First Bite: The Gallows

Does the South End really need another gastropub? Surprisingly, yes.


First, a confession: word of a new gastropub (yawn) coming to the South End (sigh) wasn’t exactly welcome news. In too many recent iterations, “gastropub” has meant marginally dressed-up bar food with an emphasis on salt and deep-fried excess.

But there was a pedigree at work with the Gallows; partners Rebecca Roth and Seth Morrison had worked together at the now-closed Perdix, as well as at Newton’s Biltmore during its early heyday.

And so the restaurant — named for the ye olde 1600s hanging spot on Washington Street — has come along to redeem the gastropub label. First, there’s the room, a modern-country stunner sided with reclaimed barn wood. Then there’s the warm, confident service, which sets the bar for other eateries. Toting a toddler? Welcome! Adding a last-minute extra? No problem — your entrées will still arrive together.

This is a place where the dishes sound familiar — a burger, a roast chicken, and the munchie du jour, poutine (Québecois-style fries smothered in gravy and cheese) — but are prepared with impressive skill. Start with one of Morrison’s signature “platters,” which come in three forms: ploughman’s (charcuterie and cheese), farmer’s (veg and cheese), and longshoreman’s (fish). Each is piled with house-made pickles, olives, and seasonal extras, plus specialty items — bluefish pâté, Vermont cheeses, and terrines — according to its type. Each could serve as a full meal. But if you stopped there, you’d miss the Scotch egg, wrapped in sausage and fried to oozing perfection. Or the vegetarian version of poutine, made with mushroom gravy. On the slightly lighter side, recent specials, like tender, crisp-skinned striped bass with shrimp, grits, and chorizo, and a plate of fluffy gnocchi with wild mushrooms and peas, demonstrated Morrison’s loftier chops.

Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the city’s newest cult dessert: the Bananas Foster Fluffernutter Brulée. Underneath the bruléed Fluff top are layers of peanut butter mousse, chocolate ganache, and rum-soaked bananas. It’s rich, yes, and meant to be shared, but it will haunt you for days.

1395 Washington St., Boston, 617-425-0200,