Backbar Open and Worth Seeking Out
Stopped in last night after learning they were opening this week - seems truly speakeasy style for now with only a small handwritten sign on a solid metal door - I ended up going into Journeyman and asking then was pointed though the back and down the hall.
The L-shaped room is mod, seems kind of unfinished, and the lighting is weird. Walking up to the packed bar in the back, I was greeted by a really gracious host - she explained nicely that all seats were full but that I was welcome to wait by the entrance for an open one - and then brought me a menu (a few drinks, mostly new twists on classics, along with some tasty sounding small bites) and a complimentary glass of delicious punch.
Seeing Bryn Tattan behind the bar (and relieved later to learn she's still at Drink on Mon and Tues nights) and loving her Old Fashioneds , I asked for one. I also asked about the little "Reserved" signs on some tables with open seats - they do take reservations (by phone for now) for both table seating and at the bar - I'd recommend it given the crowd there last night.
I was seated at the bar before my drink was even ready (under 10 minutes) - Bryn, Sam, and Joe (new to me, from a bar in Southie) were really humming along behind a pretty small bar and putting out top notch drinks again and again while also conversing with customers. It was lively and energetic and fun. I'll be back and hope it's not also overrun by then.
9 Sanborn Ct, Somerville, MA 02143
I've been a couple of times now and really like this place too.
I've had the eggnog milk punch (delicious) and the Golden Dawn (apple Brandy, Beefeater Gin, apricot, orange, + pomegranate), as well as a couple of scotch/bourbon-based cocktails the bartender suggested and have liked them all. When a friend of mine didn't care for her drink (she didn't say anything, but he noticed her wince when she sipped) he quickly replaced it with something else. Service was definitely a highlight here.
The room does feel unfinished, sort of like someone's cool basement with a small bar, some low couches and a couple of high-top tables. I like the idea that they plan to control the crowds and even that you can make reservations (I'm sure I'll grumble when I try to go and can't get in, but for now I'm pro-keeping it low-key!).
Last night we tried to taste a good portion of their drink list, as well as a couple of food stuffs. Here's the nitty gritty:
Daiquiri Time-Out - expertly made
I asked about their version of an Americano (being one of my favorite drinks). The bartender told me their version is Campari, Fernet, and Coke. I get that it's a "bartender drink" and I get that he then asked me why I made a face - "Is it the Fernet? Have you ever had it?". Yes, I have and that's not my issue. Frankly, why would you ever want to hide the delicious taste of Campari with some way too sweet Coke? Fine, I'm a snob - I hate cola-products and love my Campari to stand out. I'm not a cocktail guru, and that's that.
a riff on a Pisco sour that had pineapple foam as its topper - the nose on this drink was outstanding, as was the way the foam melted in.
Friends also tried their Manhattan, which was greatly enjoyed, the Smoke & Coke - a cool twist with Moxie, smoked ice, rum, and a spritz of whisky - as well as the Union Mule - a spicy mix of St Germain, pear gin, citrus & ginger.
Bartender also gave us a taste of the their Eggnog milk punch, which was delightful - for those not familiar with a milk punch, you need to try this.
Food wise, we split:
fennel soup with poached oysters (yes!), warm olives (sure), bread & butter, spicy caramel popcorn (not my thing, but another liked it a lot), a slice of Robiola (for $12, really?), and then some charcuterie:
duck gizzard, which was a bit too crunch for my taste. Additionally, this preparation tasted exactly the same as if I had taken the parts out of the duck at home and boiled them on the stove top to make a gravy.
rabbit galantine & pork terrine (was it a terrine? I can't remember) - both seemed fine, but I wasn't overwhelmed.
The bottom line: hooray for cocktails! Food - I'd rather go up front to Journeyman or one of the other excellent joints in Union. That said, it's nice of them to put a couple of snacks on the menu.
Yes, the "plate of goodies selected by your bartender" ($15 per person) was a bit of a miss - and FYI it's a pre-set plate, not something the bartender whips up with your preferences in mind. Once we added on the cheese and rabbit that appealed off the chalkboard menu, it came to $49 for basically a charcuterie plate for 2. Yikes.
Union Mule was delicious - not at all cloying like most St Germain drinks are these days. Nouveau Carre was a play on the Veiux Carre, with tequila and mezcal and other things I forget. I couldn't taste any smoke in the smoke 'n coke(they use smoked ice) - perhaps it's too subtle for me. Then again, it was my 3rd quite strong cocktail....
I'll be back for drinks (as often as possible!) but agree with Gini that the snacks really aren't the strong point. Too bad they were out of the pork cracklin's - maybe they were the magic piece we were missing....
Went this afternoon and really enjoyed it. They do take reservations, as noted above, and there are some specials that are only available via reservation: tableside bartending, punch service, and cocktail/food omakase. It was great talking to Sam and having him back in the Boston scene. As MrLit noted, there's no way we poor suckers deserve the embarrassment of excellent cocktail joints now at our fingertips on both sides of the river.
Indeed. Also worth pointing out that the Independent's cocktail program has significantly improved (it initially suffered after Evan left to go to Deep Ellum), so if you want to hit two places in a night or if you need a place to wait for something to open up at Back Bar, there are options in that neighborhood.