The Four's Always Roots for the Home Team
Just like the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.
At least that's what the owners of The Four's, named the No. 1 sports bar in the country by Sports Illustrated, believed when they decided to expand their successful concept. The first bar opened across the street from the Boston Garden (now the new TD Garden) in 1976 and became an immediate hit when the Celtics and Bruins would have home games.
Eighteen years later, owner Tim Colton, Sr., and new partner, Ed Morris, who started as an employee in Boston, took a chance and opened in a somewhat desolate area in Quincy, Mass., about 12 miles south of the city. "We had an opportunity to expand our brand and see if it was worth expanding," Morris said. "We were busy from the day we opened the door. People were intrigued that The Four's came down into the South Shore and wanted to see if we could do what we were doing in Boston. We did it very well."
They then followed that success with a third location in Norwell, Mass., in 2009, also going into an area that was underserved. "The area was starving for a restaurant like ours," Morris said. "It was all chains or high-end, white tablecloth restaurants. We filled a wide-open niche."
Now with three restaurants under their belt, The Four's, named for hockey legend Bobby Orr's number when he played for the Bruins, draws crowds on game nights as well as serving as a destination. "With sporting events, especially if there's a big one, if people can't be at an event, they want to be at a place you almost get that feeling," Morris said. "Like when the Red Sox are in the World Series and there are three people deep at the bar, it's quite a vibe."
The vibe is supported by a dark wood interior with flat-screen TVs everywhere you look, large wraparound bars where everyone can get into the action, big leather booths and, of course, one of the largest collections of sports memorabilia you've ever seen, including framed signed Jerseys, baseballs, bats, vintage photos, magazine covers and playing cards.
"We have collected over the years and some things are given to us," Morris said. "We'll pick things up at flea markets out in Western Massachusetts. We were good friends with [legendary sports photographer] Dick Raphael. He helped us out a lot with photos. Sometimes you buy things online or players will give you jerseys. We have things from different teams."
And if you want to know about something you see on the wall, chances are a staff member can talk about it. "Some of the photos are vintage from Boston history and the staff knows a lot of the people in the pictures," Morris said. "We encourage staff to be knowledgeable in sports and we have a daily trivia question that sparks a lot of conversation." Sometimes, they'll post the question to social media to get more people involved and every so often will give out a gift card when someone answers correctly.
While people come for the sports and camaraderie, they stay for the food and drink. Some of the more popular items from the sports-themed menu are their award-winning clam chowder, half-pound Angus burgers, buffalo chicken nachos and the Bobby Orr steak sandwich (hand-cut charbroiled steak tips with melted cheese on a braid roll). Between the appetizers, sandwiches named after popular sports figures, seafood entrees like; Boston scrod with a Ritz cracker crust; or crab-stuffed baked haddock; and pastas, "if you can't find something, you're probably not hungry," Morris said. That said, if you can't find exactly what you're looking for, Morris said, they likely "can accommodate you and make it."
That sense of customer service comes from nearly 40 years of giving diners what they want and treating their staff like family. The Four's was started by Colton. Sr., who is now the president of the company's five restaurants (they have two other spots). His brother, Pete, is the principal owner/operator of the Boston location. His son, Tim Colton, Jr., is the general manager in Quincy. "We all may not be blood relatives, but we feel like family," Morris said. "We have a lot of employees who have worked here a long time and don't want to go anywhere. There's a lot of continuity."
Which is why, whether you go to Boston, Quincy or Norwell, you'll pretty much get the same experience, especially if everyone's watching the World Series or Super Bowl. Let's just hope the home team wins. With The Four's, it already has.