Boston’s most recent wave of cocktail bars has been dialing the drinking experience up a notch. At some point this year, you have likely found yourself sipping drinks in a former wig shop, exploring Greek mythology in a subterranean Back Bay bar, or working your way through a multi-course cocktail tasting menu in the North End. But no one has yet printed out spells to chant as you’re knocking back a cocktail — well, until now.
Hobgoblin, a restaurant and bar taking over the former Stoddard’s pub space in Downtown Crossing, is a fantastical new place from the well-regarded operators behind the Mad Monkfish, the fan-favorite Thai, sushi, and jazz restaurant in Cambridge’s Central Square.
Chef Ginger Phomjun, who also oversees the menu at the Mad Monkfish, is doing Thai-rooted, snacky, (mostly small) plates that work well in a bar setting, like pomelo salad, duck satay skewers, and chicken wings tossed in teriyaki, Nam Tok-, or Hat Yai-style spices. For those familiar with her work at the Mad Monkfish or other venues like Pai Kin Kao (a Thai and Japanese spot near Central Square), Hobgoblin’s menu is “painting within the same color palette,” co-owner Jamme Chantler says. His son, Nick Chantler Treenawong, is curating the California- and Europe-centric wine menu.
The space will be familiar to those who knew it in its previous incarnation: Stoddard’s, a beloved gastropub that shut down in 2020 after a decade in business. Chantler and his team left Stoddard’s gleaming wooden bar — imported from England — in place, and left some of the previous tenant’s artwork up on the walls. They also put up two new lampposts in an homage to the old bar, now decorated with gargoyles to match Hobgoblin’s magical theme. A yet-to-be-installed, seven-foot piano will be the centerpiece of a forthcoming live music program, Chantler says.
Notably, they also retained Stoddard’s veteran Tony Iamunno to lead the cocktail program at Hobgoblin. For the opening, Iamunno, who famously once created 500 different cocktails in 500 days, came up with drinks like a tom yum milk punch and the Fairy Clock, with roasted dandelion liqueur and salted honey syrup.
In a section of the cocktail menu labeled “Magic Potions,” Chantler wrote a spell to go along with each drink that addresses various desires, including fertility, money and prosperity, and love and romance. Bargoers are invited to say the spell as they drink. “You have to bring focus and intent and a sense of belief that if you say this, you are bringing out the truth yourself,” Chantler says. “People can do the spell and drink it or they can just drink it as a cocktail.”
For Chantler, his interest in magical realms developed after he and his sister learned that they descended from families that were accused of witchcraft in Salem, and can trace their lineage to Sir Hugo de Giffard, a Scottish ancestor who supposedly “enlisted the help of hobgoblins and practiced sorcery” in his day, says Chantler. (Hence the bar’s name.)
After discovering his family’s own connections to witchcraft, and learning more about it himself, he thought, ‘Why don’t we share that? Why don’t I make a restaurant like that?’ The resulting space, he says, is a fun way for customers to tap into “a spiritual side of themselves [when] a lot of people aren’t interested in organized religion.”