Archive for the ‘Gastropubs’ Category
Location: Boston, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
§ A Brief History of the Gastropub §
A portmanteau of the words gastronomy and pub, the term gastropub originated in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century.
Like when the first Cro-Magnons discovered fire by rubbing two stones together, two Londoners stumbled upon a concept that would forever change the human race when they found you could please Englishmen with the drunken munchies by rubbing a pub and a kitchen together.
According to culinary beer lover’s lore, the first gastropub was born in Clerkenwell, London with the revolutionary “Steak-over” of the Eagle Pub.
The concept quickly spread far and wide when restaurateurs and pub owners alike stumbled upon an equation that puts Einstein to shame:
Dressing up a bar + employing a real chef + good beer + putting manly food on a menu = Scrooge McDuck-like Riches
Because words and trends travel quickly across the anglo nations of the world, the gastropub movement hit the United States at the turn of the 2nd millennium.
Today, you can find a g-pub in nearly any American city worth their salted fish ‘n chips, including that ever-historic town where our forefathers first raised their middle fingers in unison to the British empire – Boston.
I suppose us grizzly, bearded New England patriots have come to a point of compassion and forgiveness with our better-mannered cousins across the pond, because the gastropub is the biggest food phenomenon to hit the Bean since clam chowder.
In what has seemed like an explosion, Boston has witnessed the opening of Citizen Public House, Meadhall, Foundry on Elm, Saloon, Stoddard’s, Russell House Tavern, Five Horses, Lord Hobo, JM Curley, Park, and the Tip Tap Room. As I pound out these words, there is likely another gastropub under construction.
Today we turn our attention to the Gallows – a SoWA (South of Washington) South End destination that is one of the pioneers of the g-pub trend in the area. These guys are among the group of restaurants getting it right…
When Urrg and Gruurg first found fire, their cro-colleagues must have banged rocks together without success. Modern man suffers from the same issue, and too often gastropubs end up hitting the beer side without paying enough attention to the quality of the eats.
Unfortunately, most Boston g-pubs (think Russell House, Foundry on Elm, Park, Saloon) end up being simply snazzy places to drink a craft beer along with a nibble or two rather than propelling the food to the forefront.
The Gallows definitely joins Citizen Public House, JM Curley, Stoddard’s and Lord Hobo by successfully copying a technique that will someday lead to the next iteration of human kind.
Gallows presents a chill, classy, dimly-lit setting in which to enjoy good food and beer. With a nice menu that features several meat-and-cheese-laden “boards” (we’ll cover the charcuterie trend in a separate post), a few versions of the Canadian Classic poutine, sandwiches, burgers, and slightly more dainty dishes like grilled octopus and ginger soy tofu – the Gallows has something for both beer-bellied gluttons and vegetarians (good thing beer is plant-based).
I specifically ventured here for one item and one item only – the Our Way burger. A simple affair that is cooked in the West Coast thin tradition and topped with cheddar, griddled onion and pickles, the Our Way burger is a commendable thing that should be tried by any burger enthusiast. In fact, I have named it to my closely scrutinized and ever-evolving Top Ten Burgers in Boston List. I was equally pleased by the Pretty Things IPA and Duvel I enjoyed on draft.
As mankind continues to bang pubs and kitchens together to form sparks of frothy pints, fried food, and griddled meat parts, let’s keep learning from our less coordinated cave dwellers and really whip up flames with some decent food coming out of the kitchen.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie Say: Cosi-Cosi
Like a blind date, a cult, or that new sub-prime mortgage – Park was promising at first but ended in tears.
Little too dramatic? Let me walk you through my mixed experience at the reincarnation of Redline – now a restaurant and bar in the gastropub mold (hasn’t that model been tapped out yet?)
- Positive reviews from the Globe
- 4-stars on Yelp
- Hip-looking location – the kind of place where you’d expect good food to live
- Decent crowd on a Friday night
Let’s start out with the positives of my dining experience here, shall we?
- Beer-snob worthy brew menu (think Pretty Things, Titan IPA from CO, Left Hand Milk Stout also from CO, and Spaten Lager)
- An entire page of whiskeys and other spirits
- A nice complimentary cheese and crispy flatbread cracker presentation at the start of the meal
- Salt and Pepper Shrimp. Holy shit. This was the best thing we ate at Park and had us riding high into the entrée round. Nicely-cooked shrimp atop Napa cabbage and bathed in a zingy jalapeno/salt/cilantro essence – had me wanting to sing “Shoop, shoop bay doop.”
What happened between the four bullets above and our main plates I’ll never know…did the “A” team chef finish her shift? Did we just order WAY wrong? Was it something we said?
Here’s what went down:
- I ordered the grilled Lamb Belly over summer succotash and Madeira. Sounded a little risky but I thought the upside could be heavenly if Park brought their top game to the kitchen. My risky investment ultimately turned out like a Facebook share. They made a mockery of the succotash by overdoing the fennel, and managed to kill a nicely-grilled lamb belly with an overtly bitter sauce that lacked anything resembling good flavor. Nobody in the kitchen had ever tasted this dish.
- My dining chum ordered the Roasted Half Chicken – something a little easier for the kitchen to handle than lamb belly. Somehow our bird was a little overcooked, lacked flavor, and was perched atop an ill-conceived panzanella salad (cucumber/tomato/balsamic-soaked bread chunks).
My overall assessment is that you should gladly park yourself at Park for beers and maybe a few snacks – but find another lot before moving on to the main dishes. Sadly the fate of many other g-pubs in town (think Saloon, Foundry on Elm, etc).
Like that new sales job promising millions once you “move up the pyramid” – Park’s entrée menu might just have your friends laughing at you.
Location: Somerville, MA
The Foodie: Does Not Recommend
8:00PM. Saturday Night.
We’re at Foundry on Elm. “Uh, is Saloon in here somewhere?”
“We get that a lot – try two doors down, by the lamp post”
Descending a flight of stairs, I expected to see a tumbleweed and a few ole timers sipping on sarsaparilla (mixed with high-end whiskey of course).
On the contrary – this place was packed wall-to-wall like a Faneuil Hall joint. Also like your favorite amateur hang-out, they also had one of those annoying tall douchebags rudely telling people where to stand to clear the way for servers.
From here on – nothing about the food was particularly bad, but then again nothing was better than the 20 other gastropubs in town. I mean, the formula is well-known at this point:
- Put together a big whiskey list
- Make sure you have a Pretty Things beer on tap
- Throw some pork belly on the menu
- Dim the lights
Sounds easy right? Whereas other g-pubs in town do it well (and Citizen is the gold standard in my opinion), I’ve never thought Foundry or their new baby Saloon completely nail it.
- Beer menu could be spruced up a bit
- Did you see how small the pork belly dish was?
- Quotes from others at my table: “The steak was a mess,” “It was just OK,” “Who grabbed my ass?”
The one dish that received praise from our group of outlaws was the meat pie…but I still don’t think it was good enough to save the day, sheriff.
So, like Foundry on Elm, Saloon is really better for a couple drinks – skip the food spread. Looks like plenty of peeps are cool with that though given the reg’lar crowds at both spots.
In the words of Clint Eastwood after this scene – I’ve had better.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
When I first heard of Meadhall I pictured some form of cavernous medieval castle filled with long wooden tables packed with fur-clad warriors carrying names like Olav and Kroog being served liter mugs of beer and mead by chesty large women.
In reality – a cavernous multi-level beer emporium in Kendall Square erected by a former Wall Street exec serving an awe-inspiring selection of brews on tap to local fun-seeking yuppies.
In either format – I would have enjoyed myself.
The beer spread here is very tasteful and legit with a heavy skew towards IPA’s and Belgian styles however in my mind that is not at all a bad thing.
Sampling of beers available on tap here:
- Pretty Things – Jack D’Or
- Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (rare treat and must-order for any visit here)
- Mojo IPA
- Bear Republic – Racer 5
- Dark Horse – Crooked Tree IPA
Even the hard-core aficionado will discover something new – and don’t be bashful to ask the bar staff for samples or background on anything that piques your interest…they all seem to know the beers very well and will have an opinion on each one. They’ll spout off facts about how the beers are purchased (the owners prefers to buy direct from manufacturer to guarantee freshness) or even offer you a tour of their keg room (though I’ve yet to take them up on that offer).
Combining a heavy sampling of pints and a few gastro-licious nibbles is the best way to enjoy Mead hall. Order foods like:
- House-made pork rinds – delightfully snap, crackles and pops with porky goodness and offers a little spice to boot.
- Bratwurst – or was it another German-themed sausage? Either way, this thing is damn tasty and nicely cooked.
- Mussels – served out-of-the-shell in a fragrant broth and buttery toasted bread spears.
Their burger left me somewhat wanton for flavor, and I was not immediately drawn to other menu items, so Meadhall will likely serve as one of my go-to spots for beer-snobbery rather than gastro-immersion.
So whether you get your thrills from medieval manors or from the truly “frothy” spoils of wall-street career-switchers – hit Meadhall today.
Location: Cambridge, MA
The Foodie: Recommends
Lord Hobo – a classic oxymoron understood by the droves of Cantabrigian academics who appreciate their literary phenomena along with a good beer.
This sleek, dark gastropub opened to much fanfare and high expectations as the successor of B-Side lounge, and I have to say it’s a welcome addition to the local scene.
It’s as if the B-Side stopped hanging out with the retro-indie punk gang it was a member of, went to college and studied abroad in Europe, saw a few Coldplay concerts, quit the late nights and white powders, and bought a few polo shirts – but still kept some of its edgy side.
THE BEER: Here you’ll find an absolutely insane selection of great beers on tap – think Sint Bernadus, Bear Republic, Allagash, and Synebrychoff – proclaimed as the best porter in the world and brewed in Finland. A selection for snobby beer lovers indeed. I was happy.
THE FOOD: Higher-end comfort foods typical of a gastropub menu – charcuterie plates, mussels, meat pie, chips, etc. I’ve sampled the “true shepherd’s pie” – a monstrous lamb meat creation that was tasty but far too large to eat in one sitting. I’ve tried the burger – a juicy beauty topped with aged Irish cheddar and sandwiched between two slices of peppered challah. The chips are pretty respectable and they serve up some different specials such as fried BBQ sweetbreads (FYI this is a gland in a cow’s neck not a ‘bread’ in case you were wondering).
So, the B-side’s preppy cultured beer-loving cousin is a good time. The beer menu here is welcome, however I leave wanting a little more from the food.
Ultimately this place is best enjoyed off-hours over a vigorous sampling of beers. Pick at the brew-paired appetizers and take hefty bites out of their burger. Prost!