The Evolved Oasis (Comede bibe epulare)

Boston Magazine |

Bostonians are less likely than ever to stay put at one table for a long, fancy repast. It’s far more common to find them bouncing from place to place, on the hunt for killer cocktails or a snack-driven meal—a proclivity that helps explain why casual restaurant openings have outpaced fine-dining debuts in recent years.

But the city’s older, rarified destinations are far from extinct, and are attracting the modern diner in new ways—most notably through their amped-up bar areas. Like the one at Clio, say, which offers coconut-milk-laced tuna ceviche and roasted bone marrow to pair with its cocktails. Or at No. 9 Park, which has a binder’s worth of house libations, plus bar-only fare like steak tartare and chicken Milanese. Or even at L’Espalier, where a meal in the white-tablecloth dining room can be luxe and cerebral but perhaps way less fun than splitting a roast duck for two and a bottle of Norwegian sour ale in the less-formal salon.

Regardless of environs, one thing is clear when it comes to bar eats: They have to be salty, fatty, and crispy to keep us satisfied (and reaching for our next sip). This inalienable truth  is why greasy snacks like tater tots, chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks will always survive. And when given a proper upgrade, like those laid out here, we’re glad that’s the case.

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Photographs by Bruce Peterson. Food Styling by Rowena Day/Ennis.

1. The Upgraded Bread Stick
Area Four

Garlic knots, gremolata, Pecorino, crispy garlic.

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2. The Upgraded Tater Tot
Tavern Road

Fried chickpea bites, microgreens.

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3. The Upgraded Meatball
Erbaluce

Wild-boar meatballs, spicy tomato sauce, Parmesan, fresh herbs.

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4. The Upgraded Potato Chip
No. 9 Park

Steak tartare, salt-and-vinegar gaufrettes, sour-cream-and-caramelized-onion dip, pickled cipollini onion, micro arugula.

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5. The Upgraded Mozzarella Stick
Highland Kitchen

Mozzarella-and-ricotta fritters, chili-honey dipping sauce, mesclun greens.

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6. The Upgraded Chicken Wing
JM Curley

Whole roasted chicken backs, hot sauce, honey.