First Bite: Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar
THE TEAM BEHIND Citizen Public House — founders of the Franklin Café mini empire — long ago nailed the neighborhood-restaurant formula: entrées under $25, smart cocktails, and cozy surrounds. The group’s spots in the South End, Southie, and Gloucester have earned a dedicated clientele, and its newest eatery looks poised to do the same in the Fenway’s emerging local scene.
The Citizen is actually a departure from the Franklins. This place is more concept-driven, with a clear modern-tavern theme — a New England twist on the British gastropub. The dark, wood-beamed décor, which borrows most of its ambient light from Boylston Street, features a fireplace in one corner and caramel-colored booths lining the room’s perimeter. In the center of the restaurant is a gorgeous bar with a crew of mixologists captained by Joy Richard, long a Franklin Café mainstay. Nearly 90 whiskeys are available, as well as keg wines from Napa and an array of swizzles, highballs, and punches served in crystal bowls. (And in a nod to the restaurant-industry crowd the team is hoping to woo, the high-octane digestif Fernet-Branca is kept on tap.)
But Citizen Public is also a fine place to eat. Chef Brian Reyelt, another Franklin alum, has developed a menu that references New England’s food heritage: You’ll find a solid raw bar, broiled sole with bread stuffing, and roast chicken. There’s also cassoulet with excellent sausage and tender cranberry beans (the confit duck could be crisper, though), and a beet salad with the surprising addition of toasted pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, and almonds. Don’t miss the velvety fish chowder laced with sherry. While the dish would benefit from a little more fish (a mix of cod, haddock, and sole), it’s a testament to the power of good stock and ample lashings of cream.
Oddly, the least impressive offerings were the restaurant’s signature roasted meats. Pork loin arrived disappointingly dry, and the “carpetbagger” filet was underseasoned and served with bland oyster butter and wilted spinach.
Still, this is a worthy haunt — an easy go-to if you live in the neighborhood, but equally worth a trip across town if you don’t.
1310 Boylston St., Boston, 617-450-9000, citizenpub.com.