Night Owl: Tackling the Late-Night Menu at The Abbey

This Washington Square hangout offers lots of variety—perhaps too much.

Need 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.


The dimly-lit bar at The Abbey in Washington Square. All photos by Katie Chudy for Boston magazine.

With the full dinner menu available until 2 a.m., it’s no wonder that The Abbey in Washington Square is bursting with life at all hours of the night. The quaint space is almost always at capacity by default, often looking busier than it would indicate, which in turn perpetually maintains its popularity. It has the look and feel of a neighborhood bar, and it is not uncommon to find clientele and groups of all sizes and ages. The Abbey is very much a tweener, gradually shifting from a casual dinner spot for local families early in the night, to a trendy feeling bar where you can actually hear yourself and your friends talk until late into the evening.


beef cheek dumplings

The menu is an adventure, mostly an unfocused one, that finds influences from Asian cuisine, Middle Eastern, Italian and good old Americana. Sure you could label it is as “New American” but that probably wouldn’t even begin to cover it. The meat of the menu is arranged by small plates and appetizers, making it accessible for the night crowd to share bites over cocktails and brews.  On this particular night, the three dishes ordered came out the kitchen at lightning fast speeds—less than four sips into my cocktail, all of the small plates had arrived.


Smoked cod fritters arrived as three greaseless and delicate rounds that had a very light yet pronounced cod flavor. While the smoke was barely more than a whisper, the seasoning and fluffy interior texture made these an appetizing and successful couple of bites. Far less interesting were the beef cheek dumplings and the fried halloumi. The gritty and mealy beef cheek and scallion filling in the fried dumplings was both meager and lackluster, all giving way to a gluey and lazily pieced together dumpling wrapper. I was expecting more of a luscious beefy flavor, but the dumplings instead tasted more like taco filling than anything else.


smoked cod fritters

The fried halloumi was engulfed in a thick and chewy batter which unfortunately covered up the star of the dish. All I could taste was batter, not the naturally salty, chewy Middle Eastern cheese. Halloumi doesn’t need not be battered at all in order to be fried at an optimal level, and this was proof.


fried halloumi

If deep frying is your thing, you better be well equipped to nail it each and every time. Unfortunately for The Abbey, they seem to take a quick bath in hot oil for granted. While the cod fritters were enjoyable, both the unnecessarily battered halloumi and unevenly filled and cooked beef cheek dumplings left a lot to be desired. While the cute atmosphere and welcoming staff was enough to bring us in for some cocktails, the food was not yet reason enough to stay for the long, late-night haul.

The Abbey, 1657 Beacon St., Brookline, 617-730-8040,