Review: The Gallows

The South End gets a killer gastropub
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  August 20, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

A special (on a rapidly rotating seasonal menu) on striped bass ($25) had a splendid chunk of fillet, mounted on white polenta so light I'd compare it to a soufflé, with a few sautéed greens to complete the platter. Berkshire pork loin ($22) was not the best way to get at this heritage pork, as the loin is too lean a cut. The platter was worthwhile for fried whole sweet potatoes as rich and sweet as I have always imagined them baked with 'possum, and garnishes of grape salsa and bits of avocado.

Brisket ($22) is the dish to have, when it is on the menu, as it is braised until falling apart, with remarkable flavor, alongside an ear of genuine summer sweet corn, and sautéed beet greens.

These days, restaurants are attentive to the beer list, the wine list, and craft cocktails. A "healer" ($9) is rye whiskey, lime, mead, and a bit of honey, making a small drink of better balance than many whiskey sours. The "zombie" ($9) is a light version of the classic rum punch with a paper umbrella. Winewise, I only got to the well-selected southern French varietal Carignanissime de Centeilles ($8/glass), which gets a solid, almost-Bordeaux-like nose out of the main grape of Chateauneuf. Local beers include Dave's Pale Ale from Connecticut ($6) — one of the hoppiest beverages ever sold in cans — and Rapscallion honey from Holyoke ($6), balanced between hops and honey, but blander than Dave's. When they do go international, it is to Belgium for the celebrated Delirium Tremens ($12), a deceptively pale colored double-strength ale with a book-length sequence of flavor impressions.

Desserts ($6) are a simple and effective list: a flourless chocolate cake served too cold so you can't break off pieces as fast as the flavor compels you; a berry crisp, mostly blueberry of late, with excellent cottage pudding crusts, but too much lemon juice our night; and a bananas Foster/s'more brullee, a blessedly small bowl of bliss where you reach through the browned meringue topping to get to rum-inflected banana chunks topped with some chocolate sauce.

Service at the Gallows (no jokes here) is not what you pay for, but it works. The servers can tell you where everything comes from, and they get the orders right. There can be gaps in production, so I recommend taking dishes as they come, since you will want to share. The room is bigger than you expect, and also louder when full, and there is also a soundtrack, mostly of reggae. I know there is a Boston beach in Jamaica, and reggae has had fans here since the '70s, but if you are doing locovore food, shouldn't you do locovore music? Why not?

Robert Nadeau can be reached

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