Robyn’s Bar and Grill

Not your average ‘regular food’
Rating: 3.0 stars
November 7, 2007 5:34:02 PM
JIMMIE M ICE-CREAM SANDWICH: The signature dessert, served hot and humongous.

Robyn’s Bar And Grill | 4195 Washington Street, Roslindale | Open Tues–Wed, 5–10 pm; Thurs–Fri, 11 am–10 pm; Sat, 5–10 pm; and Sun, 5-8 pm | AE, DC, | DI, MC, VI | Full bar | No valet parking | Sidewalk-level access | 617.323.6507
With all the insanely expensive steakhouses going up, it’s good to see a quiet, steady revival of neighborhood pubs. Robyn’s Bar and Grill moved into trendy Roslindale Village just as a big wave of gentrification was beginning to ebb. The idea was that a menu of well-made, popular food would satisfy diners the way Doyle’s, the Galway House, and the West Roxbury Pub do — and if the chef had a real smoker and few ideas about Italian food, so much the better. The results bear out the theories, and Robyn’s is as good a place for a low-key family dinner as it is for watching a game with screaming fans.

Robyn’s makes a few concessions to 1950s plain eating, such as unripe freight-car tomatoes and plain white rolls (made up to look like French rolls and served hot, but you’ll still need butter to sustain the illusion). But after that, it delivers on several levels.

For starters, fried calamari ($8.50) are very nicely fried, a good sign for the Ipswich clams and other fried dishes. The dip is marinara and red-pepper flakes, plus a bit of uncooked wine or spirits that just needs a little time to work in. Caesar salad ($5.95) is pretty plain, but not every occasion requires a novel Caesar salad. And a garden salad ($5.95) features those unripe tomatoes. If you add grilled shrimp ($9.50), you get six big ones, though they don’t taste much better than the tomatoes.

Thankfully, you can avoid most of these appetizer problems with a wood-grilled pizza for the table. Our “prosciutto with fire-roasted tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, and scallion” ($11) was so wood-grilled it was actually burned a little, but so big you could just ignore the few burnt pieces. The yuppie-sounding toppings made a classic-tasting pizza pie.

A current special, the mixed grill ($16), was outstanding. The St. Louis smoked ribs ($18/full rack) were slightly smoked, with a nice chewy texture that lets one savor the sauce (which also seems to have some hickory-smoke flavor). A few of Mad Mike’s wings ($8 as an appetizer) were either interestingly baked or light-smoked with a peppery dry rub — like Buffalo wings without the greasy surface. And steak tips were a little overdone and dense, but the sausage tasted a lot like the one from the Greek butcher shop in Roslindale Village: solid and meaty. You get two side dishes with a dinner like this, and ours were far better than the usual at these prices. Green beans were fresh and crisp with a Chinese-style sauce; cole slaw had bits of fruit and nuts — just enough for interest, not so much as to make it weird.

Spaghetti and meatballs ($12.50) is another special that ought to stick (on the menu, and to your ribs). The two meatballs were nearly tennis-ball size, browned, and again more meaty and herbal than the usual starchy-filler style. The pasta was fully-cooked linguini (well, we’re not in the North End); the sauce was tomato and cream with maybe a splash of vodka — this time cooked into a harmonious richness.

Ten taps’ worth of drafts won’t rival Doyle’s, but the two we tried — Samuel Adams Octoberfest ($4.50) and Stella Artois ($4.25) — were clean-tasting, and good attention to detail was shown. There is a short and very reasonably priced wine list. (Just remember: red wine with steak tips; white wine with fried shrimp.) Coffee and decaf were made fresh for us on a quiet weeknight. Both were good.

Desserts are humongous. The signature item is the Jimmie M ice-cream sandwich ($6.50). There are no jimmies — it’s a hot, half-baked white-chocolate-chunk cookie with macadamia nuts in a cast-iron pan, topped with vanilla ice cream. An ordinary piece of chocolate cake ($5) is dense and rich enough for any yuppie, and big enough for four of them.

As for the dining room, it’s similar to all the nicer pubs in town, but newer and simpler. There are large TVs (no sound) that run sports. Service was friendly and quick, but it wasn’t a busy night. It might become friendly and slow with a full dining room.

New readers may be surprised to see a restaurant with “regular food” (one of the owners has called this “regular food with a gourmet twist”) getting three stars, while some of those fancy steakhouses are only getting two. But that’s how I see the world: execution counts more than degree of difficulty. The fact is, with some better tomatoes and a couple more taps and “gourmet twists,” Robyn’s could have had all four stars.

After my recent review of Smoken’ Joe’s Barbeque, I received an unusual e-mail retort:

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I love this place. I went and ate there a few weeks back. The ribs were unbelievable, and the mad mikes wings were great! I was able to watch the game and with a jimmy to finish it off, it was phenomenal.

POSTED BY bc11351 AT 11/07/07 10:24 PM
Because I'd like to see it succeed, I really wanted to like this place - and expected to after reading this particular review. I'm sorry to say that I thought the food was entirely amateurish. The artichoke dip appetizer was a hot mess of cheese with little to no artichoke to be found. The turkey club was stingy on the turkey (3 slices) and heavy on the bread. The pizza crust was good, but the toppings unimaginative and tasteless (like canned diced tomatoes). Perhaps its best to stick to the wings and bar food.

POSTED BY kiteecat AT 11/25/07 9:17 PM

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