You Can Call Me Al Fresco!
As a native of South Florida, I've considerable expertise with waterfront drinking. Pretty simple formula, most believe; take open water, add alcohol.
But nay good sir. There's more than a fine line separating whalers slowly tipping tall boys by the wharf, the bronzed and picturesque quaffing martinis on the rocky beaches of the French Riviera, gringos and locals alternating between napping and shooting mezcal in Tijuana and, well, how ever you'd describe the shit that goes down in South Beach.
That said, if you slam the atmospheric apple corer over the latter and shift the little nugget to the Cape, you've got yourself Trader Ed's. While the beautiful, sparkly-pocketed staff can afford to be curt and catty, they aren't. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Allie defined service with a smile - quick with a joke and (when the sun shifted) the pair of designer shades off her head.
Food's moderate and the mixed specialty drinks read straight from a seaside frat menu. Basic and powerful, the $7-8 price tag doesn't hit the wallet as quickly as the alcoholic suntan will turn you into one. Probably not my scene if under a roof, but because it ain't, I'd definitely swing by again.
It's like I forgot to call Mom on the second Sunday in May. Or actually showing up in lecture pants-less. Or saying the wrong name during... an award ceremony. Perv.
How I've gone this long without reviewing my favorite lunch spot in Harvard Square is beyond me. Let's cut to the chase: I want to impregnate the turkey sandwich with jicama slaw and nurse the baby manwich we've created with bottle after bottle of the red nectar (white cranberry juice and a shot of rooibos tea).
It's crowded at lunch, at 2pm, at 4:17p and 10 minutes . And all the time. Why? Because, Heinztard, good things come to those who wait and this wait becomes insignificant when presented with your crisp and chewy, tendercrunchy meat+veg on Iggy's bread. Or is it their own? I'd ask but my face is always stuffed. "Just read the website, Damien." How can I when I'm using the housemade sweet potato chips as tokens for Charon, knowing that I'll die from choking on the oversized bite I just took.
The roasted lamb sand sports a killer flavor profile, getting all sorts of bitterness from arugula and walnut pesto to complement the metallic meat. I dug it the one time I bit, only finding minor qualms with the slightly fatty cuts. For a quick grab-and-go, try the tuna salad on a pretzel roll. If you need reason beyond those six words, well, read a different review.
And while I don't drink coffee, I'd gladly order whatever takes the longest to make, just so I can spend more time not creeping on the barista who I may or may not have a crush on. And if I did, it's definitely not because she tells me (and, it seems, only me?) to "Have a great day" and seals it with a killer smile. Probably bats for the other team, but that's... okay.
We'll always have jicama.
Beyond impressed at the look and feel of what could arguably be the flagship location in the Legal family.
Covering three floors, most of the dining room tables have harbor views, so don't be surprised to see a humpback surface while you're mowing down on a hot&crusty roll or thirty.
Alas on this, our virgin voyage to the polished and sparkly locale, we aimed to drink in the views... and the booze. So, the elliptical bar on the first floor is where we stayed.
Maddening crowds did nothing to shake the nerve of our proficient bar team, whipping up a mimosa, pulled Guinness and an Old Fashioned with the quickness. Mama S wasn't crazy for the house Cava used in the mimosa; however, the replacement bubbles received the chug-a-lug treatment. What can I say, she fears scurvy.
Totally dig the open kitchen and hyperactive raw bar. Papa S asked the fast and furious shucker about the total shift half-shell count. Without looking up, he laughed and said, "You've gotta be kidding me." Serious business.
For drinks, it's aces. A few novelty cocktails - skinny pina coladas, cucumber vodka drinks, something called the Purple Jesus - that might be worth a sip, but nothing that screams creative superplus.
And although I didn't eat this go-around, I will be back as the expected Legal menu ain't here. The food list is chock full of new stuff not present at their other locations, even going a step further to have unique menus on each floor. Boom bobba. First on the docket? Poor Man's Surf & Turf - a stuffed quahog and a 1/4lb hot dog for $12.
Ashamed to admit that for as long as I've been exploring the nooks and crannies of Union Square, this past weekend marked the first venture in to the (literal) vault that is Bloc 11.
It's a sleek, sexy coffee shop that's modern and somewhat icily hip. Almost too streamlined with an industrial, no-softness approach you'd expect from a cafe phoenix born from the ashes of an old bank.
The line (there's always one) splits at a fulcrum of pastries and today's blends to form two distinct paths. I tell you this so you know when your drink is called, it will be on the side from which it was ordered. May seem obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many patrons found themselves doing laps for their medium chai latte.
Prices are on par with an trendy java hut ($3-6 for two sizes of the bean or the leaf) and the pastries ride in same range. Our blueberry scone - not a contender for the 2011 SconeOff, but very well could have been - had a more cohesive, almost bready texture and massive, abundant berries throughout. Delicious, even in spite of an unnecessarily sweet icing (perhaps make it a drizzle?).
While waiting for our chai and hot chocolate, we took time to explore the dining space in the rear, which actually seemed a little more cottage-like. That is, until you meander past the giant vault door and into a rightfully warm set of benches, positioned lovingly where safe-deposit boxes and enormous wealth once resided. Kitschy, and kind of just there because it always been, but oh so cool. Outdoor seating for all-season al fresco sippage adds a nice touch.
Her chai was too weak and watery, which on the plus means it's brewed to order (not Oregon mix) but on the negative means it's too weak and watery. On the flip, my hot cocoa sat rich and thick on the tongue, and had a pleasantly sweet foam I totally mustached.
So far, this is the cafe of choice for morning walks through Union, and I'd love to return for a lunch sandwich (variety, all $9). Dig their attitude on transport with discounts for cyclists and a dedicated parking space out front that's been converted to a bike rack. A little jab at Diesel, you say?
The subterranean bar that you've probably never seen, but have heard your friends chatting about how they "totally hooked up there once."
Aside from an interesting layout constituted by a very divided bar that creates a Jets vs Sharks left and right sides of the space, the dark everything and mild lighting work for a cozy cavernous feel.
Ten or so specialty cocktails, decent wines and a rotating set of regional taps means tasty tippling for everyone in your crew and at $4-10 each, the standard is met for a hard day's night. My Mayflower ($9) featured the delicious Bulldog gin, fresh grapefruit juice and muddled+strained sage. Topped with the herb's leaf, it looked, tasted and made me feel pretty. Nice work, drink.
The star of our bar stretch? Artichoke and spinach souffle with roasted garlic crostini ($8). Sure, the "crostini" is really just thinly sliced french bread, but the souffle ain't kidding. Baked with acres of spinach, the slightly gelatinous mold is topped with a buttery crust, then flipped on to the plate before being doused in a buttery sauce. Defying the dip MO to be a vat of cheese with some chunks, this is domed veggie mass with just enough fat and protein to hold it together. Quite the excellent snack, especially when split between two. On your own, it's a meal in itself.
Friendly bartender tried talking baseball with me, until gracefully realizing it ain't my bag, while the crowd around were conversational but not obnoxiously so. I can dig it.
Oh God, the bees. The bees! They're everywhere and they're sting crazy!
Seriously. Cover your sweet tea and cap your colas, these kids will come after your cinnamon roll.
And you will want a cinnamon roll, replete with icing poured from a pitcher. Yes, friends - they pour icing from that pitcher with the rotating lid that has a straining spout. Who has ever used that thing? What for? Wait, got it. Super pulpy OJ. Pomegranate aril trap. Very tiny comb.
Sure, they might nuke the pastry but just enough to warm the gritty, intoxicating brown sugar+cinnamon crust that accumulates in the center swirl. It's like the chocolatey cone tip of a Drumstick - the best kind of denouement.
Ultimately though, it's all about the biscuit 'wiches, and mine had egg, cheese, slow-crisped smoked bacon and a fat slice of tomato. Allow me to get all Zimmerny for a moment - it's a melty, cheesy, buttery, crispy, crumbly, smoky, tendery, breakfasty wonder.
This place won't appeal to all, with its "order first, sit wherever, just let it happen" approach to the restaurateur philosophy. But if your game for great food in a simple setting that screams beach bum, then this Biscuit is Heavenly!
Any beef purveyor offering Papa's Fireburger will get my business. At least once.
Indigo Girls philosophy with a Buddhist aesthetic, the Madrona Tree holds 6 tables inside and a few seasonal savvy patio place settings. The walls are swirled with airy purples, heady quotes and a pretty fantastic menu. Expect loads of sandwiches, wraps and salads, with rotating daily specials that makes use of ingredients sourced a mile down the road.
Our übergrüvy server totally recommended the burgers, man. I must admit - they sounded simple and savory. Mushroom swiss, the aforementioned heat-seeker (roasted poblanos and a spicy spread), and a bacon double chee, all boasting farm-to-table freshness. Kara ordered the a grilled cheese, I rocked the FIREBURGER and we split a basket of hand-cut fries. All said and done - $20 for an early dinner. Definitely reasonable.
Then the sandwiches came and we understood why. My burger, while incredibly tasty and served on a bomb Iggy's roll, had the smallest 1/4lb patty I've ever seen. Maybe some weird illusion created by big, colorful veggies - the charred poblano is a definite win - but the weeness (hehe, I said weenus) of the meat left a hole in my appetite.
Good thing those crazy addictive shoestring fries filled it with ease. A must-split serving for only $3.50 is one helluva deal, and a strong suggestion when coping with slightly anemic burgers. I'll definitely return; it's a very inviting lunch spot. Next time, I'm swinging for the falafel!
Oh, and the rumors are true: cash, check or debit card. No credit!
Fun and funky cafe shoppe. No typo there - CT&M is more than just a coffee shop, doling out fresh fruit smoothies, baked goods and some hearty looking crepes.
Our venture through Melrose brought us to the attractive Main Street locale. A single table out front and only three times as many inside, most of the floor space is dedicated to an island display of baked treats ripe for the waxed paper grabbing, and an anarchical service area to whip up what cures ya.
My peach bubble tea with lychee shreds was a cool and refreshing sipper, while Kara's peach-mango smoothie had the thickness, but needed a hefty squeeze of agave to sharpen the fruit flavors. We both agreed on the Icelander, an inverted cinnamon bun glazed with melted chocolate. "Gimme gimme more," said Britney, somewhere, somehow.
Staffers quashed barista perceptions, grinning and meeting every request or question with a sincere response. Very kind people magnify the inherent feel-goodness of the quaint parlor, and ensure a return visit when we're next thirsty in Melrose.
It's not a cart, it's a system. The Shnurble is not a sandwich, it's a synthesis. Fred is not a vendor, he's a visionary - with Speedy sensibilities and a taste for proper franks.
Following my initial hike around Breakhart Reservation, I scoured the nearby on the trusty Yelp app and saw this beacon of beef on the north side of Lake Quannapowitt. Heeding the warning of many a review, I peeped Fred's official website (fredsfranks.com) and weeped - still closed for the season.
Imagine my gaiety when, upon finishing this week's woods walk, I checked again and, lo, he's open for business! Rolling up 2.5 deep, there stood the wagon just along a small parking lot on the north shore of the Q. Smoke billowed, crowds surrounded, meat sizzled.
$8 put a Shnurble in my hands: a 1/6lb Pearl hot dog (arguably, the finest in the lands) nestled beside two pieces of chorizo and served on a bed of diced sweet cabbage, Srirachaba sauce (Sriracha, habañero mustard) and a trickle of mayo. It's not small (proof: yelp.com/biz_photos/H2KA…) and while a regular Shnurble is more than enough for any mortal, Carl upped my ante to a 1/4lb frank after mistakenly giving my originally intended Shnurble to some shmoe who jumped the wait line. Baller.
A feast that marries perfectly snappy Pearls with excellent Portuguese sausage, an inevitably tangy slaw and a damn fine roll, it'll flip your vegan friend faster than fried chicken. Fred invested serious dough in to those Big Green Eggs he cooks with, and the end result is worth both the trip and the tag.
Get one before you die. Chances are, it'll be within ten minutes after the last bite.
What the hell is a counter service, strip mall spot in Scituate doing selling the most ungodly addictive sandwiches like this? Somebody invent a functional yet stylish teleporter so I can lunch here on the regs.
The south shore is her turf, so when the lady suggested Circe's Grotto for lunch, I humbly obliged. Whipped out teh Yelp and - my stars! - it seems to be a crowd favorite. Got all sorts of jazzed, until we rolled up to an empty parking lot of a beachy store front.
"Judge not, the book by its cover" - Somewhere in the Bible. Or Tuesdays with Maury. One of the two.
She got her usual: the Panini (fresh mozzarella, housemade pesto, tomato, and - if you'd like - chicken), while I opted for the not-quite-but-what-the-hell Cubano. My 'wich came layered with ham, TURKEY...
Turkey has no place on a Cuban. Therefore, I will continue to reference this delicacy in swaddling bread as its menu moniker indicates, but I do NOT condone calling it a Cuban.
Ham, turkey, whole grain mustard, pickles and Swiss all pressed loving-like in, wait... this bread is amazing. I had to ask where it was from.
Of course. Only the best artisan bakery on the Cape and arguably, one of the top bread makers in Massachusetts, Huh? Check it: yelp.com/biz/pain-d-avig…
Aside from the pickles being a bit thick cut and Circe's running out of their highly-touted chocolate chip cookies (yeah woman, I saw you leaving with a bagful as we came in. I'll find you), the sandwich is a top five and I'm already scheduling a return visit during the "quiet period," as proven by science.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll get my cookie.
With only a few minor hiccups, Il Casale puts forth brilliant profiles that shot Dante ahead of his class from the inner walls of a firehouse-cum-rustic kitchenette.
A long bar runs its course along the buzzing Western hemisphere of a single-room dining area, typically with nary a stool available. With a reservation, you'll likely be seated on the opposite side of a noise-muffling curtain, beneath a decorative orchard of plastic orange trees and soft light strands. A Midsummer Night's Dream, fully catered.
The menu arrangement is typical: small plates, primi, secondi, thirditti, fourthopini, and so on... We opted for the burrata, calamaretti and gorgonzola sfizi ($6, squid an extra buck). Tentacles and rings in a salty batter, fried well and til tender and sided by a fried lemon wheel. Tasty, but truthfully, we probably could have eaten it anywhere. The candied pistachios gave a textural counterpart to the pleasant, slightly skeined burrata, while the gorgonzola emerged as the clear winner - buttery toast points kissed with the sharp cheese and sweetened by grappa-soaked raisins and raw pignoli nuts. Order three and call it a date. Ha!
Entrees are not to be missed, filling the homestyle void that only a well-portioned plate of pasta can. My broken lasagna ($16, rotates daily) featured crimini mushrooms, a hearty broth and shredded skirt steak, surrounded by a swarm of al dente noodles. Just the right heft without being overly dense, and perfectly seasoned. An outstanding dish, that won both our hearts (she was lukewarm on the tagliatelle's Bolognese).
Want a proper bourbon cocktail? Go Crusta. Brown stuff, Créole shrubb, cherry heering, lemon juice and orange bitters disappeared way too quickly. Service set a high standard on the whole, leaving us surprised when ordered drinks were forgotten on two occasions. It's a comfortable spot with solid food and a healthy buzz - definitely returning in the near future.
Auto-adoration for spewing Iggy's dough, Taza chocolate, Petsi scones and assorted Danish Pastry House treats. It's like a best-of farmer's market in the crook of my saucer!
Bonus love for the beloved Vietnamese fresh rolls, which (upon initial round of Yelp-related research for a non-chain lunch option near Porter) I had confused to be bready in nature. Nay, nay. These tofu, rice noodle and shredded veggie stuffed "spring rolls" the size of gangster cigars can serve as a meal unto themselves, especially when doused with the sweet, nutty panang sauce. $2.25 each, or three for $6 - my advice is to skip the deal and know thy limitations. Two max, even for you Kobayashi.
Peeps at the counter are chill and, well, what can I say: the products served carry themselves. Also, nice to see a reseller charging darn near what the producers price in their respective shops. Great concept: make money on the coffee, while the treats can be loss-leaders.
I will say the sandwich we tried (basic panino with mozzarella, basil and tomato) was just okay, and for the $7 sticker, you're easily able to find better options nearby. But the rest of the lunch experience was totally bangarang.
Except when Kara got attacked by a bird. Hilarious, but not bangarang.
Let's bring bangarang back.
Wraps, muffs, Frenchies and the Mashpee. Take your mind out of the gutter, friend, to find these and more on the B/L menu at The Wianno Cafe.
Formerly the Osterville Cheese Shop, a rebrand didn't affect the cafe's offerings, mainly simple breakfast plates, wraps, sandwiches and a limited line of in-house baked goods. Eight tables inside and two out front, it's a pop in/pop out light meal option during your daytime jaunt around Osterville's town center.
Nothing is particularly magnetic about the WC (oh god, name change NAME CHANGE), with a sterile, stark interior and non-special specialties. Her french toast and my breakfast wrap (both around $5-6) tasted just fine, albeit cafeteria/greek cafe quality.
The people here are incredibly sweet, and somewhat diabolical - carving up a freshly baked tray of double chocolate brownies and offering me a bite while I awaited my Pink Monkey smoothie. No shame, playa; no shame. Washing the tepid experience of my sausage, egg, cheese and salsa brekkie away, the thick and creamy, real fruit banana/strawberry drink and the subsequently purchased brownie easily secured a fourth star.
Plus, dog-friendly with a water bowl out front. Drink, thirst mutt, drink!
A most excellent, vegan-, GF-, organic meat-friendly lunch counter, serving up sandwiches, wraps, salads and baked goods to a steady stream of Capesters. Standing room is about the size of a VW bug, so order from the counter and GTFO to the half dozen tables on a screened-over porch.
The smoothie and vegan chocolate chip cookie wowed my date, and I've gotta say, the sip I sampled had me begging for more. My country chicken salad on multigrain ($7) consisted of a hearty helping of mostly white meat in a mayo dressing, L, T, carrot shreds and cukes. All the veggies are locally harvested and the meat is free-range organic. Look at me, earning my hippie points!
With a focus on healthful eats, one would expect (and rightfully so) the base offerings to be a little light on salt. Good thing there's a massive spread of seasonings, sweeteners and an epic collection of hot sauces that'll bring zing to your thing. Which one was almost empty? Sriracha, of course.
Coolers loaded with juices, natural sodas and the ever-appreciated New Age bev: kombucha! Grab one of those Synergy bottles and a shot of wheatgrass ($3) to right-set your GI/chi/qi/shakra/whatevs.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm heading back in to Lotus. Ommmmmm.
Don't let the strip mall placement and Parrothead decor fool you - this Crab is the real deal.
Eight tables and an outdoor deck with a loverly view of the main Plymouth thoroughfare, the sister resto to Red Eyed Pig (no, I'm not kidding) is slinging some of the most comfortable seafood dishes this side of exploration.
While the much laureled cornbread and maple butter immediately hit the chompers as dry, from-the-mix bread and spread, the entrees shone. Her fish tacos ($13) with a corn relish, queso fresco and a mild remoulade over hearty cuts of fried mild whitefish had a beautiful balance and pleasant flavor. Only two tacos had me all up like WHA? until I realized they were stuffed to the gills, sating the most stout of appetites.
Thanks for not toasting the brioche bun to my crispy crab burger, oh Gods of the BEC Kitchen! Stacking avocado and jalapeños over a pan-fried crab cake, drizzled with lemon aioli pays off - the sandwich (albeit messy after bite one) stole the show. So much so, the forgettable coleslaw and limp bread & butter pickle spear got lost in the shuffle.
Cocktails sounds adventurously beachy, but don't glaze over in the scuttlebutt. Stick with the sweet, herbal Pear Cilantro Margarita and skip the Bohemian (too heavy on absinthe). Service for both food and bevs was on point.
Your socks won't get knocked off, but you certainly won't walk away disappointed. 3.5 stars.
Francophiles, take note. Parading through the front doors of Kendall Square's newest patisserie/java-spicket, you'll discover Wonkian rows of baguettes, baskets of boules and stacks of nut-topped pastries that take Parisian daydreaming and make it visceral.
Take out a second mortgage, because deciding between the pistachio croissant and the rustic apple tart is nearly impossible - you'll end up getting them both. Rich, quality ingredients means premium prices (expect $1-2 uptick) but the cliched "one bite and you'll taste the difference" rings true.
Opted for the pear & almond muffin ($4) - a spongier, less crumbly version than your run-of-the-mill blueberry, loaded with poached and roasted fruit. Not overly sweet (even a bit savory) and crazy flavorful, it "pear"ed well with the tart mint lemonade ($3.75).
In addition to pastries and liquid refreshment, Tatte serves breakfast, lunch and dinner plates. Unless you're rockin' a top floor corner office, the costs may be a bit restrictive for daily post-ups, but for an aromatic trip to a cobblestone corner along the Champs Elysée, um, go here.
Pain D'Avignon as a fine dining establishment:
Oh good, you found it. Either you just flew in to the Hyannis Airport, searched on Yelp or followed the zombie-like moans solicited by bakery lore that lead the legions to this invisible location.
And to what end? Masterful French cuisine with new American influence, boasting plates so skillfully prepared and decadently rich, you'll forget you hired a babysitter until she calls to inform you of your kid's high school graduation. Mind erased.
But not enough to relay the briny, mustard-laced, dry-aged sirloin tartare as a must try. As is their take on the Rock: baked oysters with leeks, Pernod, parm and bacon. As is their local spinach salad (pickles, crisped chickpeas and a garlicky feta vinaigrette).
As is pretty much everything.
Good on ya for sourcing locally, and still turning out these incredibly edible plates. I... I think...
I think I love you. Which leads me to the portion of the review dedicated to Pain D'Avignon as a bakery.
Pain D'Avignon as a bakery:
You haven't eaten a proper croissant from this state until you've eaten a croissant here. If only they weren't slightly aloof to folks under 40 and unadorned with Cape bling, this review would be six stars. But they are, so five it is.
Vertically roasted chicken that might have been a little too dry gets doused with sawce at the Kendall Square grab-and-go.
But in the end, the massive line that snakes around a plain Jane interior culminates to a cafeteria selection of Mediterranean fast food: shawarma, kabobs and falafel, oh my!
For $10 and in under 35 seconds from time of order, you can plow through what Blair H calls "a nap in wrap," a box of everyFries and a can of Coke Zero (aka Diet Coke for Men). Said wrap is heartily filled with chicken, pickles and other salad toppers, then smothered in a creamy, spicy squeeze that will get goopy by the last bite.
When all is said and done, you'll be full, tired and looking to get back to the grind, but within three hours, the craving to return may hit you. Can't explain, not gonna fight it. Nice work, Aceituna.
While you may think the cafe with a Secret Garden patio has put all its eggs in an al fresco basket, serving average fare and sub-par sips knowing you're in it for wrought-iron seating among fairies and sunbeams and practically zero road noise - well, you're wrong.
Rustica cranks out a seriously salacious sango, piling a handful of paper-thin prosciutto, provolone and marinated red peppers within an incredible rosemary focaccia. Anticipating a saline overdose, I almost opted for fresh mozz over the salty cheese, but the end result is mo' balanced than a one-legged figure skater. And only charging $7 for the three-piece beast? Look at the pics - I felt like I was ripping them off, instantly sinking the savings into a bag of wavy Utz. Wavy? Real.
Four or five tables inside, and I'll be damned - the staff greeted every other person grabbing lunch or their afternoon cuppa by name. Maybe next time we'll get the knowing nod. Maybe.
Need to try their baked goods or a hot beverage before bestowing a fifth star, but being as how Rustica is a mere steps from the royal palace, this king shall return post-haste.
Eaten at the Horse no less than 20 times, so I've got the only breakdown you need. And for all the lovely ladies, I'm gonna rap it - freestyle.
No, no I'm not.
More than just a beer tap chandelier, Five Horses is easy-going, eclectic-enough dining for the Davis crowd. Yes, it's a madhouse on Friday and Saturday nights - a wrap-around beer list and well made cocktails (including, arguably, the best Bulleit Old Fashioned in the square) will do that to you. And yes, on occasion, the service may slide into a frenzy paralleling densely packed patrons clamoring for world class chicken tenders (seriously), thus affecting the consistency of the experience, but as of yet, these are the only negatives.
I circle back to the fried chicken. The KFCGH (Kentucky Fried Cornish Game Hen) is the most balanced, properly seasoned fry in Davis, and I'm a fan of the jalapeño cheddar mashed as a side. But honestly, the biggest deal on the slightly pricey menu is the $9 buttermilk fried chicken tender app - a mountain of golden, crunchy breast chunks with buttermilk scallion ranch and red dragon chile sauce (mix 'em - why not?). Way more substantial than the undersized cut in the fried chicken sammy, and plenty satisfying as a meaty meal on its own. For vegetarians, go for the Pea Diddy, a hearty handful of english peas, avocado and mozz over mesclun greens/ Supposedly includes a basil puree, although I've yet to catch it over the pleasantly sharp vinaigrette.
Another understated experience: the brunch menu. Southern Comfort ($14) layers fried chicken and sunny side up eggs over thyme biscuits and a swimming pool of sausage gravy. Heart, be stopped. Favoring sweet, she typically orders The Cap'n - a certain Crunch cereal coated French toast sticks (bricks, to be precise) served with a raspberry coulis. Wash it down with the Bourbon offering of a Bloody Three Ways: Four Roses and their house mix with a splash of stout sure beats coffee.
To steer clear of the most common woes, you'll only find me here during the off hours. But when you do, I'll most assuredly be smiling over a plate of fried chicken.
Yep, it's the lobster sandwich joint. Which joint? Pinch it, knucklehead.
A true tuck away, I'd bet a complimentary bag of Cape Cod chips you'll drive by it on your first visit. A&K sits pretty betwixt two houses and well away from any wharf, pier or boat (unless one's parked in the gravel driveway).
Cramming an office, lobster tanks, a soda cooler and a seafood display case into 300 sq ft, this ain't no place to gawk and awe - order a lobster sandwich (which, aside from a chowder or featured soup, is the only fully prepared take-away lunch option), bag up a steamer for 50¢ a clam and a few haddock filets (~$8/lb) and GTFO.
The deal: tail and claw meat from a 1lb chick, tossed with a little mayo and a pinch of seasoning, slathered between buttered and toasted Scali slices. The now-roasted sesame brings a little nuttiness to the creation, and the lobster is absolute quality, but the sandwich gimmick falls flat to me. Throw mostly untouched lobster meat on a roll, and the roll is a pocket; put it on a bun, and it's Crumble City - falling out of every unguarded edge like a too-full Sloppy Joe. The taste, though? Tops, guvna.
At $15 (yes, it's $15 now), the 'wich comes with chips for a rounded meal you can peck at from the benches out front. Less mayo than James Hook, and on par with (albeit in a different style from) Yankee Lobster, Alive & Kicking a much needed lunch option in Cambridgeport and an A-OK fishmonger.
Why, yes grasshopper, the only way to step up a premium ice cream sandwich IS to use fresh baked cookies instead of beat wafers. Thank you for asking.
Trucks sell sandwiches, trucks sell cookies and trucks sell ice cream but Cookie Monstah crafts a three-car pileup with their custom, impossible-to-eat-clean-handedly creations. I've never been that guy who stares at a menu the entire time he's in line only to stare at it longer when asked what he'd like. But I did that. And I'll do it again next time. There are so many combinations of cookie and cream, I challenge anyone who's not the boring "Give me the Classic (vanilla on chocolate chip) every time!" to not let your eyes flit back and forth from Red Velvet cookie and Purple Cow froyo (the Velvet Cow) to Peanut Butter with a Coffee Oreo pocket (no name, but who cares?).
And I'm baffled by how reasonable these treats built for two are. $5? Are you kidding me? These Salted Caramel cookies could go for $3 a piece, but you're gonna double that order and fill 'em with a wrist-breaking scoop of Turtle (vanilla with cashews, tacky caramel and fudge swirls) and call it a Salty Dog for $5?! And they take LevelUp? Don't ever change, Monstah.
Hardly a complaint, my only suggestion would be to have some of the standard combinations sandwiched and re-frozen for transport and/or ease of eating. These cookies are thick and wonderful, and the ice cream is soft and scoopable, meaning the end result is a dessert Sloppy Joe. The staff is in front of this by bowling the beast, and I'd only suspect a ready-to-go option from the freezer might save some suit the need for a bib after the lunch rush.
Take a look at the main picture (ohman please let it be that amazing sunset shot with the boats and the colors and the sky thing with the cottony things). See what you see there? That's what you'll see there, from the waterfront deck seating replete with with branded sunbrellas.
As for the menu... there's a menu? The food is supplemental to the view, and the peace of mind birthed by a soundtrack of soft lapping and the occasional gull.
I got the fish tacos (fried haddock, crema, lime, cabbage on two medium flour tortillas) with a handful of baby greens and coleslaw on the side. The meal as a whole is bland and in desperate need of salt, and the haddock itself had the crystalline, dehydrated texture of frozen fish sticks. Service is extremely spotty, with no real reason why - we were the first to arrive for lunch and the only table for 20 minutes.
Still she was radiant, the environment scenic and her mom's mushroom swiss burger looked tempting enough to get me back to the patio later this season. With a salt shaker.
It's a sickness, y'all. And I don't wanna be cured.
My first experience with the Bon Me truck was only a little better than lackluster, maliciously comparing an artisanal sado with a (humbly) superior street version from Mei Sum. It's a solid 'wich, yet I couldn't find myself craving it when my gullet needed a banh mi.
Then I met you, noodle bowl. Soba noodles with spice rubbed boneless chicken thighs, a slew of julienned veggies and an addictive spicy peanut sauce that puts my world on edge. Toss on a handful of fresh cilantro, and charge me $6. I'LL PAY DOUBLE!
Seems so simple, until I found myself hunting down the truck and finding an excuse to be nearby. You know, like all of you did with your college crush who broke your heart. Good thing the Blue Siren (as I'll refer to their apt-colored truck in the family) is parked near South Station every Tuesday. Which is when I meet my Yelpterns. Which is win I eat this box o' righteousness. Which is when I am happy.
The only downside: the line BLOWS UP after 12p. Even arriving 10 minutes prior cuts your wait to a third. Know what you want and have your LevelUp at the ready. And remember, the noodle bowl is king, but that doesn't mean you should rob yourself of a thai basil lemonade to wash it down. Summasummasummatime!
Al fresco dining, basically in a rustic countryside setting, basically on the Cape. Basically.
There's nothing outstanding about Barnstable Restaurant and Tavern, yet nothing dissuasive. It's innocuous - an everytavern catered to olde thymey tastes and bayside expectations. The beer is brewed locally, with a loose, neither sweet, neither bitter, Cape Cop Amber that proved to be non-craft drinkable and fairly inexpensive.
The chowder (is it clam on the menu?) is mostly krab, yes Krab, but it's got a solid balance of cream, sherry and briny bits. Edible, somewhat enjoyable, just not memorable. If you decide to try, get the bowl over the cup - it's only a dollar extra.
Rain forced us from the outside to a stark, stale dining room, so stay under the sun (weather permitting). Service is friendly, I doubt this place gets crowded and it's ideal for a big group bent on conversation in the presence of passable prandials and chilled cervezas.
Me gusta! Killer ambience that'll make anyone from the grizzled Cambridge hipster to the Valley Girl import and a random abuelita comfortable and cozy. Shimmy shake to the Brazilian tunes, and feast on cheese breads, assorted fruit smoothies and a $7 toasted sandwich, including... the Cuban.
A hefty portion of roasted pork, accompanied by ruffled pickled chips, melted Swiss and a slathering of mustard, nestled between toasted bun halves is a righteous lunch, especially when coupled with a $4 blue-caju shake. Blending the fruit of a cashew nut with a handful of frozen blueberries, the drink is a bitter-meets-toasty-meets-sweet-meets-earthen concoction that didn't sell me at first, but II grew to dig the blend.
Dings are minor: the pork is a bit overcooked, leaving the sandwich unnecessarily dry and the smoothie featured frozen fruit (at least the berries) and finished more like an agua fresca than a drink straw-thick. Staff are a bushel of peaches and the savory baked goods like chicken and cheese pie, the aforementioned queso breads and free wi-fi have my curiosity piqued.
Doesn't hurt to have Grillo's next door. I'll be back.
When it comes to cafes, some spots nail the ambience, creating environs so well designed, elements so comforting, regulars are helpless to find a more suitable snug outside of their own home.
Esselon can has that.
Other cafes just kill it on the food front. Maybe they're brewing sludge, but by golly, will a terrific sandwich or eggs benny send them in to the culinary ether! Maybe a Tupelo Hash ($13), two tennis ball sized crabcakes beside a pair of perfectly poached eggs, ladeled over by a tangy lemon aioli and served with a sliced avocado, zesty frisee salad and two planks of Woodstar sourdough. Maybe they do something of the sort.
Esselon can has that.
Still others take pride the roasting, pressing and slow dripping off the coffee beans (which are actually cherry pits - why do we call them beans?) Now, I can't speak from direct enjoyment, as I'm not a java drinker, but I can say they hand-roast their product every Monday and Thursday. And the place smells amazing.
Oh, and free wifi. Esselon can has that.
In summation, there's not much Esselon doesn't have. Steep that double negative and drink it.
If the weather at all permits, enjoy your meal from the adirondack chairs in the rock garden. Über zen.
The pros and cons of late night Shack raids:
+ No line.
- No malt in your malt.
The Smoke Shack (slender bacon cheeseburger, chopped cherry peppers and the enigma that is the Shack Sauce) on a pliable bun, swathed in a veneer of grease for $6.25. The double will run you another $2.55, but if you're hungry, it'll be worth it, I reckon - the single's more of a Shake Snack.
Opted for a thick and creamy chocolate malt, and possibly regretting the decision, as a good custard is hard to find and that Lobstah Shell concrete looks too good to pass up a second time. The hand-spun shake disappeared quicker than $5 should allow, and is just the right amount of naturally sugar sweet. However, as the minus indicates, if there was malt in that there cup, I couldn't taste it.
It's a torn take when sampling a highly-coveted, fast casual burger past prime hours, and I'm willing to give the Shack the benefit of the doubt. Would I wait an hour for this meal again? No. Do I believe the quality is a bit higher when you're not catering to mostly drunchies-driven yupsters? Yes. And therefore, we're sitting pretty at 3.5. That is, until next time.
Until next time.
There are lines that make their way in to every conversations about Boston:
- "So, did you?" *Did I what?* "Did you pahk your cah in the..." *Don't.*
- "Oh, yeah, Farnham Hall, right?" *Faneuil?* "Yeah, Fanfare."
- "Man, that Belichick is a genius. Does he ever smile?" *No.*
and the relevant one:
- "You guys have seafood on lock down, but is there any good BBQ?"
Often because the short list of well-known and patronized joints boasting slow and low proffer specialty plates that I can get behind, namely Redbones' catfish, Blue Ribbon's burnt ends, Soul Fire's smoked wings, M&M's ribs...
Please add Sweet Cheeks to the tops, for two very particular dishes: the Great Northern Brisket, and those legendary biscuits.
The former, smoked until disintegrating and generally portioned with an exquisite fat/meat ratio, I will only order the brisket from now on. Pork is solid option, too, iff'n you're not into the red meat, and I would kick that pig out of bed for eating crackers. But lordy, the smoke on that beef, with a little spicy and hot sauce is just (physically and emotionally) heart-breakingly delicious.
The biscuits? Look man, I can either sit here and paint with words the euphoria you'll feel downing a bucket with exquisite honey butter, or you can just see for yourself. A note to management: Consider a take-away kiosk on your patio that sells individual biscuits to passers-by, a la lemonade stand. You can have a window dedicated to your biscuits and you will kill it.
The cons are few: some sides are less than memorable, the lofty prices for plates include the Fenway tax (feeling thrifty? Lunch menu is 15-20% less for the same servings), and the cocktails - especially the Damn Yankee - have been perfect one night, and incredibly off-balance the next. Front of house sees a similar fluctuation: twice, the service was outstanding; twice, absent and seemingly annoyed.
Still, dat brisket.
Free refills on the sweet tea. The glass is gigantic though, so if you polish off a second, pee before you leave.
Sweet Tomatoes is dead, long live Crisp Flatbread!
Mourning the loss of the prior pizza parlor that could, Crisp took the prime location, gave it a fire pit-kissed facelift and incorporated that Ostervillain environmental je ne sais quoi with a comfortable gusto.
Plus, the food is a block killer.
Forgoing what everyone else seems to glom on to, Crisp stays true to that pizza place vibe with artisanal concoctions on a seriously namesake crust. Our Duck Bacon (smoked duck bacon cured in house, mozzarella made in house, Humboldt Fog, dried cherries, pepper, basil and a pomegranate drizzle) sated our four top with resounding approval.
But it didn't stop there.
The salads are dominated by arugula - obvious for the Rocket, less so for the Caprese - so if you're averse, um, get a pizza. Or the lunch combo I devoured, a run-of-the-mill Caesar with a crock of their housemade bolognese over from-scratch ziti. Total hunger slayer, and a steal at $12.
Another worthy mention: the appetizer sampler ($12) featured massive sticks of deep fried mozz, wood fired garlic wings and heavily oiled garlic knots. SCrumptious, and beautifully plated on a charcuterie board; however, oil drizzles + flat surfaces = spillover on to the table. Consider a dipping ramekin?
Patio seating, and yes, there are s'mores kits for their fire pits. Soft drinks include free refills, and are a buck and change. Iced tea is $2.50. Memories are priceless.
You'll hear this intro more than once: "The epic line dragged on at Red's Eats, so we opted for Sprague's."
Which poses a real problem to Red's, as I'm now sold on Sprague's. The $15 lobster rolls boasts the same meat weight ("a lobster and then some") as their 'cross the street rivals, is freshly steamed to a tender, creamy consistency that needs no added fat, and rings in at a buck less. Not to say Sprague's reigns supreme over Red's, I'm just unsure if I've the patience to pass over a expertly crafted and scandalously simple New England staple in favor of hype and a much longer wait.
It needed nothing - no butter, no mayo, no salt. Nothing. It was lobster, plain and simple.
The coleslaw I snacked on the side is cold, crisp and... confused? Whereas most shredded cabbage contenders tend be proudly vinegar based, or mayo based, or sugared to the point of candied, Sprague's wanted to be all of the above. Tart, mustard-kissed, herbal and sweet, it caught me off-guard, and I wasn't sure if I liked it til I looked down and saw an empty Styrofoam cup.
I learned something new about Wiscasset, and about myself. My name is Damien S, and I'm into confused coleslaw.
A darling (yes, darling) little corner cafe on the brutal backstreets of Edgartown. And by brutal, I mean darling. Again.
Breakfast and lunch dishes, mostly egg-centric (omelettes, frittatas), with loads of fresh fruit options and only al fresco seating on a tight patio. You'll feel like you're among the family reunion you actually want to attend: kids running, Vineyard ladies chatting pastels and smiling staffers navigating microchannels between seatbacks, carve by hustling booties.
The cinnamon roll comes three ways: plain, iced or iced with candied nuts, so pick your poison and be ready to share. It's a doozy. The unsung hero, oddly hidden on the Sides menu, is the corned beef hash. Yes, hash is as regular as bacon and sausage, but even the full meal (with two eggs your way and toast) is an option listed there. And with their homemade version that mimics the best parts of Hormel - a fine potato dice, savory and seared crisp - while tossing aside the weak (tinny aftertaste, under-seasoned). It's at once nostalgic and uniquely theirs.
Free refills on coffee, tea and soda, but try not to percolate post-meal - there's always a line, and for good reason.
Sure, it's a wine bar, but let's not let that steer us from the real all-stars:
Belly offers a sleek, sophisticated stop with options: stainless inside, sunny seating on the patio (which plays host to a number of inventive theme nights). The menu runs from charcuterie and salumi spreads, to rotating cheeses in palate-pleasing pigeonholes (salt, funk, fresh, butter, earth) and plates meant to be nibble and passed.
The food has hit me on both sides: stellar duck wings and a Jamon Iberico board ($14 for an ounce of two), to above average arancini over a track of parmesan aioli, and a fun fondue option ($14pp), to downright disappointing $19 Roman gnocchi (burnt, cough-inducingly dry over too blanched kale). The spreads that come with house-made focaccia hit high notes, particularly the olive tapenade - or olivade, if you will - and the warm ricotta with honey, albethem extremely simple dishes.
She's a wine fan, and hasn't been disappointed with their eclectic menus that often pour seasonally forward. It's summer, so drink rose, dammit! I, on the other hand, would post up all day and sip their craft cocktails. A recent favorite: the Vitamin A put carrots on the front line in a garden-fresh Negroni spinoff I dug like whoa. Dug. Carrots. Forget it.
I get the small plate concept, but still get a bit sticker shocked when the bill comes. The price to perceived value for the food is a bit high, while the dranks fit nicely. But, Kendall Square, amirite? Everything's a tick up when the real estates prime.
Catch their arm & a leg dinners, and peep their site for upcoming events. Totally worth a fly-by for rubbing elbows with beautiful biotechies.
The view, the sandwiches and the onslaught of pickles. Pick up the pace, fool, before everyone discovers this tuck-away.
I'm still eating Chef Jeff's veal, pork and beef meatballs, handmade in-house and loaded on to a toasted sub roll. The sheer volume of meat, with the sauce, the shaved Parmesan and the melted mozz, this thing will quickly deteriorate to an incredible mess, so pack appropriately, and pre-snag a to go box. Also, can we talk about how many pickle chips you get on the side? Fat stacks.
A side of sweet potato fries ($5) are requisite when lunching with a +1. Grab extras of the Heinz dip or squeeze packets. Both? We're living in the future! Bottle drinks in the cooler, and beer is on tap, so suds 'em if you got 'em.
A serene view of Meredith Bay and if you're lucky enough to snag a table on the back porch, you'll have elevated views while being removed from the Pleasant Street traffic.
As if traffic on Pleasant Street could be anything but.
She called one of the most memorable bacon cheeseburgers in recent memory.
I called the Brisket Rueben (sic) a "really, really f*cking good" sandwich.
We're both right.
Smokestack strikes me as a scalable not-so-down & dirty BBQ joint that's primed to franchise, like, tomorrow. It's stylish and universally appealing, it's kinda edgy and kinda tongue-in-cheek...
It's serving fall apart brisket with a smoke ring thicker than a pencil.
A bit lean yet loaded with flavor from a dry rub (and the wood, undoubtedly), beef is stacked on stacked on stacks in that reuben, before being topped with an apple slaw, Swiss and a house-made remoulade. The marble rye wasn't overly buttered - matter of fact, it may have been toasted, and it held together perfectly with the sloppy wonderful inside. Simply delicious.
The only shadow were the fries, which when right, were thin and crispy. Half the batch were soft and cool, though, so you might be facing an overloaded basket in the oil.
Still, that sandwich. Git it. GIT IT. Free soda refills. Outdoor seating and a private bar. Doooooood heaben.
I'm not one to scoff at a Starbucks in general, and the seating, both indoor and out, at this spacious location are social, light and comfortable.
But the bitter, burnt product they assured me was their new 20-hour cold brew either (a) was the worst cold brew I've tasted, or (b) was actually sittin' around standard blend poured over ice and passed off as CB.
Not going to assume, as both deserve the same feedback, but I will say they were out of two other limited availability items ordered by my colleague. Follow that with a disheveled scene at the pick-up counter, and you've got a "Well, this is a disaster" afternoon coffee meeting.
Good for a looking-back laugh, and some peaceful patio time, but the coffee was the pits.
I didn't drink the Lavazza coffee products. I didn't nibble the crepes.
Based solely on the overflowing scoop (read: 3+ mini scoops) of pistachio and bacio crammed in a baby yellow cup - the small: ~$4 - and promptly devoured by an already-full Lantern Bruncher, Mr. Gelato gets a big Woohoo! from this guy.
Smooth, rich, and texturally perfect, the decadent dark chocolate gelato is littered with crunchy hazelnuts in a combo I'd take over too sweet Nutella anyday. If you disagree, they have Nutella gelato, too, so go suck an egg with your dumb ol' Nutella fixation. The pistachio is playful, neither too nutty, too salty nor too sweet. I could take a smidge more of the base flavor, but it also could've been strong armed by the outstanding bacio.
Yes, they'll split flavors, even in a small, so combo Smurf (it's blue, not sure the flavor) with - what's this? - strawberry gelato! The "always a sorbetto, never a bride" berry gets actual creamy treatment at Mr. Gelato, and the discerning wife approves with two sticky thumbs up.
A resounding 4.5 stars, and a cute patio in the plaza to boot!
Stella cracks the stereotypical South End stigma by offering a white tablecloth experience, with a few twists.
Sleek and stark, with multiple dining rooms and an outdoor patio dotted by modern (read: 90s) fire fixtures and Acqua Panna bottles, the space fits the Washington Street profile - streamlined, trendy, buzzing. And I do mean buzzing; if you value conversation on a Friday night, wait for temperate weather and insist on an outside table. The interior is incredibly loud. (Heavy pours and potent cocktails will do that.)
Maybe everything's big at Stella? Herculean entree portions mean every $18-24 plate is good for two meals, or a romantic split with a not-so-romantic surcharge, applied seemingly ad hoc. Our arancini ($13), sausage pizze ($19) and tagliatelle bolognese ($22) rang in $1-2 more than listed on the menu ($12, $19, $20, respectively). Which was a bitter aftertaste to otherwise excellent food, save the arancini, which was stuffed with a half-inch cube of solid mozzarella. We only noticed the price differential after leaving the restaurant, and I'll update the review once I get feedback from mgmt.
The service is attentive, and friendly enough. The Old Fashioned is on the sweet side, and featured a full orange slice instead of a well-extracted ring. I'd return for an early summer dinner.
The disappointment felt from a depleted stash of Parisienne sandwiches (buttery ham, hammy butter, cornichons on - who else? - Iggy's baguette) was shuffled off this mortal coil, thanks to the ethereal, rich, dense, fudgy, decadent, stupid good double chocolate cookie.
The next day, there were Parisiennes, and they were marvelous. Because a next day visit is likely. Because everything in Cafe Madeleine, when fresh, is the epitome of incroyable. Even the signature namesake treats, melting away while remaining spongey and wonderful. Sweet enough, with the savory undertones of citrus and vanilla. Welcome to the Both Sides of the Coin party, Madeleines - Sfogliatella brought Tostitos.
Bottled cold brew provided by La Colombe is waaaaaay too strong for me. So, Francophiles looking to flex their beans can go to town on the $3 bottle. I'm not man enough to face those 480mg of caffeine in 12oz of sleep destruction. You can, though. Totally.