First Bite: Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

In recent years, we’ve seen lots of transformations at The Rattlesnake. (Remember its brief, sad stint as “George: An American Bar?” Us either.) But its latest transformation has actually charmed us: Chef Brian Poe (who previously served as Curt Schilling’s personal chef) has taken over the kitchen, giving it a new name and a new food lineup. He’s done away with greasy bar food and replaced items like Buffalo wings and French fries with specialties like chiles rellenos, grilled avocado with lobster, and duck tacos. More mainstream bar fare, like nachos and quesadillas, still appear on the menu, but as more-sophisticated versions of themselves. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the less-than-speedy service.

On a recent sunny Saturday evening, we gathered on the roofdeck, which has been touched up with pastel paint instead of the stark black of the past. Fun drinks like the Scooby Snack (Midori, Malibu, and pineapple juice) and Sex on the Charles (Ketel One Citron, Blackberry schnapps, and tropical juice) arrived at the table 15-20 minutes after placing an order, finally followed by exotic brews for the beer snobs five minutes later (Doggie Style Pale Ale, anyone?).

The Antojitos (appetizers) range from steaming housemade chips with three dips; salsa fresca, tequila cream cheese, and minted tomatillo salsa ($6) to exotic small plates like the chile relleno ($8) and The Infamous Avocado (the grilled avocado with lobster, $12). The chile relleno was tiny but spectacular: one chili pepper stuffed with creamy goat cheese, salsa, and crunchy pomegranate seeds. If only it were more than four small bites! And the aforementioned pile of nachos came stacked with chunks of marinated beef, avocado, cheeses, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, beans, and more. All were viciously devoured in minutes.

As for the entrees, the smoked pork tacos ($10) included moist tenderloin, fresh chiles, and spicy sauce, but it would have been nice if the three lone shells arrived with rice and beans. Likewise for the quesadilla ($10) which was smallish and served solo, but filled with quality steak, crumbly cotija cheese, and mango salsa. On a previous visit–a press dinner–we also sampled the duck tacos, which are marinated in a unique mixture of cola and molasses. Our advice: Take the duck over pork.

If slow service frustrates you, you’re better off avoiding The Rattlesnake’s patio on busy weekend nights or on sunny weekday evenings (or just sitting inside). And if boisterous crowds annoy you, avoid it on weekends altogether. (There is almost always a bachelorette party going on.) But that’s The Rattlesnake; part of its appeal has always been the people watching. Chef Poe may have control over the kitchen, but there’s not much he can do to tame The Snake. And, though we’re loath to admit it, we’re secretly kind of glad.

Poe’s Kitchen at The Rattlesnake, 382, Boylston St., Boston, 617-859-8555,