Geoffrey's wine list is good, but not special, and doesn't list vintage years — which frankly doesn't make that much difference on big-production items like Alamos malbec ($8/glass; $31/bottle). What would make a difference is larger glassware. It doesn't have to be huge, fragile, and expensive — all they need is dishwasher-safe, standard red-wine glasses that would hold some aroma. Cocktails are modern, and I am sticking to classic until I know them better, but a "Strawberry 'Rita" ($7.50) was quite successful in preserving the sour-salty idea of a margarita along with some strawberry flavor. To get the smoky flavors of quality tequila shining through, though, you may have to go up two blocks to Tico and pay another five bucks. A nice pick in a bottle of beer is Julius Echter hefe weizen ($5.95), which has a lot of warm, spicy aromatics for a half-wheat style. Coffee ($2.50) and tea ($2.50) are cheap and undistinguished. My decaf ($2.50) was frankly poor — it's always harder to make good decaf and keep it.
But desserts are a highlight, and not to be missed, even if you split one several ways. "The best damn Key lime pie you'll ever eat" ($6) is pretty close to that, and also the biggest such slice I've ever been served — classic yellow color and distinctive Key lime flavor, not oversweetened. Tres leches cake ($6) is here attributed to Puerto Rico, although I believe it was developed in Nicaragua, and has spread across Latin America and the Caribbean primarily through Miami. Whatever, this is another biggie, but captures the original notion of a medium-weight cake soaked just enough in a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk or cream. There are a lot of oddball versions of tres leches around, but this is what it is. Dark chocolate mousse ($6) is another classic rendition, although one must work under and around a lot of whipped cream to get to the mousse. Blackberry crème brûlée ($6) has some berries under an otherwise typical dish, with perhaps double the burnt-sugar layer of the usual item.
Despite outstanding value, Geoffrey's does not stint on service, nor rush you out, nor are tables more crowded than those in places where you spend more money. The obvious missing elements are visually arresting presentations — which I am happy to surrender, on these terms — and celebrity-level innovation, which can be good, but I certainly don't require it on a regular basis. The chef is not going to be invited to the James Beard House to demonstrate the "signature" cream of tomato soup, or the "amazing" steak tips. But I've never eaten at the James Beard House, whereas I have been caught hungry and a little light on cash in the Back Bay Station area more than a couple times. Not everyone will use this restaurant to propose marriage, but the kind of no-nonsense couples who might make the big decision at Geoffrey's — I'd enjoy their dinner parties, I bet.
142 Berkeley street, Boston (back bay)
open monday–friday, 11 am–12 am; saturday and sunday, 10 am–1 am
ae, MC, Vi
No valet parking
Access up six steps from sidewalk level
Robert Nadeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.