Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

State Park – Tobacco Onions & Shuffleboard Lure, But Foodie Unimpressed

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

http://statepark.is/

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi

I will resist all temptations to reference a popular cartoon featuring a dude named Cartman.

I will descend into a faux dive bar engineered by the good people over at the Cambridge mainstay restaurant Hungry Mother.

I will select “Gin & Juice” by Snoop Dogg from the Jukebox and order these things from the menu:

TOBACCO ONIONS – Best tasting dish we ordered, served in an ashtray (and no, there is no real tobacco in these to my knowledge)

Most Appetizing Ashtray Contents I've Ever Seen...

FRIED PICKLED OKRA – An appetizer that always sounds fun and tasty but manages to be a bit of a let-down everywhere.

Ehhh...

FRIED CHICKEN – By New England standards, not bad. By U.S. standards, not good.

I've Had Better...

I will review the beer menu and see four respectable yet unexciting brews on tap, wishing I was at Cambridge Brewing Company or Meadhall instead.  I will search for other good beers and see pricey “top shelf” bottles stretching up to $40 a piece – no thanks. I will briefly contemplate a ‘gansett or a high life and order something from Smuttynose.

I will be moderately enjoying myself at this point, but not raving about the food and bev. scene here so far.

I will glance over at the pool table and check out the pinball machines and shuffleboard table. As cool as shuffleboard is (and looks) I will remember why I never play bar games – overcrowded, and perennially plagued by the village douchebags. Pass.

I will pick at the remnants of tobacco onions, sip something brewed by Harpoon, and want to like it here…unique joint, helmed by some pro chefs, a person can feel cool here…etc. etc.

In the end though, I will conclude that State Park is best enjoyed for tobacco onions and getting wasted on cheap beer. I would have enjoyed drinking here more about seven years ago, but probably would have felt the same way about the grub. Sorry guys.

In a few hashtags: #tobaccoonions #narragansett #shuffleboard #notfordinner #beersnobsdrinkelsewhere

Bronwyn – A Faint Whiff of Meaty Air from O’er the German Alps

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

bronwynrestaurant.com

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

The Boston area has always been seriously underrepresented in the category of German and Eastern European cooking.

PREFACE

Up to this point, Jacob Wirth and Café Polonia have been the only establishments raising flags lined with wurst, bier, und kraute from the kitchens of our fine town.

A new era is upon us, dear friends, with the opening of Bronwyn.

There has been a lot of noise and chatter in the cyber-sphere about this restaurant from many months before opening until now – As your indubitable Boston seer of signs and reader of food riddles, allow me to clear the air and give you a real, true opinion from one foodmensch to another.

A casual search of the world wide web will bring you to idle rumblings from the masses and should not be trusted in the case of Bronwyn:

  • Under the ad for liposuction on the Yelp page for this restaurant, anonymous phantoms will bitch about how this place doesn’t compare to Ronnarong (formerly housed in this space…a weird place and a travesty for Thai cooking) or Machu Picchu (any Peruvian would scoff in disgust). They may also complain about wooden benches, the weather and other non-food-related minutia, when they should really be concerned about their own lack of food knowledge, taste, and ability to handle any form of discomfort.

Let’s also set-aside the fact that we are not in Germany for a second here. We all know that authenticity cannot be matched outside of the source nation due to differences in well water, the air, terroir and hundreds of years of tradition.

  • If you have tasted currywurst and ketchup from street vendors in Berlin, noshed on those delightful little Nurnberger sausages (my personal favorite), or gulped down a Weisswurst in a Munich biergarten…you cannot hope to match those experiences abroad.

Ahhh, now we can talk about how one of Boston’s best chefs, Tim Weichmann (of T.W. Food Fame), and his wife (after whom Bronwyn is named) have created a place that respectfully pays homage to a certain region of cooking while adding a dose of their own creativity.

FOOD REVIEW:

Seated in Bronwyn’s delightful little outdoor Biergarten, my compatriots and I sampled a nice selection of sausages and other treats while enjoying beverages like Bear Republic Czech Pilsner and Erdinger Hefe.

I will start with a dissection of the “Giant Wurst Platter” that was indeed a seven-sausage meat fest. Observe:

Here is my wurst-breakdown:

  • Zungenblutwurst – A tasty blood sausage made with pork, tongue, and roasted pears. For the real mann.
  • Lemon Weisswurst – Bronwyn does an excellent rendition of one of my favorite Bavarian treats. This delicate light-colored sausage of veal, pork, and herbs is tricky to cook but Bronwyn pulled it off well.
  • Currywurst – Definitely not exactly to specification of this Berlin staple, but a delight to eat nonetheless. As the name suggests, this sausage is made with a little curry, veal, and pork.
  • Spicy Bierwurst – Though I’ve never tried this variety in Germany, the bierwurst here kind of tastes like a milder chorizo and was cut more like liverwurst in a thick round patty form.
  • Krauterwurst – A very juicy, herby little wurst made with chicken, pork, kohlrabi and beefsteak tomato
  • Kielbasa – A much different version than the spicy Polish creation that I’m used to, Bronwyn’s Kielbasa is a mighty fine and unique chunk of pork with garlic, coriander, marjoram, and farm greens poached in cream. Shazzam!
  • Bockwurst – Probably my least favorite sausage on the plate, the bockwurst came off a little dry and bland for my liking. But with 6 out of 7 sausages striking my fancy, I was pleased.

All of the above Bronwyn sausages were hand-cased and tenderly cared for. Our sausage pile was served over sauerkraut along with roasted potatoes and a refreshing little cucumber-dill gurken salad.

Beyond the wurst, we pulled apart one decent Bretzel and dipped that bad boy in a nice spicy little house-made mustard, and ordered a traditional Swiss dish called Rosti which was quite different than what you would get across the pond but was lovingly cooked together with beet, potato, arugula, radish, and chevre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN ZUSAMMENFASSUNG (summary):

Bronwyn is not T.W. Food in that the owners have definitely created a unique identity that sets this spot apart from their upscale contemporary American hotspot in nearby Cambridge.  It is also not a substitute for eating in Deutschland. But it is one mighty-fine swag at good quality German and Eastern European cuisine in a city badly in need of this style of cooking.

ENJOY BRONWYN FOR: Steins of lager in the biergarten, sausage-fests, sharing with friends, schnitzel, rosti, pretzels, and a faint whiff of fresh air from the Bavarian Alps.

Spoke Wine Bar – Cheers to Goodness Upon Goodness

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

www.facebook.com/SpokeWineBar

Location: Somerville, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie:  Recommends

Neat Bar Trick

After a few weeks in which Boston has seen badness spawned by badness, I’m thinking that it’s about time for an uplifting story for a change.

Am I talking about that puppy rescued from a dumpster, free snow cones on a summer day, or motherhood and apple pie?

Close, but no cigar. I’m talking about Spoke Wine Bar.

Spoke is what you get when a solid S’ville mainstay (Dave’s Fresh Pasta) branches out into new territory with a team led by the grape pro behind their excellent booze operation.

Whereas youngsters flock to the sandwiches and raviolis at Dave’s like tweens to Bieber, the cool kids will be taking a seat at Spoke for my fave gourmet pop stars Barbera and Burrata instead.

Spoke is small and intimate as any wine bar worth their sauvignon should be, whilst eschewing the ‘tude held dear by so many of it’s cabernet-pouring compatriots.

There are two main reasons to come here:

1.     FOOD

  • Nice selection of cured meats and cheeses presented on wooden planks
  • Spreads, flatbreads, and snacks ranging from marinated olives to the more glamorous peekytoe crab crostinis.
  • A small but respectable selection of small plates and more substantial dishes categorized into vegetables, seafood, and meat (oh my).
  • Though we only sampled the charcuterie, I am drawn to the handmade cavatelli, stinging nettle vellutata (just sounds cool but no idea what it will be like other than that it contains burrata) and handmade garganelli with lamb ragu, fava, and ricotta salata.
  • So yeah, the menu leans Italiano. As well it should at any fine wine bar. As well it should.

 2.     DRINK

  • The night we arrived, Spoke was pouring six whites and five reds by the glass, as well as three wines mysteriously set aside in the “other” category. We sipped on an excellent frappato from Sicily (close to a nero d’avola)  and dolcetto (also fantastic). Whites included a muscadet, a riesling, and gruner veltliner.
  • For those who like to palm their alcohol vessels rather than daintily cling to a glass stem, Spoke offers a respectable selection of bottled beers that will probably have something good on it that you’ve never heard of before like Baxter Phantom Punch Winter Stout (Maine), Nectar Ales Nectar IPA (California), and De ‘Proef’ Brouwerij Reinaert Wild Ale (Belgium).
  • I must also say that the bar staff here is genuine, knowledgeable, fun, and a pleasure to sit across from.

I am pleased that I can now eat the Cubano sandwich at Dave’s, buy a dozen wild mushroom raviolis, then sip a few glasses a couple doors down before stumbling home.

So remember, even in the midst of badness – goodness upon goodness is still possible in and around this great city. We’ve seen all the 021.XX zip codes and beyond produce such an impressive swell of giving, solidarity, and strength following the Marathon – we should wash it all down with some good vino to boot.

Cheers, Boston – and here’s to goodness upon goodness in times ahead.

The Sinclair – Where Food Isn’t the Only Thing Taking Center Stage

Monday, March 25th, 2013

www.sinclaircambridge.com/

Location: Cambridge, MA (See on Map)

The Foodie: Recommends

Here on Nick The Foodie Boston, my meals are typically the main form of entertainment that I speak of. When dining out at Metro Boston restaurants, the small plates or appetizers serve as my opening act, the main plates my main show, the dessert the encore.

But this time, my compatriots, things are different. I actually will write about something other than food.

***GASP***

Oh no I di-int. Yes I did. I spent an incredibly fun night at the new Sinclair restaurant and show venue in Harvard Square. The Sinclair sports a good-sized “Kitchen” and an intimate space for concerts. Here’s a snapshot of upcoming shows that look worth attending (and aren’t sold out yet):

  • Kishi Bashi
  • Patrick Watson
  • The King Kahn & BBQ Show
  • Daughter

We saw the very first comedy show here and were cracking up the entire time – I haven’t laughed this much since Seinfeld, Something About Mary, It’s Always Sunny, Billy Madison, and the Chappelle Show…speaking of which – the main comedy act of the night was Neil Brennan – Dave’s co-creator for the show and co-writer on the stoner classic Half Baked. Brennan’s opener was a local act named Jenny Zigrino – who is a legitimate rising talent and one of funniest female comedians I’ve ever seen.

So there you have it – I led a review with a subject other than food. I’m sweaty, my hands are clammy, and I’m a bit light-headed. I’ve gotta throw some grub in here to revive myself.

So the Sinclair concert venue is housed through a separate entrance than the restaurant. The Sinclair Kitchen exists to feed hungry adventure-seekers prior to their music and entertainment next door. And they do a pretty good job at that. The menu delivers a solid lineup of pre-show supper items, including:

  • The Sinclair Burger – Thick patty, soft bun, watercress, basil aioli (nice touch), and secret sauce – could just make my Top 10 list of 2013, we shall see.
  • Steamed Mussels – with red curry and lychee (trust me, it works)
  • Pastrami’d Pork Belly Sliders – a gut and artery coagulant that is no doubt tasty
  • Crispy Fried Oysters
  • Shellfish Gumbo – with crispy rice and Andouille saucisse
  • Grilled Octopus – gigante beans and chorizo
  • Kale Salad – golden raisins, parsnips, sunflower seeds
  • Roasted Local Beets – honey, thyme, hazelnuts, goat cheese mousse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sampled the roasted local beets, burger, and mussels and were quite pleased with all three. Though the Sinclair offers a pretty “safe” menu of time-tested, tried-and-true recipes and loses innovation points for things like Gianonne Farms Chicken, Steak Frites, and a Veggie Burger – they do pull all these things off with quality and a bit of style and flair.

So don’t expect something you’ve never seen before on the menu – but DO expect a well-executed and tasty munch pit before your mosh pit.

TIP: Ask your server to snag you some tix while eating if you plan to see a show after dinner and they’ll oblige.

Alcohol flows freely at both the restaurant and show venue, which is cool. Beer selection is, again, safe (think Harpoon, Miller Lite, ‘Gansett) but with a little flair (Pretty Things Jack D’Or).

So there you have it – good reliable food and good solid shows. Two doors. One roof. The Sinclair.

Atwood’s Tavern – Locally Brewed and No ‘Tude

Monday, August 13th, 2012

www.atwoodstavern.com

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

 

 

 

 

 

 

That dimly-lit neighborhood bar that everyone loves now offers outdoor drinking. Game on.

This is just one of those local places where you’re likely to meet people from everywhere but wonder how people from everywhere end up there. Too far from any T-stop for citizens of SoChuck (South of the Charles) to venture – Atwood’s tends to be packed with drinkers from NoChuck and their associates from afar who own a car or walk from nearby.

After a few encounters with this approachable, chill, laid-back spot it has quickly risen to become one of my preferred places to meet-and-drink in town. They feature live bluegrass and Americana some nights, a spacious outdoor wood-toned patio, local brews and good cheer.

Things have seemed to “click” when I’ve been here. The right company, the right number of pints, the right conversations, people laugh at my jokes etc. You know – the right balance. Minimal social awkwardness and multiple good connections. Not too crowded and not crickets.

Atwood’s offers a modest yet respectable beer lineup – last time I was here they were pouring Pretty Things American Darling  and a zany green-tea-hefe-crossbreed concoction from the nocturnal brewing operation over at Night Shift Brewing

With the end of this scorching summer in sight and cooler weather on the horizon – I think I know where I’ll be spending my Saturday afternoons outside the next few weeks. See you there.