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Aug 13, 2007 01:59 PM

Dude, my sandwich is so....colorful: a report on The Other Side Cafe

I promised I'd do a fresh look at The Other Side Cafe, and here it is.

First, about non-food circumstances. The place seems ideal for folks 30 and under, essentially the bohemian little brother to the nearby Trident Bookstore and Cafe, the perfect fit for students, slackers, bike messengers, and artsy types both real and wannabe. Background music is offered with this clientele in mind, though was too loud on one visit. Unlike the Trident, it also has a liquor license, with plenty of beers in the bottle and on tap. Its napkin dispensers, sugar shakers, and bathroom walls are plastered with graffiti, but closer observation shows the place is actually not as grimy as the decor might suggest. There's a little sign instructing folks to take a menu and seat yourself as you enter, so no one's standing on ceremony around here. Service, while a little on the free-form and non-chatty side, is not in the least unfriendly and gets the job done well enough. They also have a monthly-changing collection of work by local artists (complete with opening reception) on the walls, a Tuesday movie night, and occasional live entertainment. Plus there's plenty of outdoor patio seating.

By and large, the food was excellent, with everything seeming ultra-fresh. The electric hues of a curry chicken salad filling on sun dried tomato wrap were freakish (serious yellow inside red -- talk about your primary colors!), but the flavors were equally big and satisfying. The filling had a delightfully grainy curried tang enveloping chunks of chicken and walnuts, with lettuce to add crunch and diced tomato for sweetness. This was accompanied by fresh, if standard, potato chips. The humongous 'Bama breakfast was also first-rate, consisting of perfectly scrambled eggs (not too stiff, not too runny), good quality sausage links, beautifully sauteed fresh collard greens still wearing a nice sheen of oil, sturdy toast from well-above-generic light rye bread, and intriguing chipotle grits that were creamy with small chunks of pepper and topped with melted cheese, likely jack cheese -- a really tantalizing mix of smoothness with a dollop, not a blast, of spice. The only misstep was a side of home fries, which had nice onion and spice overtones, but weren't in any sense like usual home fries; these came as a big plop of mushy potatoes almost of mashed consistency. They also serve a nice, espresso-sized portion of wheatgrass juice, with the sweet smoothness you get only in good, recently culled blades of the plant.

I really enjoyed this place on revisiting, and would definitely recommend it -- a real breath of fresh air compared to the mostly overpriced and underwhelming options on Newbury Street.

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  1. i worked around the corner for ages and frequently chowed on the california wrap and the burrito. humongous and always fresh. they've got a great fresh juice menu too. always got a zippy zing from a shot of pear-ginger-lemon.

    excellent off-beat beer selection.

    i always preferred off-hours, cuz the place can get just too damn loud with speed metal music and hectic service.

    1. Thanks for that review. The Other Side seems to get overlooked often, possibly because it appeals to the grungier-seeming crowd. I have been a few times over the years and thought it was surprisingly good chow.

      1. I'll say this in their favor: the food isn't fake. You can tell what everything is, and yeah, it's pretty fresh. It's not like the quality of the ingredients is especially high. It's like grabbing a quick picnic lunch composed of ingredients you grabbed from the supermarket. And there's beer.

        Biggest downside: it smells like hippies in there.

        1. I was on Newbury St today and in need of a quick lunch so I stopped at Other Side, remembering that I had read some positive reviews here.

          I ordered a green salad topped with their chicken salad of-the-day (which was curry chicken salad). For $8.95 I got a very large plate of greens, cucumbers, red onions, tomato, and carrot, topped with a generous heap of curried chicken salad, and served with a small piece of okay French bread. The greens and veggies were very fresh-tasting, and the chicken salad was delicious - flavorful and not too gloppy, with some diced apple and cashews mixed in.

          Service was very quick. I ate outside, which was pleasant despite its location next to the Pike. The atmosphere inside seemed kind of weird.

          Anyway, I'll be back next time I want lunch on Newbury for a reasonable price.