If there's a word that annoys me in restaurant reviews, it's "authentic," as the writer is usually assuming some authority on the cuisine that is probably unmerited. But I like it just fine when used to describe how a place feels, as in sincere: not arch, like the hipster joint that winkingly apes a dive bar, or pretentious, like the restaurant that thinks a velvet rope makes it "upscale and exclusive." Authentic joints pursue their chosen concepts without irony. Among my favorites of this type is the modest local bar with very good food and drinks and a minimum of high-concept cuteness. That pretty much describes the new Daddy Jones in Magoun Square.
For example, Daddy Jones features updates on retro dating-bar drinks like the '60s-vintage Harvey Wallbanger ($10, here using ice cubes made from OJ and subbing ouzo and amaretto for Galliano) without feeling the need to hang blacklight posters. Its Greyhound ($9) returns this classic highball to its original gin and grapefruit base and adds hints of thyme and honey, with tasty results. The Dirty Dill Infused Gin ($9) reads like a very dry martini; a garnish of pickled green bean, olive, and cocktail onion practically makes it a boozy hors d'oeuvre. The beer list leans crafty, with six drafts ($5–$7) and 15 in cans and bottles ($4–$6, large format $16–$18). Most of the thoughtful 19-bottle list of wines ($25–$40) is available by the glass ($8–$10). This includes bargains like the 2010 Elios Mediterranean White ($34/$9), a crisp, lemony moschofilero/chardonnay blend from the Peloponnese, and the 2011 Bodegas Volver Tarima Monastrell ($30/$8), an inky, spicy-hot red from Jumilla.
The short menu centers on home-style Greek classics, executed sensationally. Appetizers include beautiful stuffed phyllo ($6), fried turnovers of spinach, mushrooms, and cheese with a thin red-pepper dipping sauce. Dip & pita ($6) puts wedges of excellent grilled flatbread around coral-tinged whipped feta and roasted pepper, at once bright and briny. House-made smoked herring ($5), served atop grilled romaine with fried capers, lemon, and olive oil, is one memorable little starter: intensely salty and smoky, with a hint of open-flame char. Among the mid-courses is roast stuffed baby eggplant ($8) filled with a mix of ground beef, rice, and a few peas under a light blanket of roasted red pepper and melted kasseri, flanked with cherry tomatoes and sprinkled with fried parsley: hearty and delicious.
Entrées include a superb grilled sausage sandwich ($8) of first-rate loukaniko (a Greek pork sausage accented with orange peel and fennel seed), caramelized onions, and roasted peppers, wrapped in pita alongside excellent hand-cut fries (a few of which are also tucked into the sandwich). It's dressed with a fabulous tzatziki of thick Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and lemon. The grilled lamb skewer ($14) could not be simpler: big chunks of rich, slightly chewy, cooked-to-order marinated lamb alternating with red onion and peppers atop grilled transverse slices of eggplant and zucchini and a turmeric-tinged pilaf, with more of that fine tzatziki on the side.