139 Pleasant St., Malden
Hours: Monday through Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
All major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped
For a place that’s a tribute to constant vigilance, District 7 in Malden Square is an immensely comfortable pub.
From the red walls, the mounted axes, and the photos of firehouses and apparatus, this restaurant is an homage to the profession of firefighting, and it’s no gimmick. The place is owned by Tom Walsh Jr., a Malden Fire Department deputy chief, along with his son, firefighter Tom Walsh III, and a third partner.
There’s a story in the name: In the past, Malden traditionally had six fire districts, so District 7, which opened in October 2010, was intended as a place for eating, drinking, and hanging out after shifts were over.
It has also become a place for families, couples, and others who want a comfy place for dining and conversation. There are the usual Keno screens, the large TVs tuned to sports, and the full-service bar, but the background music is kept low enough to allow conversation, and the efficient waitresses add to the appeal.
Many of the fire photos are a bit small to see clearly in the pub’s low light, but a row of hanging protective jackets - donated from firefighters in Somerville, Boston, Cambridge, Melrose, and Stoneham - provides a striking touch.
A fire hydrant in the back of the pub adds a bit of whimsy. Even the logo of the restaurant is artful, with the colors of Ireland and an image of an ax and a foaming pint of Guinness arranged in harmony.
District 7 offers a full range of beers and specialty cocktails. We started with the supersport USA nachos ($9), which were simple and generous with the cheese and jalapenos; the chips were crisp but a bit on the salty side. Appetizers include firehouse chili ($4 and $6), chicken quesadillas ($8), calamari ($8), and potato skins ($7).
Not surprisingly, District 7 emphasizes its burgers and meats. This includes the black & bleu burger ($9), with blue cheese and bacon; the honey BBQ bacon burger with sauce, cheese, and bacon ($9); and the mushroom onion burger ($9). The mushroom onion burger was well done with plenty of onions. The accompanying sweet potato fries are a satisfying option, crisp on the outside and soft and rich on the inside.
A meat lover won’t go wrong by ordering the black & bleu steak tips ($15), which, like the burger, come with melted blue cheese and bacon. The meat was perfectly grilled, juicy and flavorful.
Those wanting lighter fare can try the sesame ginger chicken salad ($10), which successfully matched fresh greens with bits of savory chicken in a sesame ginger vinaigrette. The dish would satisfy a “green’’ tooth as well as fill the tummy.
The vegetarian in the crowd can dive into the butternut squash ravioli ($13), which was rich - the squash was on the very sweet side - but the pasta was appropriately chewy.
Perhaps the only disappointment of the night was the grilled turkey tips ($13). Even when dunked in the sweet chili sauce - which we requested on the side - they were dry and lacked flavor. You can also opt for teriyaki and honey BBQ sauces as well.
District 7 also offers seafood dishes such as fish and chips ($13) and shrimp scampi ($13). We sampled the baked haddock ($14) with a Ritz cracker crumb crust. The crust turned out to be lovely and light and the fish moist and mild. Other dinner options include mac and cheese with chicken ($10), chicken, broccoli, and penne ($13), and chicken Milanese ($13).
The sides that come with the meals (you may choose two) were surprisingly welcome additions. If you want to pack your arteries, get the small dish of creamy mac and cheese. But we found the green beans - the fresh vegetable of the day - to be crisp and well cooked.
To finish, we ordered the brownie ($6) and, no kidding, that one pile of molten chocolate goodness topped with ice cream satisfied five diners.
District 7 is a family business. Its food and atmosphere have that feeling of home, albeit with a sense of purpose about the history of the men and women who stand ready to protect lives and property from fire.