Kernel of Truth: Where to Enjoy Popcorn on a Night Out

It’s not just for movie theaters.

Pickled Verrill Farm Corn Pancakes with Shishito Peppers and Popcorn. Photo provided.

Pickled Verrill Farm Corn Pancakes with Shishito Peppers and Popcorn / Courtesy photo

New Englanders and popcorn have a long history together—after all, it’s what helped save the Pilgrims from certain starvation. The humble snack still has a place in our hearts, and our favorite watering holes. Whether it’s tricked out with candied bacon or being handed out for free at our favorite dive bars, here’s where you can find the best popcorn in town.

Alden & Harlow

At this subterranean Harvard Square spot—where the cocktail list rivals the dinner menu in creativity and ambition, from the house-made amaro on draft to their hot butterscotch-and-whisky drinks—their snacky small plates lend themselves to an evening of culinary exploration. Don’t miss out on the pickled Verrill Farm corn pancakes with shishito peppers, which come sprinkled with popcorn for extra crunch.

Alden & Harlow, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-864-2100,

Backbar's bacon popcorn

Backbar’s bacon popcorn / Photo by Alex Lau for “Five Reasons to Pay Somerville’s Backbar Another Visit”

If you’ve been digging the fancy popcorn popping up (oof) all over town, you can thank Union Square’s Backbar: Sam Treadway’s original amalgamation of freshly popped kettle corn, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, gooey caramel, and house-cured bacon is still one of the finest bar snacks around.

Backbar, 7 Sanborn Ct., Somerville, 617-718-0249,

JM Curley

Few places nail laid-back atmosphere and highbrow execution as deftly as JM Curley in Downtown Crossing. Take, for example, the fully loaded bar snack that is Curley’s Cracka Jack, a glorious sweet-and-sticky mess of caramel candied popcorn, bacon, and roasted peanuts—a treat that’s as addictive as the name would suggest. Pace yourself to save room for their superlative burger.

21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333,

Silhouette Cocktail Lounge

While our love for tricked-out popcorn knows no bounds, sometimes it’s good to go back to basics—and for that, you can’t beat the free popcorn at our favorite Allston dive bar. The recipe for a excellent dive bar is simple: cheap drinks, good music, and a gruff-but-welcoming vibe. The Sil delivers all of these ingredients, with a few grubby-but-great enhancements: dartboards, free popcorn, and stools so tattered they look like they’ve endured a natural disaster.

Silhouette Cocktail Lounge, 200 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-9306.