HIGH MEDIOCRE Some dishes, even if not spectacular, are still pretty good — like this braised-short-rib quesadilla.
Regular readers may have noticed that this column doesn't quote the guests. I tell my guests: I am the arbiter of taste; you have a good time. I wouldn't say my dinner companions aren't ever worth quoting, but their main function is to order things I would never order, such as vodka martinis, well-done steaks, or crèmes brûlées. Wonderful things can be discovered by tasting what other people get, whereas only an occasional apt phrase or joke would be uncovered by letting them play Junior Restaurant Critic.
Thus, at B Street Restaurant & Bar, one guest, who had been there before, insisted that the chocolate pudding ($7) was "mediocre." I agreed but added, "You know, mediocre chocolate pudding is still chocolate pudding. It's not like being lieutenant governor of Rhode Island. It's more like batting seventh for the Yankees." There is such a thing as poor chocolate pudding, but the stuff at B Street is actually on the plus side of mediocre, having no off flavors or distracting additives. Personally, I would rather have mediocre chocolate pudding than a great vodka martini, but I keep an open mind.
B Street was formerly Pie Bakery, but the same owner has kept only one sweet pie and no savories. Bread is a really good crusty Italian bread sliced for dipping in extra-virgin olive oil. A grilled-cheese sandwich served with the "roasted tomato bisque" ($8) steals the platter, since the soup is real but — with early July tomatoes — not a winner, while the sandwich, on thick slices of bread, is blue-ribbon comfort food. Pumpkin hummus ($6) benefits from cut-up fresh naan in place of the predictable pita, and pumpkin mush with a hint of sour is summer fun. The iceberg wedge ($8) is another comfort classic, doused in creamy dressing and chunks of real bacon. We forgave the thin-sliced tomatoes.
But my favorite appetizer is the unlikely braised-short-rib quesadilla ($11) — shredded beef with cheese in a thin wrap turnover, served cut in quarters on a bamboo board. It's not Mexican in any way, but it is awfully good.
My pick of the entrées was pan-seared local cod ($19): sweet as ever, over some cubes of summer squash with the flavor concentrated in the baking, and couscous blended with crunchy buttered crumbs. The sirloin steak ($26) was served medium-well as ordered, its flavor enhanced by caramelized onions on top, with baked mushrooms, asparagus, and a potato cake like a diet latke. Nothing clever, but it's all good. Same for a special on a lobster roll ($22), served on sourdough bread, as they were out of the intended ciabatta. We ate the top slice, picked at all the lobster meat, and ignored the rest. It came with a dandy salad/salsa of corn, chickpeas, arugula, and onion. Pricey but fine.