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May 30, 2008 08:49 AM

Cocktail crawl #1 - central square

I'm a lover of cocktails, and I'm trying to find, i guess, the perfect bar - just the right balance of atmosphere, service, quality and price, and somewhere where the food is at least up to the same par as the drinks. the closest ive gotten to my platonic ideal is deep ellum, but thats a different story.

anyways, this week a friend and i hit a few bars in the general central-inman square area: highlights:

green street: one of my favorites for drinks, but the food is pretty expensive - i couldnt afford to eat a meal here. i try to go here at least once a month, but strictly for a drink before a show or dinner elsewhere.
cuchi-cuchi: even more effete than i imagined from the name and exterior, but they put some thought into their menu, though its again expensive. probably wont go back unless im trying to impress a girl with how sensitive i am.
b-side lounge: good atmosphere, tasty and affordable food and drink (though not what i'd call cheap - my "po' boy" was $14), but its in that no man's land of inman square - its about 20 minutes away from everywhere else.

most of the other places in that strip are, by my research, basic beer places or hipster doofus hangouts, but im sure ive missed something; a diamond in the rough or an out-of-the way spot with good drinks and a modest menu.

also, im wondering what i should do for my next trip. based on an experience at the independent a while back, id like to return and check out that neighborhood. what else is around there besides east coast grill?

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  1. Miracle of Science probably meets all your criteria.

    7 Replies
    1. re: StriperGuy

      I don't really see MoS as being a mecca of cocktails (and more of a 'hipster doofus hangout', which given that I like a lot of the places in that area, what does that make me?), tho perhaps I'm wrong here.

      Hasn't Hungry Mother gathered some praise for their barwork? Can't remember.

      1. re: jgg13

        Indeed, I enjoyed some tasty cocktails at Hungry Mother just last night; far more restaurant than bar, though.

        What about Central Kitchen? Not that it's inexpensive, but for the cocktail potential? Enormous Room?

        1. re: jgg13

          MOS probably makes the best Margarita in town. They don't do some of the silly fru fru cocktails that are au courant, but they have very solid bartending and good food at very reasonable prices.

          1. re: StriperGuy

            They also make a solid dark & stormy but there's a giant jump between MoS and Green St (and I wouldn't go to Green St for the popular fru fru cocktails).

            1. re: jgg13

              Totally agree that food-wise Green Street, B-Side, Mother Cambridge are in a whole different league them MOS. But the prices are correspondingly less. On the cocktail front, old school standard cocktails, non-fru-fru I think MOS stands with the best of them.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                I usually go for a dark and stormy here, but I must say I ended up at Miracle for a martini with chowmom last year when we found Green Street wasn't open and it was just ghastly. To be fair, it was the bartender's first day and she was awfully sweet about the awful drink.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  I really like the burgers at MOS ... its a different price point (and one I'm much more likely to go to on any given day). Like I said, perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think of MOS when I am thinking about a place that's going to make a properly balanced rye manhattan (do they even have/use bitters there?), or some esoteric cocktail from pre-prohibition days.

                  When I think of the popular cocktails du jour, I'm thinking of the real bastardizations such as the modern cosmo, the -tini trend, etc (which I suppose since none of them contain bitters aren't technically even cocktails, if one wants to be pedantic)

                  Again, not knockin' the place, I go to MOS about 5x more frequently than the other ones mentioned combined.

        2. I'm surprised you say Green St. is too $$ but that B Side is affordable. I see no difference for the most part and think you can make a good meal out of apps at Green St. and be quite full (plus they have good bread & butter). I still wish Green St. would stick a burger on their menu tho. There's Garden at the Cellar but only beer/wine. Maybe Rendezvous for drinks and apps, on the high side too tho. Not sure what drinks are like at the Atwood Tavern on Cambridge St. between Lechmere and Inman.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Joanie

            Garden at the Cellar has a full bar. My gin and tonic last night was very nice (extra lime).

            1. re: swans

              Beyond highballs, the bartending at the Garden leaves much to be desired. I wish they had a better bartender because I think it is one of the highest value eateries around (tasty, somewhat elegant food at just-above pub prices).

              1. re: DoubleMan

                Yes, when I asked the bartender at G@C if they had a cocktail list, I received a slightly disdainful "no we don't."
                In Central Sq, Zuzu used to have a cool cocktail list, but it's been a long time since I was there. Also, in mid-Somerville, Highland Kitchen is a great cocktail stop.

            2. re: Joanie

              Atwoods has struck me as being very much a "beer bar". I don't recall seeing anything but the very basic stuff liquor-wise, but as a disclaimer I've never really looked (put me in a beer bar and i'm typically not thinking 'pisco sour').

              1. re: jgg13

                Atwoods tends to be quite competent, if uninventive, and is well worth a shot for the balance you seem to be looking for. An excellent basic pub.

            3. Is River Gods a hipster doofus hangout? Regardless, I like their food & drink. Enormous Room also makes surprisingly tasty cocktails, but they've gotten rid of their menu in favor of "free tapas".

              1 Reply
              1. re: gini

                I had a surprisingly good cocktail at River Gods. I can't remember what it was, but it was strong, generous, and well-made. I wasn't fond of the food, but others like it, and I did like cozy, Goth atmosphere. Plus, it's inexpensive.

              2. As a general rule I don't wait in line to get into places which often takes Middlesex off the list of possibilities but on a couple occasions I have gone there for after work drinks and it has been pleasant and chilled out. In the summer I enjoy a Pimm's cup and they made a nice one there although admittedly not as good as the one at B-Side which had a thin ribbon of cucumber lining the glass.

                Edit: Sorry. After work (after dinner is when there's a line).

                1 Reply
                1. re: heypielady

                  I agree with heypielady that Middlesex is a decent place to go as an early general rule of thumb is to arrive before they start charging a cover, which I think is 9pm. I've only had a couple of their drinks, but find them to be well made. I enjoy the Hangar One Lime vodka (which I know many do not like), and they carry it, so it's nice to be able to indulge.

                2. A little out of your geographic circle, but close enough, is the Independent in Somerville's Unions Sq. The bar side is probably more up your alley than the dining room side, though there is a bar there as well.