Monday, June 15, 2015

hometown love

Hi, Boston! How've you been?!

If you're in need of some local inspiration, or happen to be planning a trip to the city this summer, these are a few spots where I've been eating and drinking the last couple months (snapping pics on the phone, instagraming away) for group dinners and date nights, ladies evenings and bar hopping - it's all here! 


Highball is a vintage cocktail lounge with a playful edge; the drink program is serious while the rest of the scene evokes a childhood nostalgia. There's a room full of old school board games, (think Candy Land, Trouble, Guess Who), a menu board with brightly colored magnet letters, and anything from a rubber duck to a plastic bendy straw could end up in your drink.
The bar bites focused menu may be small, but dishes deliver big time. The Tater Tot Nachos ($11) mean business. A tower of crispy tots comes in a mini cast iron pan piled with chunky guacamole, black olives, pickled red onions and dollops of creme fraiche. A heavenly melted cheese sauce pools at the bottom, so make sure to take advantage and dig all the way in. The Crab Rangoon Spring Rolls ($9) are also a really satisfying choice. I'm drinking an Epiphany ($11) with plymouth gin, bianco vermouth, agave, lime, cucumbers and pomello soda in a super cute retro glass. 

Highball Lounge | Beacon Hill
90 Tremont Steet
Boston, MA 02108

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Eastern Standard is always on her game, year after year. On an impromptu Friday night date turned group dinner (we run into a few friends, who are meeting other friends) next thing you know, we're slurping a couple dozen Oysters ($2.75 ea) and perfectly shaken - always strong cocktails are flowing. Combining gin, st germain, lime, peychauds and parsely, The Thaw ($13) was a bright, herbal ode to springs arrival. In the Calypso ($10) vodka, celery and lemon keep things tart and fresh. The Friday Special: Saffron Fettucine with Shellfish ($26) proved to be an outstanding entree. The pasta dish arrives with mussels and generous chunks of sweet, plump lobster meat, fava beans and cherry tomatoes all laced with green garlic and a terrific uni butter. Wow.


Eastern Standard | Kenmore Square
528 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215  

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A few weeks later, ES's sibling-neighbor Island Creek Oyster Bar plays host to a crew of 17 ladies to celebrate Tracy's bachelorette party. I wish I took more photos of our fabulous prix fix meal. We started with oysters and cocktails (and a trend in this post emerges, but it must be said!) The cocktail menu keeps you guessing, and I have fun interpreting - "Juniper" = Gin, "Agave" = tequila, "The Spice Island" = rum based. The Salt Washed ($13) it is, with said Juniper, tarragon and celery. Lately, I'm all about celery and herb based libations. This one is an awesome pairing with some briny Island Creeks.

The first course presents a baby arugula salad in a light dijon vinaigrette and a gorgeous Salmon Tartare shared family style, along with individual cups of Clam Chowder. Their chowder is something to marvel at, featuring hand dug clams, house cured bacon and buttermilk biscuit crackers. The entree pictured is the Pan Seared Gloucester Halibut atop a spring vegetable chowder and ICOB Bacon, paired with a bottle of the Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Bianco ($38) a light, mineraly, slightly effervescent, food friendly Basque (Spanish) white wine. Desserts are divine, we share caramel milk chocolate pot de cremes and lime-coconut creme donuts with mango jam. (We paid $85 for the prix fix meal, inclusive of tip - arranged ahead of time.) For one of the freshest seafood and raw bar selections in Boston, featuring inventively prepared New England classics, Island Creek is one not to miss!
ICOB | Kenmore Square
500 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215   

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 The youngest sibling of the former two restaurants, Row 34, located across town in Fort Point Channel is the self described workingman's oyster bar. The lively industrial space was the perfect spot for Friday after-work drinks and to celebrate a friends new job. Our bartender provided superior service; he was friendly, attentive (always noticed a newcomer) and kept the cold beers and impeccably shucked oysters and clams flowing. With a wide selection of craft brewed and funky European choices on draft and in the bottle, the beer menu (plus that raw bar!) is reason alone to make this place a destination.
 Row 34 | Fort Point
383 Congress St
Fort Point, MA 02210 


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Hillstone is an upscale chain restaurant, so it's not necessarily destination or uniquely Boston worthy, but it's in a high foot traffic area and I was glad to check out their bar for the first time recently. I was surprised to see they served sushi, and in need of something light we shared just one maki roll, the Thai Tuna ($16). Eight squares come with cubes of fresh tuna, avocado, a spicy thai sauce and macadamia nuts.

Hillstone | Faneuil Hall
60 State Street
Boston, MA 02109

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Oh, Shōjō. I adore you, but, what an incredibly confusing experience with the hostess(es). I rarely rant, but here goes....
  • We arrive and hostess #1 affirmatively tells us the wait will be 45 minutes and takes my cell number. 
  • The bar is packed so we head out and just as we are ordering a beer five minutes down the street, hostess #1 calls back and we are told our table is ready. (It has been five minutes. So from 45 to 5. What?!) 
  • On our walk back, hostess #2 calls me again. (um, why are they calling me again?! So confused.) I assure her we will be right there!!
  • Upon arrival, hostess #1 explains our table is not ready, it will be 20 more minutes. What is going on here ladies!? Do we stay? Do we go? 
  • In that moment two seats open up at the tiny bar, so we stay. 
  • Before we even order drinks, not a minute later, hostess #2 appears with menus to seat us. What?!? Meanwhile, the table she appears to want to lead us towards has BEEN.OPEN.THE.ENTIRE.TIME. 
  • As we are now comfortably seated at the bar, we tell her no thanks to the table. This was all just so baffling to me. I felt not like a paying customer who was given consideration but like a pawn in a hostess game!

I still want to recommend Shōjō, despite the hostesses having an off night. They were apologetic, and we're over it because we've been here before, and know their creative take on Asian food and drinks are worth it. Everything has always been really freakin GOOD.



They focus on small plates, so plan on ordering a bunch to share. We devoured the Crispy Shrimp Bao ($9) with charred shishito and yuzu aioli, the Tiger Ribs ($9) with thai basil, shallots and peanuts and a bowl of Kimchi Fried Rice ($12) with a sunny egg. Cocktails are superbly done, like my Sum Ting Wong ($12) with ocho, campari, lime and rhubarb shrub. They have a unrivaled Asian craft beer and spirit list and then there's also a solid selection of the one's you know - Sapporo on draft and Singha (Thai), Asahi (Japan) and TsingTao (China) bottles. Service from the bartneder is perfectly normal and attentive. Despite being really crowded, I still feel like this place flies under the radar. They take reservations for parties of 10 or more, otherwise, you'll just have to try your luck with a table.
    
Shōjō | Chinatown
9A Tyler Street
Boston, MA 02111 

Shojo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

4 comments:

  1. Those tater tot nachos!

    I still haven't been to Shojo but definitely want to check it out soon.

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  2. Island Creek is one of my all-time faves!! I also love Shojo and clearly need to make it into Highball!

    Sues

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  3. Highball is a fun spot! Those tot nachos are the best. I need to get back to Row 34!

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  4. Highball and Hillstone are two of my favorites! Shojo is still on my list, but seems like I better arrive with extra patience!

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