DUMB DELIGHT Most of the fare at Ledge is uninspired, but the desserts — like these Eskimo bites — rise above.
The idea of Ledge Kitchen & Drinks is fantastic: Irish contractors take over an old neighborhood bar in the most distant reaches of Dorchester, fix it up, and hire some young chefs to make it a gastropub. Even better, they put on a green roof so you can eat right from the garden, and they set up a 60-seat outdoor patio inside the block, so you are insulated from street noise. They have a good list of beers and wines, and even classic cocktails. Yet the food turns out to be the same mix of comfort favorites and little cheffery all the gastropubs are doing, and while it's not bad, it's seldom inspired. In fact, until dessert, I was pretty much entirely uninspired.
One problem is that I don't like to eat seriously outdoors. My palate is not fabulous, and the wind blows everything away from my nose. I concede that the patio is one of the best in Metro Boston, right up there with Oleana's, and if you like outside, you will have a really good time on a nice night at Ledge.
I also may have compromised my enthusiasm by starting with the most classic cocktail on the short list, "Mike's Sidecar" ($11). A sidecar is a Parisian device for getting brandy (here, Hennessy) into the bloodstream more quickly through the catalytic use of orange liqueur (here, Cointreau), a splash of citrus, and a cocktail glass with a sugared rim. The Ledge bartender did all of this impeccably, and after a long day, sitting in a lovely patio at twilight, I quickly took myself somewhat out of my designated taster role.
They have warm white rolls with a pour of olive oil laced with pepper and herbs. Good. Thinking about the roof garden, I tried a special salad of watermelon and heirloom tomatoes ($14). Nope, come back in August. Flatbread pizza with seasonal vegetables ($12)? I guess it's always the season for green peppers and onions somewhere. It's an excellent pizza, with lots of cheese and some winter basil (probably not off the roof). Baby back ribs ($12) were fair enough. The menu admits they are "slow roasted" and thus not really barbecue, but they were delicious and fun to eat.
The lobster roll ($18) was good, generous, but not great in terms of that really sweet live-lobster taste. What makes the plate is house-made potato chips. Clam chowder ($6): I used to close my eyes and taste the broth. Sometimes it would taste like clams, sometimes like celery or chicken or even beef. This "broth" is thick as wallpaper paste and tastes like bacon, bacon, bacon.
Fish and chips ($17) are heavily battered, excellent fish in the Anglo-Irish style, with a nice scoop of nice coleslaw, but limp fries. Memo to chefs: potatoes are fried at a higher temperature than battered fish or chicken. So you need at least two fry machines, and three if you use the popular twice-fry method on the potatoes.