feels like a bargain. Sandwiches generally range from $8 to $12, soups and salads from $4 to $8. And the place nails the details: for dessert, it’s pie, your choice of blueberry, or apple, at $4 a slice.

The owners, who include the savvy Patrick Lyons of Lansdowne Street nightclub fame, made only one error. The men’s room has a window at head level, so guys can look out at the field — and the entire bar — while they take care of their business. This seems to make them exceedingly happy. But as a diner and a human being, I don’t need to see the grins on their faces as they contemplate their good fortune while unloading their last beer. Please make that glass one-way.

The Bleacher Bar, 82A Lansdowne St., about halfway down Fenway’s façade, is open year-round for lunch and dinner, Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. For a menu, click here.

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Click here to visit BU Today’s Campus Eats page and read about other restaurants in the area.

Bari Walsh can be reached at bawalsh@bu.edu.

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