Gargoyles On The Square | 219 Elm Street | 617.776.5300
Gargoyles On The Square
Jason Santos is the kind of chef whose cooking makes me suspect he’d be a good drinking buddy: his food is inventive, playful, occasionally outrageous, not at all pretentious. It helps that his venue has an attractive but not stuffy bar and dining room, staffed by expert mixologists and servers without a hint of self-seriousness. I first sampled Santos’s poke, a highly seasoned Hawaiian salad of tuna crudo, at the lamented Dedo in Bay Village, and it’s just as fresh and vivid here. There’s a bit of mad-food-scientist technique in the 36-hour sous-vide short-rib entrée (using vacuum cooking at very low temperatures), but nothing that distracts from its intense flavor and melting texture, nor the sublime accompaniment of corn and salty Mexican cotija cheese. General Gau’s tofu is another winner, a vegetarian coup to make you forget every lamentable steam-table American Chinese version of this dish. Great desserts, modest wines, and entrées under $25 make this a place to check out on weeknights, thereby ducking the weekend mob scene.
The Biltmore | 1205 Chestnut Street | 617.527.2550
“You want me to haul my ass out to Newton Upper Falls? That’s like, what, almost on 128? Are you crazy, Slim?” Actually, no: the Biltmore proves my contention that finding extraordinary neighborhood places requires you to occasionally break out of your geographic comfort zone. And what a sweet little find it is: a former speakeasy and dive bar that new owners burnished up with a Prohibition-era veneer, yielding a noisy, breezy spot with two cozy dining rooms and one sturdy-looking bar. The cocktails are serious and well-made, the food the kind that makes you smile and sigh and keep eating after you’re full. Highlights include superb house-cured meats (especially a thick-cut, un-smoked bacon, served as a bar snack with deviled eggs), housemade pickles, Rhode Island–style stuffed cherrystones, lovely ale-steamed mussels, and fabulous plates of burgers, sirloin tips, and meatloaf. It’s all good, substantial, and under $20. The servers are hustling, funny, and apparently as in love with the food as the families who crowd in nightly. Instead of moaning about how your neighborhood doesn’t have similarly exceptional places, just get in your car.
: Food Features
, Beacon Hill, Jamaica Plain, Chris Douglass, More