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Is Deep Ellum on par with ESK and Drink?

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Hello hounds! Since I moved to Maine, i try to make the most of my Boston visits. I'll be staying with a friend of mine who lives in Allston, and I'm dying for a real cocktail. We were going to head to Drink, but since it's looking like the weather might be pretty lousy we thought about sticking closer to home and trying Deep Ellum. Would you say that for cocktails it's on par with ESK and Drink, or should we tough it out and slog downtown?

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Deep Ellum Bar
477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

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  1. I think the cocktails at Deep Ellum are excellent, a notch or two below ESK and Drink, in my opinion, but very good and easily the best in Allston and Brighton. Smaller but very good selection of spirits, aromatized wines, bitters, etc., solid training program (I've been shocked at the skill level of some 22-year-olds there), some nice housemade ingredients (e.g., their own Swedish punsch). The best beer bar of the three by a fair margin.

    ESK has room for a more expansive range of ingredients, features an excellent standard list of specialty cocktails (both Golden Age classics and their own originals in that vein) and the man at the top is one of the two or three best in town, but I've found some inconsistency from what looks like a B-team staff lately, possibly diluted by the opening of Island Creek Oyster Bar. Bigger and more diverse because it serves so much broader an audience. I think it has the best food and wine of the bunch.

    Drink is still at the top of the heap for cocktails in my book, still leading the pack in quality, innovation (they seem to introduce novel spirits and ingredients months ahead of the competition, were way ahead on punches and real Tiki drinks), use of ice (nobody hand-carves or uses the variety of ice they do, though the new ice-ball maker at Citizen is cool), and use of vintage barware. Theirs is the strongest lineup of bartending talent, with the most really extraordinary bartenders. They did themselves a huge favor by capping capacity on busy nights (there's a long line now on weekends): the experience still isn't as good as when it's slower there, but the experience is no longer utterly ruined by weekend mobs six-deep at the bar the way it was for a while. I wish the food were better and more reasonable. I don't mind that the wine and beer selection is so limited (by design), but that might be an issue for some.

    But I would be thrilled to have Deep Ellum in my neighborhood; if it were nearby, I might save ESK and Drink for better weather, when the travel is easier.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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    Deep Ellum Bar
    477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

    Island Creek Oysters
    296 Parks St, Duxbury, MA 02332

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      I agree with this analysis nearly 100%. Spot on.

      My only modification is I find it hard to order cocktails at Deep Ellum. They do a fine job, but they are much more of a beer bar, and they truly excel at that. Thus, like Slim, I put it below ESK and Drink for cocktails, but perhaps a bit further so.

      But, if you are already in Allston, by all means stay there and enjoy Deep Ellum. It is an excellent haunt.

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      Deep Ellum Bar
      477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

    2. If you are already in Allston, I would say stay in Allston in settle in at Deep Ellum. The service at Drink can be so hit and miss, regardless of the crowd, that it is not really worth your travel time when you have the wonderful drink options Ellum provides along with the fantastic food options available to you in the nearby neighborhood.

      Drink basically does not live up to the reputation it has achieved.

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      Deep Ellum Bar
      477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

      2 Replies
      1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

        I agree that Drink can be very frustrating and downright bad when busy. If you have a relationship with one of the bartenders, however, and can get in there between 4-6 then it is a truly superb bar (and Deep Ellum isn't in same league). That's obviously not ideal, though. I blame the scene-seekers who swarm the place on weekends but still order vodka-tonics.

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        Deep Ellum Bar
        477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

        1. re: DoubleMan

          Oof, agreed: vodka tonics, dirty vodka "martinis", light beers, and the woman who wanted "a cucumber vodka 'martini' like [she] got at The Living Room, and if you don't have that, then Champagne." Yep, that's what you go to Drink for. Even with the crowd control, I avoid it on weekend nights. Late Sunday afternoon / early evening can be nice, though.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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          Living Room
          101 Atlantic Ave, Boston, MA 02110

      2. thanks guys. Helpful as always. Deep Elllum it is!

        1. Deep Ellum is my favorite of the three, but as an overall measure, not just for cocktails. Slim summed things up pretty well. Drink is the tops around for cocktails, but does have it's flaws. I think that ESK *can* top DE on any given day in terms of cocktails but won't always do so. I enjoy DE's atmosphere, vibe & beer list as well which pushes it over the top for me.

          The one annoyance is how easily crowded it can get, being a tiny space.

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          Deep Ellum Bar
          477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

          2 Replies
          1. re: jgg13

            Atmosphere is the key. I really like the Deep Ellum atmosphere, which I find cozy and neighborhood-like. And in the summer when the deck is open, it's my favorite deck in town.

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            Deep Ellum Bar
            477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

            1. re: Jenny Ondioline

              That deck is indeed awesome.

              Drink definitely has, and seems to want, a stuffy atmosphere. That's fine, sometimes I'm in the mood for that.

              For whatever reason, I've never really warmed up to ESK's vibe. On game days, it's just full of meatheads like every other place down there, so that's one thing. But even on non-game days, I dunno. Something I can't put my finger on is somewhat off putting. It's not *bad*, I just don't ever find myself saying, "Hey! I wanna go to ESK!", rather I happen to be near there and say, "oh yeah, ESK is right here".

              I like the description of "cozy and neighborhood-like" for Deep Ellum. As long as it ain't chock full (which it often is, boo) I love hanging out there.

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              Deep Ellum Bar
              477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

          2. Is Evan Harrison still at Deep Ellum? Quite a well-respected bartender, and a total sweetheart. He'll be the strawberry blond guy.

            http://drinkboston.com/tag/evan-harri...

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            Deep Ellum Bar
            477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

            1. So we did end up at Deep Ellum, which was fantastic. The aviation was about perfect, and I think the burger is one of the better ones in the city. Deviled eggs were a salty treat. Only down side was the packed crowd, but that is to be expected on a Saturday night. Soooo many hipsters.

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              Deep Ellum Bar
              477 Cambridge St, Allston, MA 02134

              5 Replies
              1. re: tamerlanenj

                The *real* hipsters don't go there anymore 'cause as Y. Berra said, it's too crowded. ;)

                1. re: djd

                  We particularly like one fellow seated near us wearing a plaid flannel blazer, a tie, with a full hipster beard, and horn rimmed glasses....I guess the Williamsburg trends hit Allston about 5 years behind schedule.

                  Edited to add: I'm not some old man (just turned 30!), and I mean it all good naturedly. Nice to see young folks out having a good time at a quality establishment, rather than sucking down PBRs at the Model (not that there's anything wrong with that, either).

                  1. re: tamerlanenj

                    Gee, you don't get to Allston much, do you? That look's been happening there for years.

                    1. re: robwat36

                      Not since 2003 or so. Back then it was tight ironic t-shirts: a bonus if it had ringed neck and sleeves.

                      1. re: tamerlanenj

                        Ah yes. Allston wasn't far behind Williamsburg on the transition from trucker hat to fedora--much shorter time period, come to think of it, than the usual New York-to-Boston food trend lag.