Monday, November 30, 2015

Not Your Average Joe's | Waltham

Not Your Average Joe's is a popular local chain which recently opened its 24th location in Waltham. Last week they had a group of us in for dinner and I was thoroughly impressed! Buzzing with a convivial energy; the modern-industrial and open concept space from the swanky bar made of fossilized oyster shells, to the expansive dining room appointed with chic aqua booths, to the open kitchen firing out first rate dishes, NYAJ's Waltham was a scene I was happy to be a part of. Their patio firepits were a blaze, even though the chilly weather kept patrons indoors. 

After a spirited tour of the new restaurant - including the kitchen and walk in fridge, Joe's famous Foccacia bread kicked off the meal alongside well made and affordable cocktails. I enjoyed a gently stirred Bourbon Smash ($10) with Elijah Craig small batch Kentucky bourbon, agave nectar, muddled lemon and mint. Next, A Cranberry Daiquiri ($9) in an elegant coupe glass hits the spot. Served up with Privateer Silver rum, cranberry simple syrup and fresh squeezed lime, it was tart and refreshing, not to mention a strikingly gorgeous red color.
Joe's specializes in creative, casual American cuisine and all the dishes are made from scratch. We shared a number of their popular appetizers beginning with the Deviled Eggs ($7) which were zesty and crunchy, thanks to the addition of sriracha, togarashi spice and a topping of crushed Cape Cod potato chips. The addictive Buffalo Carribean Chicken Tenders ($10) are hand breaded and tossed in a sweet and spicy mango-buffalo-bbq sauce. Finally, Mango Shrimp Rolls ($9) are light, crisp and flavorful with sweet-chili poached shrimp, mango, cucumber, mint, cilantro and rice noodles, complimented by a tangy peanut dipping sauce.
The Butternut Squash Flatbread ($10) is worthy as a starter or main course with shaved brussels sprouts, carmelized onions, smoked mozzarella, a balsamic reduction and an inventive sage-pecan pesto. Grilled chicken is tossed with quinoa, green apples, pistachios, avocado, spinach, mint, cilantro and and orange-sesame dressing in the appropriatly named Super Crunch Salad ($15). It was legitimately the crispest, most delicious salad ever, even as next day leftovers. 

The dishes above represent about half of what was served to us this evening. (I actually ended up taking home three meals worth of leftovers.) One of my favorites that made an excellent lunch, but didn't make it into a photo was the spice rubbed and grilled Vietnamese Salmon ($19.50) served over wide rice noodles in a chili-lime broth with crisp snap peas and crushed peanuts. The Mustard Crusted Chicken ($15) is marinated in a three mustard sauce, coated in panko and pan seared, served with a lemon aioli, green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. Scallop lovers will rejoice over the all natural, pan seared Rosemary Skewered Scallops ($25) from New Bedford. They come served over an Israeli couscous, grilled corn, bacon and tomato succotash with an orange chipoltle glaze.

For dessert we were served a warm Goji Berry Apple Crisp ($7.50) with cinnamon spiced apples, ginger and a brown sugar oat crust, a Carrot Cake ($7.50) dripping in luscious cream cheese frosting and caramel sauce, and Joe's claim to fame the Peanut Butter Thing ($8). Unfortunately for the rest of the dessert menu, they pale in comparison to the latter, a peanut butter-chocolate chunk loaded vanilla ice cream cake meets oreo cookie crumb crust topped with fresh whipped cream and drizzled with warm caramel and chocolate sauces. This might have been my favorite part of the meal. It's that good!

It is always exciting to see a passionate, local brand continue to evolve and expand. NYAJ's newest location will appeal to loyal patrons and newcomers alike. I am already looking forward to a return trip.

Not Your Average Joe's
56 Market Place Drive
Waltham, MA 02451

*this meal was complimentary, all opinions are my own* 

Monday, November 23, 2015

eating + drinking lately

Gracenote Coffee Roasters | Leather District

Lattes at Gracenote Coffee. This tiny espresso bar at 108 Lincoln Street is conveniently located right where the bus drops me off every morning. Even if you don't take a Mass Pike express bus into town - this independent roaster is worth a visit. The finest beans sourced from for example: La Papaya Farm in Ecuador, Misty Valley, Ethiopia and Irati AB, Kenya are meticulously roasted. Strong and rich espresso with thick frothy milk, this is one of the best lattes I have ever had.  The barista art puts a smile on my face and makes them photo worthy, every time. (Yes, there are three different lattes pictured here. So pretty!)

    Granary Tavern | Financial District

The New Guinness Nitro IPA alongside BBQ Pork Nachos ($12) consisting of house made potato chips, pickled onions, fresh cheese + avocado aioli and Fried Chicken + Waffles ($17) with maple drizzle + honey butter at Granary Tavern

Townsman | Edge of FiDi and Chinatown
A single cocktail at Townsman: the Green Girder ($12) with Beefeater Gin, fresh celery juice, smoke and salt. The cocktail was terrific - I love cocktails with a celery element! The fact that I haven't had a meal here yet and I work SO close is inexcusable. They are sweeping every publications best new restaurant category, pretty much every where you turn there's a positive buzz about Townsman. One of these days....

Silvertone | Downtown Crossing
Ultimate comfort food at Silvertone: Mac + Cheese ($10) topped with toasted buttered breadcrumbs + peas and Meatloaf + Mashed Potatoes ($12) with brown gravy + the vegetable of the day, bok choy.  

Branch Line | Watertown

Everything at Branch Line, a neighborhood rotisserie and wood fire grill recently opened by the Eastern Standard Family in the historic Watertown Arsenal. Sipping on unique draft beers like Revolution Coup d'etat ($7) a Belgian style saison and Nightshift Ever Weisse ($7) a kiwi strawberry + hibiscus sour. (Anyone else feel me on the sour beers? Ever since Portland, I am always on the lookout). Eating: Fried Cheese ($6)Grilled Oysters ($13) with bagna cauda butter and pickled relish, Green Circle Rotisserie Roast Chicken (half bird/$17), Roasted Carrots ($7) with yogurt and parsley, and a Slow Roasted Goat with couscous, feta and pomegranate. It's nice that Branch Line is 10 minutes down the street - the space is gorgeous and everything was really, really good! 

Where have you guys been eating + drinking lately? New hotspots? Old favorites?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Masa Taqueria + Tequila Bar | Woburn

I have always been a fan of the South End's Masa for spicy cocktails and margaritas, tasty southwestern inspired food, and their fantastic brunch.

Last Saturday I paid my first visit to their recently revamped Woburn counterpart, Masa Taquieria & Tequila Bar (formerly Masa Southwest Bar & Grill). They've updated their menu, décor and website - all that's left seems to be the outdoor signage. The interior transports diners from a typical suburban strip mall to somewhere much more sophisticated; yet the vibe still remains casual and relaxed. Comfy chocolate leather booths meet white exposed brick walls which are home to a large collection of colorful Mexican posters - notably retro travel adds, accented by rainbow painted wainscoting. Zorro chandeliers and punched metal Southwestern light sconces envelope the space in a warm glow. 

They have some new interactive touches - a Hola! sign you can clip into a memo stand if you need the waitress' attention and a mini index card of the menu to select your food. 

A tres chile margarita ($11.50) was in order first. The jalapeño infused blanco tequila + anaheim + poblanos (the thres chiles!) brought a fantastic heat. This marg was a perfect pairing with creamy guacamole (small/$5) where large slices of ripe avocado are laced with red onions, garlic + lime and served with high quality tortilla chips. 

They have a large selection of tequilas, plus tequila flights and a few mezcals, although we stuck to cocktails this evening. The high noon ($10.5) with high west bourbon, lemon, luxardo, and domaine de canton was good - definitely on the sweeter side. The habanero watermelon margarita ($12) was a favorite I recognized from the South End's menu; habanero infused resposado tequila, triple sec and watermelon puree are a winning combination. (I even replicated this at home for a fourth of july party one year - a big hit!)

Off the specials menu Bob enjoyed the Grilled Swordfish over sautéed kale and butternut squash polenta. It was juicy and tender, a well executed piece of fish. I was excited about my Small Taco Combo ($26) which included six tacos, one tamale, rice, beans and grilled mexican corn. The tacos are miniature - two or three bites worth and are also offered individually for $2.75 - $3.75. I ordered: chorizo with cranberry salsa, portobello mushroom with cotija cheese, charred shrimp with sweet pepper slaw, slow cooked chicken with roasted tomato salsa, crispy cod fish with garlic aoili and carne asada with pico de gallo. I honestly don't think they can make a bad taco! And I loved the opportunity for variety. The rice and beans were surprisingly lackluster. I liked the corn tamale and the street corn though, so overall the taco combo was solid.

The churros ($7) shaped to resemble heavy crullers were deceiving! Not to worry, the first bite revealed a light and airy, ever so slightly crisp and piping hot churro, alongside a rich, warm, bittersweet chocolate sauce for dipping. For dessert, these are a no-brainer. 

Masa Taqueria + Tequila Bar
Woburn Plaza Shopping Center
350 Cambridge Rd.
Woburn, MA 01801

*this meal was complimentary, all opinions are my own*