edible weekend: Flour, Delux, B-side - not short
Had a friend visiting for the weekend and ended up eating out more than my usual amount, thought I'd provide a report to the hounds.
Planned to visit Speed's Hot Dogs and share the joy, but there was some construction happening where he usually parks his wagon, so he wasn't there. This was of course devastating (for the uninitiated, Speed sells huge, fabulous hot dogs on a corner of Newmarket Square, south of Boston City Hospital), but we recovered enough to go for sandwiches at Flour Bakery, on Washington St. in the SOuth End. Had the BLT and the roasted chicken with jicama and avocado spread. Both were perfect. (Their innovation with the BLT is to grill it, which works extremely well with their bread. In the summertime, I had one made with purslane instead of lettuce, which is great too -- nice lemony snap.) Jicama (cut into matchsticks) works very nice as a crunchy contrast with the more highly flavored ingredients in the chicken sandwich. I think the bread was the same for both sandwiches, though grilled for the BLT. It's excellent for sandwiches -- not a brittle-crusted country bread, more of an artisanal interpretation of Pepperidge Farm.
Went to the Delux thursday for drinks and dinner -- while I can't rave about their food, I still think it's a great place. The food (a pasta with sausage, chicken, peppers, tomatoes, garlic -- tasty, though not anything I can't make myself; and a pretty decent, slightly overcooked pork chop with good garlicky chard and mashed potatoes) isn't spectacular, but it tastes like there's someone in the kitchen who cares, and all the entrees are under $10. This alone seems like an achievement to me (especially in its high-rent neighborhood). The place itself is fun, a very lively bar scene with lots of Elvis memorabilia on the walls.
Went to the B-side saturday for drinks and dinner. First, I appreciate that they keep most of their interesting cocktails fairly affordable (6 bucks for most of them, less for basic mixed drinks, which counts as a bargain in the land of the 8-12 dollar martini). they're not as supersized as some places' drinks, but I enjoy being able to have more than one and stay relatively lucid. We decided to split six appetizers and sides among three people, which worked out very well. We had the mussels, shrimp skewers, chicken livers on toast, beef short ribs (well, *one* short rib), and sides of polenta and grilled asparagus.
The mussels were excellent and abundant. The shrimp skewer was okay, but a bit cold and slightly tough. The corn relish and shredded radicchio that came alongside was excellent, though. The chicken livers were just not my thing -- I thought the texture was pasty, but my friends liked them. The beef short ribs were good, not perfect (they could have been cooked a little more patiently, which would have made them less fatty and more tender) but had great flavor and lots of tasty gravy to sop up with the bread. The polenta was very creamy -- fine with the short rib gravy, though I like it more corn-y. The asparagus was excellent -- lightly charred, firm-tender, nice buttery sauce. For dessert we had the cookie platter (disappointing, advertised as fresh-baked, but they all were pretty hard and barely warm. Decent cookies, but nothing special); the pecan pie (nice, not too sweet); and the sorbet trio (lemon, raspberry and mango -- all decent, I thought the mango had the most flavor). In general, I though that all the dishes were very well conceived, though a few could have been executed a little better. BUt in fairness, it was a busy saturday night and there were more hits than near-misses. One dish that I *have* to recommend (for anyone still reading -- sorry about the length!) is the vegetable sampler. It's not on the menu anymore, but I'm sure they'd put one together if asked -- it's all the vegetable side dishes on one platter. I had one several months ago, and for 12 or 14 dollars, it was stunning. Rather than the grilled out-of-season zucchini, eggplant and peppers that plenty of restaurants pass off as a "vegetable entree", this was well-thought-out. A nice bok-choy salad and a spinach puree with indian spices were the two standouts that I remember, but *everything* on the plate had been made with good seasonal ingredients and plenty of care.
The B-side has lately been scrupulously observing the fire laws re capacity, which makes for a wait outside, but much less crowding inside. The vibe is still very hip but friendly (at least that's *my* interpretation of the vibe!), and the bartenders and wait staff are all helpful *and* cool.
I just dreamt that I went to the Delux which I haven't been to in years, mostly cuz I don't want to wait or have people's asses in my face as I eat. Need to go back. The B Side is one of my favorites but their food prices seem to keep creeping up. And only had a sweet thing at Flour but those sandwiches look amazing. How are the hot dogs at the place across the street, Code 10 is it?
Oh, rest assured, there's still a good chance that you will wait *and* have people's asses in your face at the Delux! Although I imagine both are worse on weekends -- the wait and the crowd density were not too bad on a thursday night. And it *is* fun.
Re the B-side, I'm with you on the prices -- I remember when they opened, most of the menu was about $12 and under. They seemed to go more upscale with the dot-com boom. How are the 18 dollar entrees?? They always look pretty good on the menu, but I'm usually there for drinks and apps.
I used to like the B-side, but the last time I went (a year ago?) I heard they got a new chef, and it showed: the food was just short of mediocre.
My pork chop was blown away, apps were OK, and no one else in my party raved about their meal. Haven't gone back since for dinner - only for drinks.