All together now

Local venues offer 'one-stop shopping' for drinks, dinner, and partying
By HEATHER BOUZAN  |  February 21, 2007

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Ask us in a few months, and we’ll tell you how much we love a good bar crawl: the freedom to flit from conversation to conversation, the lists of drinks to choose from, the changes of scenery to keep our ADD at bay. But in the dead of winter, it’s hard enough to get us out of our fuzzy slippers and cozy apartment in the first place; hopping from place to place is simply not going to happen. These days, we find ourselves frequenting our favorite “combo spots,” the venues where we know we can grab a well-poured drink at the bar, enjoy a good meal, and then do some serious partying. They’re the hangouts where we can check our coats only once and wear our slinkiest tops without risking frostbite, the locales that allow us the luxury of one-stop shopping.

Bill Emery, managing partner of 28 Degrees (1 Appleton Street, Boston, 617.728.0728), says his South End joint attracts plenty of people looking to make a whole night of it. “Because of the lounge-style atmosphere of the space,” Emery notes, “we have a lot of people who come in, usually start off with drinks, end up having dinner, and then spending most of the evening.” Personally, we find it tough to hang at 28 Degrees without a bite from the raw-bar menu; it’s often recognized for its Taste of Tuna Tartare ($6), but the Island Creek oysters ($2.25/each) are a steal at $1 each between 5 and 7 p.m. From there, following up with a second course makes sense; we like the Maine lobster sliders ($21), which come with house-made salt-andvinegar chips, while the grilled strip steak ($29) is one of Emery’s favorites. No matter what you choose, 28 Degrees’s smaller plates and shareable dishes are group-friendly and ideal for grazing through the dinner hour. And, of course, we could drink the trademark frozen Bellinis ($9) all night, though Emery points out that the grapefruit martini ($11) and the blueberry-basil martini ($11) are two other hot winter cocktails.

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The Living Room

As latecomers arrive looking for more of a party vibe, 28 Degrees steps things up accordingly. “The music becomes a little bit more intense, the videos are a little bit more frequent,” Emery explains. “Then, if we have live stuff going on, fashion shows or anything of that nature, they usually happen later in the evening. So it definitely goes from being that dining experience to being more of a lounge-bar experience as the night goes on.” 28 Degrees hosts DJs on Thursday through Sunday nights; gender illusionist Verna Turbulence also performs on Sundays. On Thursdays, spontaneous events have been known to go down, including fashion shows, and dance and musical performances. Before you know it, closing time is looming, your tab is begging to be paid, and you’ve concluded a satisfying evening.

Ladder District hot spot Mantra (52 Temple Place, Boston, 617.542.8111) is often mistaken for a clubby, after-hours spot — and while that scene is stellar, Mantra deserves to be recognized as a dining destination as well. General manager Antoine Delgado explains the location’s changing identity, which he hopes will include the drinking, dining, and partying triple threat: “That’s basically the mentality we want [customers] to have now. And little by little it’s happening. We’re trying to create that culture.” That Mantra’s dinner menu has ever been ignored is hard to believe when you check out the breadth of its offerings, which include tandoor-fired stuffed quail ($17), grilled Colorado rack of lamb ($39), a deconstructed tasting of game hens ($39/one; $75/two), and vegetable Napoleon ($22).

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