I promised I'd do a fresh look at The Other Side Cafe, and here it is.
First, about non-food circumstances. The place seems ideal for folks 30 and under, essentially the bohemian little brother to the nearby Trident Bookstore and Cafe, the perfect fit for students, slackers, bike messengers, and artsy types both real and wannabe. Background music is offered with this clientele in mind, though was too loud on one visit. Unlike the Trident, it also has a liquor license, with plenty of beers in the bottle and on tap. Its napkin dispensers, sugar shakers, and bathroom walls are plastered with graffiti, but closer observation shows the place is actually not as grimy as the decor might suggest. There's a little sign instructing folks to take a menu and seat yourself as you enter, so no one's standing on ceremony around here. Service, while a little on the free-form and non-chatty side, is not in the least unfriendly and gets the job done well enough. They also have a monthly-changing collection of work by local artists (complete with opening reception) on the walls, a Tuesday movie night, and occasional live entertainment. Plus there's plenty of outdoor patio seating.
By and large, the food was excellent, with everything seeming ultra-fresh. The electric hues of a curry chicken salad filling on sun dried tomato wrap were freakish (serious yellow inside red -- talk about your primary colors!), but the flavors were equally big and satisfying. The filling had a delightfully grainy curried tang enveloping chunks of chicken and walnuts, with lettuce to add crunch and diced tomato for sweetness. This was accompanied by fresh, if standard, potato chips. The humongous 'Bama breakfast was also first-rate, consisting of perfectly scrambled eggs (not too stiff, not too runny), good quality sausage links, beautifully sauteed fresh collard greens still wearing a nice sheen of oil, sturdy toast from well-above-generic light rye bread, and intriguing chipotle grits that were creamy with small chunks of pepper and topped with melted cheese, likely jack cheese -- a really tantalizing mix of smoothness with a dollop, not a blast, of spice. The only misstep was a side of home fries, which had nice onion and spice overtones, but weren't in any sense like usual home fries; these came as a big plop of mushy potatoes almost of mashed consistency. They also serve a nice, espresso-sized portion of wheatgrass juice, with the sweet smoothness you get only in good, recently culled blades of the plant.
I really enjoyed this place on revisiting, and would definitely recommend it -- a real breath of fresh air compared to the mostly overpriced and underwhelming options on Newbury Street.