ISO of a hip new restaurant with good drinks, hipster vibe
Taking friends who have been living away from Boston for a few months and want to show them something new and lively. Ideally, a place where we could linger over some great cocktails as well as food. I am thinking along the lines of myers+chang, Toro, Butcher Shop, Silvertone, Gallows...not necessarily these, but some new version of these- a place with some good energy and liveliness to it. in my ideal world, also a place that takes reservations, since we don't have time to wait for a table, as we will be dining late as it is (which, on a Wednesday night, might not require a wait anyway). I know there a lot of new restaurants in Area 4- do any of these fit the bill? Extra points for good lighting and a great soundtrack.
1704 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118
69 Bromfield St, Boston, MA 02108
The Area Four/Kendall places will all likely be pretty slow later in the night on a Wednesday. Of those, Abigail's is the best for cocktails but I prefer Area 4 for food and atmosphere (Area 4's cocktails are surprisingly weak given the general ethos of the place and the overall cocktail trend in Boston). Catalyst is a different sort of place than what it seems you are looking for.
The other new Kendall spot, Firebrand Saints, is pretty crappy, I think. We went a few weeks ago and almost all the food was terrible or, at best, fine. And, based on our discussion with the GM, I don't think it was opening jitters, but instead just really bad decisions. For example, the french dip sandwich had three pieces of 1/4-1/3-inch thick slices of underseasoned beef. I never want to meet the person that can bite through a sandwich like that. You really need knives as teeth to do it. The veggie sandwich was similarly difficult to eat and when we talked to the GM, who welcomed our honest feedback, he said that they considered having smaller pieces of vegetables to make the sandwich easier to eat, but decided to go with the larger pieces to make it look pretty. If that's the decision process they admit to, I worry. The porchetta sandwich was full of grisly, chewy fat - my dc left 2/3 on the plate. The deviled eggs had no devil in them, but apparently had lobster. I didn't taste the lobster, and nothing on the menu or from the waitress when we ordered implied that ingredient. I think that's a big mistake for the restaurant - including a common allergen in a place that no one would suspect, and without any warning, is a really dumb move. It was fine for our group, though, on the allergy front. We were more concerned about why a restaurant would put an expensive, more subtle ingredient in what is normally a highly-flavored bar snack. The overall result was a subpar deviled egg that costs the restaurant way too much to make. Similarly unimpressive were the potato salad with bacon and saffron (tasted just like a run of the mill potato salad) and the fried, battered onions (no crispy coating, and the onions all stuck together in a couple large pieces). The pork and veal burger and the creme fraiche cole slaw were much better, but still not anything that would pull us back. $3 for the very small sides also doesn't seem like a good deal. When the sandwiches come sideless, getting a side pushes the prices up pretty high. For example, the incredibly mediocre french dip with a side of coleslaw would be $17. No thanks.
Drinks and service were fine, however, and the space is pretty cool with an interesting video art installation. Unfortunately, it seems that the art installation received much more thought from the owners than the food did. I probably won't be back unless there are some significant changes. I know it's usually a jerk move to write off a new place after one visit, but I felt like this place needed wholesale changes to be anywhere near good.
Also, the bar stools with the low backs are easily the most uncomfortable bar stools I've ever sat on. Luckily they had backless ones in a different part of the restaurant that we were able to switch with. The low back offered no support and just pushed me forward on the smallish seating area (basically the same as the backless Drink stools) so that I felt like I was sliding off the stool, which forced me to brace myself with my legs on the bar in the front of the stool. This wasn't because I'm some lardass who can't fit in seats either - everyone in our 5-person group felt the same way, including a very petite woman.
For a lively place with a hipster vibe, good food, and cocktails, my go-to is always Highland Kitchen. Sometimes I'll hit the Independent, but I think that's a step down for food. Those aren't new, but I think they've proved their worth time and again.
Although I would not consider it a hipster vibe at all, Island Creek Oyster Bar is very lively in the bar area, has superb cocktails, and some very strong (but also some not so strong) food.
150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
Island Creek Oyster Bar
500 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215
Although I agree that ICOB isn't exactly "hipster," you'll get that kind of cool-kids crowd there, especially on a weeknight.
Highland Kitchen is dead-on, but only takes reservations for 6 or more. Trina's Starlite Lounge has the right vibe, too. Both aren't that new.
Among newer options: Citizen Public House (by the Franklin Cafe people; I love the place, though I've been hearing negative front-of-house tales lately...) and Area Four (the restaurant; but DoubleMan may be right about its Wednesday-night crowd).
150 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
Trina's Starlite Lounge
3 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143
500 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
I've not been there on a Wednesday night, but Abigail's is pretty cool, with very good beer and cocktail lists.
I never notice the music anywhere unless it's notably terrible.