Parents weekend for our grad student gave my wife and me an excuse to drive down from Portland and… eat. Started out with lunch at Eastern Standard. Love the space. Were seated at a high top and then waited, and waited, for our son to arrive (he only had a week’s notice and it was the crack of... 12 noon…). Our server was much more patient than me (it wasn’t yet busy) – we decided to order a cocktail to kill some time. I had a tasty dirty martini though it was missing an olive, which I really missed. Son finally arrived. We started by splitting a half dozen oysters. 3 different varieties – I always like it when we can mix it up a bit –very fresh and very good. The kid had the chicken schnitzel, which he loved. I tried a piece and it was very nice – I like how the flavors from the capers/veggies soaked into the chicken. I had the trout, which was perfectly cooked with a nice crisp skin. My wife had the chicken chopped salad, which was also very good but, in the end, it was a salad with a nice piece of breaded chicken. Added two draft beers – was happy to see a Maine brew on tap – and had a great lunch. A note on the restrooms: you go upstairs into what might as well be an art gallery. I found myself checking out some very nice photography on display. Nice touch. We very much enjoyed the meal, the service, and the space and will definitely be back.
Killed a few hours at the book fair, some live music, a tour of a campus building (technically we were there for the college thing), a glimpse of the President’s motorcade (what a mess that caused on Boylston) and we found ourselves at the Back Bay Social Club for a drink. A cool space though, with no room at the bar, we found ourselves at one of three café tables awkwardly placed in the middle of the room. I think they could have done something better with this area – maybe it fills in when it’s busy. By now we had added my son’s friend whom I believe was tipped off that we were in town and sensed free food and drink. All but I enjoyed their cocktails. I had the club high ball which, to be honest, sounded as though I would not like it when it was described and… I didn’t like it. Note to self: when a waiter describes something to you and it really doesn’t sound good to you, DON’T ORDER IT. I can’t really knock the place for me not liking something that I shouldn’t have ordered in the first place – it tasted just as described – this was just me being stupid. Will definitely return to try some food.
Now, across the street to Towne. We had eaten here once before, sitting in the upstairs dining room by the kitchen and enjoyed it all immensely. It was early (5:15PM) and we wanted to try an app or two at the main bar (the original plan was to ditch the kids and then go to the North End) off the menus that we didn’t get to see last time. We managed to get the slovenly dressed kids past the doormen and deposited them in a dark corner where we were able to procure two high tops and then went to work. On our last visit, we worked off the one big menu which was a little different but fairly easy to deal with. This time, we had the big menu, the lobster menu and two smaller menus with drinks and apps. There has to be a better way. From a practical logistics perspective, this has to add 5-10 minutes to each meal while customers decipher the menus. On to the food. We tried several different items. I didn’t care for the dates wrapped in bacon but this was no surprise as I don’t care for dates (I really shouldn’t critique food that I don’t like to begin with). The others at the table liked these. The dumplings were nice with a very delicate dough – good, not great. Oysters (again) were excellent – fresh, clean and cold. A sausage and pepperoni pizza was delicious and I’m not a pepperoni fan. Crab cake was wonderful and, even though we split it four ways, it was big enough for all to get a couple of tastes. Two orders of lobster popovers – they were great – nice chunks of lobster with just the right amount of sauce. My favorite was the fettuccine alfredo. The presentation is different with the pasta sort of wrapped up resembling twin spires – we weren’t quite sure what it was until we broke it down with forks. Outstanding! We were stuffed and nixed the North End.
Service was excellent. Our waitress – very attractive (actually, everyone in the place, regardless of gender, is very attractive), though not in a trashy way like other bars, was very knowledgeable of the food items, attentive but not overly so, and very personable (the boys were smitten). Excellent cocktails. A word on restaurant restrooms in general: why do so many restaurants insist on making a trip to the restroom a game of pictionary? Is it that hard to stencil a “men” and a “women” on the appropriate doors? Why must I try to figure out if the woodcarving is Sir Lancelot or Lady Guinevere? Do I use the restroom with the picture of the mermaid or the one with the sperm whale? Towne’s has picasso-esk etchings on glass that made me pause before thankfully chosing correctly. Once inside, I must say, this was one of the nicest restrooms I’ve been in. It was so nice, I had to resist the urge to just “hang out”. The paper towels they give you to dry your hands are nicer in quality than my bath towels at home – I felt guilty throwing them out.
Overall, I really like Towne a lot. If you’re looking for a more happening vibe, stay downstairs. If you’re looking for something more quite or romantic, make reservations for a table upstairs. And if you have room for dessert, you must try the angel food cake with spun maple sugar (a.k.a. the “Don King”). It’s tasty and it’s actually fun to eat.
Sunday morning and brunch. I am a sucker for a jazz brunch so we went to The Beehive. I’d been there before for dinner when it was packed – food was good but table was uncomfortable and couldn’t hear the music (which was why we were there) over the crowd. Brunch was great! The space is super cool with two levels, exposed brick and funky décor. A very good trio playing standards. Sound was perfect. The food was all very good. We started with a basket of beignets that were very good, fairly light and crispy. I had the thick French toast, which was excellent. My wife had a huge spinach and Swiss omelet – also very good, and my son (we couldn't ditch him) had the turkey hash with poached eggs. I don’t usually like hash, but this was great – it came with a delicious house hollandaise sauce on the side. Very good service by an eclectic, mostly tattooed, group of cool young people. The restroom? Clean but graffitied to the max (I think it’s part of the décor). Really good brunch food, really good music, really cool space. Can’t beat it for brunch.
Sorry for the long-winded review. Oh yeah, the kids I talk about are 25 years old. I hope I didn’t offend anyone by referring to them as “kids”. When I’m in my 90’s and they’re 70 years old, they’ll still be “kids” to me. Deal with it.
528 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215