Where to Eat 2012: Coming Soon and Open Now

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All Star Pizza Bar: Coming Soon

Some pizzerias tout their authentic Neapolitan crust, others their eclectic toppings. (Cauliflower! Eggs! Macaroni and cheese!) But for diners who want a little of everything, the owners of Inman Square’s All Star Sandwich Bar are taking their sandwiches-for-all concept and applying it to pies. There’ll be plenty of the pepperoni/mushroom variety for traditionalists, but adventurous types will appreciate inventive offerings like a chile relleno–inspired pizza — not to mention selections designed by area chefs.

1238 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-547-0836, allstarpizzabar.com.

 

Brick & Mortar: Open Now

Certain bar and restaurant owners just know how to build great hangouts. And when two of them join up on a new project, well, we know where we’ll be ending every night for a while. Together with Patrick Sullivan of the now-defunct (but sorely missed) B-Side Lounge, Gary Strack (who owns Central Kitchen and Firebrand Saints) has recast his Enormous Room cocktail den as Brick & Mortar, a neighborhood bar headed by Misty Kalkofen, who shook up cocktails at Drink and the B-Side. Shareable small plates such as chicken and waffles, fried polenta sticks, and fried Brussels sprouts make up the limited menu, but the emphasis is on the libations — and that’s just where we like it.

567 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.

 

Casa B: Open Now

As much as we like tapas spots of the worn-in, dimly lit, authentically Spanish variety, we’re excited about Casa B and the wave of bright, modern alternatives sweeping the city (see also: Kika Tapas). Casa B’s owners hail from Puerto Rico and Colombia, and their menu pulls from both Latin-American and Spanish-Caribbean cuisines. The result: tastier-than-average pinchos (bites) and small plates such as Serrano ham and guava jam on white-corn toasts; a sweet-plantain omelette; and codfish salad with guacamole. But this spot’s most appealing attribute might be the décor: Funky, very white, and full of greenery, it’s an uplifting antidote to the dreariness of late winter.

253 Washington St., Somerville, 617-764-2180, casabrestaurant.com.

 

Firebrand Saint: Open Now

Okay, so the concept isn’t exactly clear. The décor is high-tech (video installations on the walls, lots of metal and glass), while the menu tends toward the lowbrow (tender rotisserie meats, burgers). Some items feel fussy, like the roast porchetta with “aromatics” (which is just a fancy way of saying “stuff that smells good”), while others, such as the “Complicated Salad,” tell it like it is. And trying to figure out what Firebrand Saints’ name means will make your brain hurt. Our advice? Stop thinking and just eat. The buffalo-style rock shrimp are addictive; the burgers are topped with tasty fixings like harissa aioli and spicy pickles. After a pitcher of beer or a well-made Whiskey Smash, it’ll all start to make sense.

One Broadway, Cambridge, 617-401-3399, firebrandsaints.com.

 

Gem: Coming Soon

When Big Night Entertainment Group — they of thumping glitzvilles like the Estate and Shrine at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods — opened the Asian-themed Red Lantern in the Back Bay, we expected plenty of style and zero substance. A pleasant surprise, then, that the bowls of fried rice and hoisin duck buns aren’t bad. Plus, the people-watching keeps us endlessly entertained. Now the group is at it again, this time with the Euro-themed club/eatery Gem, which replaces Kennedy’s Midtown in Downtown Crossing. They promise upscale comfort grub such as quesadillas filled with duck confit, and tater tots with green onions and Russian dressing. Here’s hoping lightning strikes twice.

42 Province St., Boston, gemboston.com.

 

All photos by Anthony Tieuli