Night Owl: Hanging Out at Deep Ellum in Allston
In need of food-centric plans tonight? Enter Night Owl, in which Man Food blogger Richard Chudy tackles the city’s late-night options, one at a time.
Sometimes it’s not about where you start the night, but where you finish at the end. Deep Ellum seems to be the landing place for beer geeks and hipsters alike (bonus points if you can spot the difference) or just for those looking to sip a few suds while expanding their beer knowledge. Luckily, you can cozy on up to a pint of local or foreign beers and order some good food, not always the easiest combination to achieve. The bar/restaurant is open until 2 a.m., and depending on the time of night you come it can be tough to snag a seat.
Deep Ellum has a familiar vibe, as if you’re at a party where you kind of know people but not that intimately. The music is just below loud, the perfect volume for conversation, and just audible enough to capture the conversations of your inebriated neighbors. The beer list is rather daunting but you can’t really choose incorrectly; it’s not as intimidating a process as it easily could be, especially with an eager and efficient staff at the ready. The food speaks to the atmosphere and vice versa, and try as they might, the beer list is clearly the draw here. But that’s not a major critique; there are certainly far less appealing bars serving inferior food, showcasing buffalo flavored everything and sliders in every which way imaginable. The kitchen at Deep Ellum is at least trying to differentiate itself, with a lineup of small plates and entrees focused on the fried, the battered and the meaty. Pretzels (2 for $8) arrive warm and are derivative and a little heavy, served with a beer cheese that is smooth with a little bit of a bite.
Poutine ($7) is an easy dish to screw up and this version teeters on unevenness, but they still manage to keep the fries crispy, which is tough to do. Rosemary is applied too liberally and ends up as the dominant flavor, unfortunately covering up the delicate duck gravy. The cheese curds are about the size of a golf ball and are pleasantly creamy with just a little bit of chew. It’s a solid dish of gravy and fries for sure, but lacking any bit of special nuance.
Root beer-braised pork belly ($10) looks and feels more like an entrée than an appetizer. It’s artfully plated, substantial, and certainly a great value. The apple puree is the unofficial star of the dish; despite not being completely smooth, it is clean with pure apple flavor and an onion-y sharpness. Paired with the fatty belly and a pickled squash slaw it’s an enjoyable bite all in one, yet the squash needs more acid and seasoning. The pork belly is rich by nature, but could have been more tender.
The constantly rotating beers on tap at Deep Ellum are about as good as it gets in the city. Tap Brewing Company’s Cold Smolder, Van Honsebrouck’s St. Louis Guezue, and the Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Sucaba were particularly fantastic on our visit. The beer will keep me coming back again and again at any time of the night, and even though the food is generally just short of being memorable, it’s reasonably priced and a notch above its contemporaries in that department.
477 Cambridge St. Allston, 617-787-2337, deepellum-boston.com