Where to Eat 2012: What’s New and What’s Next

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Photo by Anthony Tieuli

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.

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Grass Fed: Coming Soon

It’s always sad to see an indie venture go, but if the adorable J.P. café Bon Savor had to make way for something else, we’re glad it’s the burger spot that the Ten Tables team, led by owner Krista Kranyak, will soon debut in the space. Judging by the name, it’ll share Ten Tables’ commitment to locally and sustainably grown ingredients. The planned menu includes traditional beef patties as well as fish burgers, veggie burgers, and a burger of the day.

605 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 857-203-9287, grassfedjp.com.

 

Happy’s: Coming Soon

A little more than a year after opening his most casual restaurant to date, Tico, Michael Schlow is set to go even more low-key with this neighborhood joint. Taking over the Burtons space on Boylston Street in the Fenway, Happy’s will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, with a range of comfort fare — from chicken soup and steak au poivre to burgers and boozy milkshakes, Schlow promises. If the burgers are anything like the ones at Radius, we’ll definitely be happy at Happy’s.

1363 Boylston St., Boston.

 

The Hawthorne: Open Now

Walking into the Hotel Commonwealth’s new cocktail bar (formerly the Foundation Lounge) feels like you’ve stumbled into someone’s sprawling, ultracool city apartment. And that’s the point. Dreamed up by husband-and-wife team Stephen and Alison Sheffield, the place was designed to make guests feel at home. And you will, at least once you’ve had one of the painstakingly made cocktails — such as the “Paper Plane,” an apéritif of bourbon, bitters, and fresh lemon. Pop a few of the pricey-but-worth-it bar nibbles, like cornichon-and-proscuitto-topped deviled eggs and tiny twice-baked fingerling potatoes, and you’ll be loath to head back to your own pad.

500A Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617- 532-9150, thehawthornebar.com.

 

Julep Bar: Open Now

Revolution Rock Bar always seemed misplaced in the Financial District. So we weren’t surprised when it was replaced by the more grownup Julep Bar, which touts itself as a craft-cocktail lounge and boasts a warmer, sleeker interior with cushy banquettes. It’s no Drink — the “house infusions” are not-​so-​
appealing combos of flavored liquors, fruit, and herbs — but if you stick with classics like the Vesper and the Corpse Reviver, it’s a serious upgrade over its adolescent predecessor. Add in bites such as fried pork dumplings and Buffalo duck drumettes, and Julep is a welcome addition to the area’s afterwork scene.

200 High St., Boston, 617-261-4200, julepbar.com.

 

JM Curley: Open Now

The team behind wine bar Bin 26 Enoteca, high-end Italian spot Bina Osteria, and Persian restaurant Lala Rokh makes its first foray into casual drinking and dining with this new Downtown Crossing watering hole. The place is low on fuss and high on charm, featuring a beer list that runs from canned Genesee Cream Ale to imperial IPAs, and hearty sustenance such as hanger steaks with blue cheese; fried pickles; and pastrami sandwiches. The best part? With JM Curley so close to both Stoddard’s and stalwart hangout Silvertone, we finally have enough spots for a Downtown Crossing bar crawl.

21 Temple Place, Boston, 617-338-5333, jmcurleyboston.com.

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Kika Tapas: Open Now

Kika’s splashy red and white décor makes its older, more-traditional siblings — Tapeo (on Newbury Street) and Solea (in Waltham) — look downright dowdy. Not that Kika stealing the spotlight is any surprise. Inspired by the films of Pedro Almodóvar, this Kendall Square newcomer has drama in its DNA. The cocktails skew sweet and fruity, and the food is more over the top than at Tapeo or Solea: seared salmon a la plancha with vanilla-infused butter; sweet pork sausage with foie gras, apples, and port. So yeah, it’s a little sassy. But the young ones always are.

350 3rd St., Cambridge, 617-245-6030, kikatapas.com.

 

Lone Star Taco Bar: Coming Soon

Given the prices and the location, the cocktails and the fare far exceed expectations at Allston’s Deep Ellum. So ever since they announced they’d be opening a taco bar in the adjacent space, we’ve been holding our breath for something awesome. Sounds like we’ll get just that: Owner Max Toste says there will be “proper” carnitas, house-made tortillas, and tequila-based cocktails. And with the opening expected this month, we won’t have to wait much longer to dig in.

479 Cambridge St., Allston.

 

Moe’s Lounge at Radio: Coming Soon

Local music fiends rejoiced last October when the 200-seat venue Radio replaced Union Square’s all-ages spot Club Choices. Now it’s a hangout for hungry Somerville dwellers as well: The retro sports bar Moe’s Lounge, named for co-owner Josh Banville’s father, is scheduled to open late this month. Expect a 1970s vibe and wallet-friendly comfort food.

379 Somerville Ave., Somerville, 617-764-0005.

 

Moksa: Coming Soon

Since Ginger Park closed in the South End, chef Patricia Yeo has been holding court at Om in Harvard Square while developing her next restaurant concept. Owned by the same group as Om, Moksa is inspired by Japanese izakaya (casual cuisine meant to be paired with drinks), but has influences from all over Asia. The menu calls for Indian roti stuffed with Korean-barbecue kalbi; Berkshire pork pot stickers; Kobe beef cheeks, grilled satay-style; and cocktails inspired by astrological signs. Moksa was designed as a casual, affordable spot, but Yeo recently revealed that the space will also feature a sort of restaurant within a restaurant — a weekend “food bar” offering a five-course menu of her more-experimental dishes.

450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-4900, moksarestaurant.com.

 

Orinoco Harvard Square: Open Now

The Venezuelan dishes we know and love from Orinoco’s Brookline and South End locations have made their way to Harvard Square. The casual Latin eatery is a natural fit for the Crimson crowd and an inexpensive dating spot for undergrads, with those addictive cheese-filled arepas and savory empanadas ringing in at about $6 and $8, respectively. (A note to would-be lovebirds: Order the almond-stuffed dates to start, and finish with the chocolate torta fluida. You can thank us later.)

56 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-354-6900, orinocokitchen.com.

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Painted Burro: Coming Soon

Before opening his Davis Square restaurant Posto, chef Joe Cassinelli studied Neapolitan dough-making techniques as though his life depended on it. Now, in readying his midscale Mexican concept in the former Gargoyles space, he’s attacking Oaxacan cuisine with the same fervor. Expect meat-heavy dishes, ceviches, slow-cooked moles, and tacos, plus lighthearted desserts like paletas, Mexican popsicles made with fresh fruit, and avocado and corn ice creams. For tipplers, there will be margaritas, beer cocktails (micheladas), and a good tequila selection.

219 Elm St., Somerville.

 

Paramount South Boston: Open Now

Good news for those sick of mulling around the Beacon Hill landmark Paramount, waiting for a Saturday-morning table. No, this new South Boston outpost isn’t any less crowded, but it is offering the same great come-as-you-are, all-day hospitality. And if you still can’t score an a.m. seat for banana-and-caramel pancakes? Come back in the evening for braised short rib pot roast, and stay for a respectable pint.

667 E. Broadway, Boston, 617-269-9999, paramountboston.com/southboston.

 

Parlor Sports: Open Now

The only thing better than chef Suzi Maitland’s pepperoni rolls, a staple of the Trina’s Starlite Lounge menu, is having two places to eat said pepperoni rolls. The Trina’s gang recently overhauled their Inman Square bar’s “parlor” room, turning it into a separate sports bar complete with flat-screen TVs and beer-and-shot combos. Don’t expect light fare; the menu is anchored by the kind of gut-busting grub you want while watching a big game. Try the pulled-pork-topped mountain of potato chips rightly dubbed the “Pig Pile.”

One Beacon St., Somerville, 617-576-0231.

 

Salvatore’s: Open Now

The blazing lights of the Paramount Center in Downtown Crossing now have competition: the huge, glowing sign and scarlet damask interior of Salvatore’s, a red-sauce Italian restaurant that opened on Washington Street in October. (There are additional Salvatore’s locations in the Seaport, Medford, and Lawrence, and the locally owned company is also behind the Sal’s Pizza chain.) What the place lacks in culinary novelty — the menu offers a straightforward Italian-American lineup of caprese salad, veal Marsala, and Margherita pizza — it makes up for in location and glitz. For a quick pre-theater bite, late-night snack (the bar menu is available till 1:30 a.m.), or a chicken Parm fix sans the trek to the North End, it does the trick affordably.

545 Washington St., Boston, 617-542-5555, salvatoresrestaurants.com.

 

Park: Coming Soon

After the runaway success of Russell House Tavern, the Grafton restaurant group knew they were capable of greatness — so their college-friendly, nothing-special Harvard Square hangout Redline was ticketed for a redo. It’s being reborn as Park, a polished restaurant/bar with bohemian-meets-vintage décor and a talented chef: Mark Goldberg, who most recently helmed the kitchen at Woodward. He’ll be serving cocktail-friendly fare such as seared scallops with bacon and Brussels sprouts, roast lamb with apples and root-vegetable hash, and snacky toasts with toppings like Comté cheese, fried quail eggs, and pickled shallots.

59 John F. Kennedy St., Cambridge, 617-491-9851.

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Saloon: Open Now

When we heard that the team behind Davis Square’s Foundry on Elm was going underground, we sighed. Another faux “speakeasy”? Yawn. But oh, how wrong we were. Saloon, set below Elm Street, is literally subterranean, and delightfully free of Prohibition-themed theatrics. Clad in dark, carved wood — much of it salvaged from the old Capital Grille on Newbury Street — and accented with leather stools and banquettes, Saloon is the kind of windowless retreat designed for serious imbibing. When the bar’s this well stocked with Scotch, bourbon, and rye, who needs daylight? Just tell us when it’s time to go home.

255 Elm St., Somerville, 617-628-4444, saloondavis.com.

 

Tasty Burger 2: Coming Soon

It’s a good thing we don’t live closer to this place, we thought when the delightfully casual, low-priced burger-and-fries mecca Tasty Burger hit the Fenway. We’d be eating like this all the time. Sorry, arteries, but Tasty’s owners have revealed big plans to expand, and soon it may be impossible to escape the onion-string-and-milkshake deliciousness. Owner Dave DuBois is planting the first satellite operation in Davis Square, with a menu that’s identical to the one in the Fenway. There is one planned upgrade, however: Joy Richard, who has led the cocktail programs at DuBois’s Franklin Café ventures, is crafting a new list of libations for the second location.

tastyburger.com.

 

West Bridge: Coming Soon

Two Aquitaine South End alums, manager Alexis Gelburd-Kimler and chef Matthew Gaudet, are planning to open a bistro and bar near the Blue Room this spring. They’ve shared little about the concept so far, other than décor details (like most recent Kendall openings, it’ll be “loft-inspired” and “industrial,” with lots of reclaimed wood and metal beams) and the French-leaning menu. But we do know this: There will be a 46-seat patio, a rarity in this part of town, so if it doesn’t open by the time the warm weather hits, it’ll be an absolute shame.

One Kendall Sq., Cambridge.

 

Zai: Coming Soon

Japanese cuisine goes far beyond sushi, teriyaki, and tempura. And the specialty at Zai, a new spot where Joe V’s used to be on Shawmut, is a type of charcoal-grilled meat known as yakitori. From behind a small grill bar (just six or seven seats), patrons will be able to watch food sizzle away on the fire. Owner Kazu Aotani (of Back Bay’s Snappy Sushi) says the restaurant will also offer ceviche-type cold dishes, some other Japanese small plates, and a few larger dishes, like a chicken served whole.

315 Shawmut Ave., Boston.

 

The Mysterious Restaurant taking over the Old Rocca Space: Coming Soon

It’ll be a Roman-style trattoria, serving dishes like spaghetti cacio e pepe and bruschetta with favas and fresh ricotta. The executive chef is Seth Woods of the Aquitaine Group, which also owns Gaslight, Union, and Metropolis Café. And the restaurant’s Twitter handle, @500Harrison, may or may not be its name. Beyond that, the details of this South End addition are still murky. One thing’s a given, however: If it offers a brunch as good as the ones at its sibling restaurants, this place will quickly claim a spot atop our Sunday-morning must list.

500 Harrison Ave., Boston.