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Feb 24, 2012 07:37 PM

Artbar in Cambridge

I'm going with friends tomorrow for the first time. Any suggestions from the group? Thanks.

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  1. Yes. Go next door to Dante instead.

    Artbar is an unremarkable hotel restaurant. My old office was 2 blocks away, so I had the misfortune of being dragged there by colleagues probably a dozen times. The only thing that I've found to be worthwhile about it is the patio. And frankly, I wouldn't ruin a summer afternoon on their patio by ordering anything to eat. Considering the patio is likely not all that appealing in February, that leaves you with little to be desired at Artbar. It's not bad, per se, just not particularly good.

    Dante, on the other hand, could be worth checking out. I've only been once, and it was for lunch, but it was an excellent lunch. The chef also runs Il Casale in Belmont which gets very enthusiastic reviews on this board, so I think there's reason to believe that my one excellent lunch was not an unusual experience there.

    I don't remember exactly what I ate, as it was two years ago now, but I do remember the pasta being homemade and very tasty, the arancini being the best I've had, and a selection of different house made mozzarellas and assorted toppings.

    I'd definitely go back to Dante. Artbar, only if I was forced to, and even then under protest.

    10 Replies
    1. re: BJK

      Did you have any drinks there (at Art Bar)? They've been getting a lot of press for their cocktail classes? At $20, they are quite a steal, but I wonder if it's subsidized by the idea of getting publicity and people through the door. The prices seem high (Hawthorne/No. 9 high) for drinks without having the bartender pedigree of those places.

      Dante's drink program used to have a strong force of Stephen Shellenberger running the show (during that time, he got recipes in Imbibe magazine). Not sure who is running it now.

      1. re: yarm

        Can't say I did. It's been a good 2 years since I've been there, but even then my beverage of choice was usually wine or beer. I'm a cocktail fan, so I have to imagine that if there was a serious drink program at that point I'd have ordered one.

        1. re: yarm

          I can't imagine the "cocktail classes" being anything special at Art Bar considering it is run by the Royal Sonesta. I was there for a quick drink 6 months ago, the back bar was very weak with very little (if anything) to offer in the craft spirits department. Some time ago I was there and the bartenders were complaining that Allagash White was too fancy. However they did recently put out an add for a bar manager with a craft cocktail pedigree.

          Since the change in bar mangers at both Dante and Il Casale the bar program has fallen tremendously. I don't know who the bar manager is (last I heard it was the same person for both establishments) but I have noticed an increase of flavored vodkas on the bars and a bbl aged Manhattan (what's the point) on the cocktail list.

          1. re: yarm

            I have been to artbar a few times and must say the drinks are high quality! I am a cocktail lover and lived in many different cities, the creativity on the menu here is top notch. I have not been to a lot of other places in Boston but would compare it on the same level as Hawthorne, Drink, Clio and Brick & Mortor. Def a hidden gem, the person in charge of the program is Troy..... and highly knowledgable. The prices are not cheap but the back bar is extensive and quality is not sacraficed, it you want a great drink its not cheap thats my opinion. Hope you have a great time like I did. I am going to be heading to Russell House heard some good things, since I have not tried.

            1. re: Xkgb_toronto

              Nice initial post - welcome - looking forward to more details from you on your other top notch cocktail experiences around town - have you tried Backbar yet?

              1. re: rlh

                Not Backbar yet, have been to ES loved it! ICO and Hawthorne all gems in my book. What I really love about these places if the focus on quality! You get what you pay for and that is really important. When I was traveling in South Beach I would say the same about a bar group called Bar Lab they ran the W hotel program really nice!!

              2. re: Xkgb_toronto

                Wow It's as good as Drink? So its basically the best cocktail program in the city? That's some high praise. What other bars do you like?

                1. re: ac106

                  Who best cocktail program in the city???

                2. re: Xkgb_toronto

                  What was your favorite drink at Artbar (and what was in it?) Thanks

                  1. re: barleywino

                    Well I had a few that were quite good....I can not remeber the names but can not forget the flavors!! a Japenese Whisky, Ginger Liq, Orange Bitters ( i think they make it there), St. Germain foam then they burnt green Chartruese on top. It was pretty cool to see the fire show! That drink stuck with me cause of the fire and it was awsome! It was not cheap I think it was around $18 but I would have another one.

            2. I am late to this thread but concur with BJK. Go to Dante. The Art Bar has overpriced tiny drinks, overpriced mediocre food and poor customer service. They trap a few tourists in there who are staying at the hotel, but not too many of us locals venture over. The patio is nice in the summer. I do approve of the patio. I have a coupon to use at the Art Bar and will only use it when the patio is open, but even then, it will be expensive and not very good. I do wish I had better feelings about it, but there you go.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mvi

                mvi and Barleywino nice to meet you call me xkgb.

                ok so I had to go back to see if it was pure luck or really that good from my prevoius post. I hate being misled and thought how could I be that off. So I went back last night with a girlfriend and sat at the bar. I spoke with the bartender that evening it was Liz. She was super friendly and very outgoing to all the people at the bar. The restaurant was not that busy but not a ghost town just steady. We ordered a few apps from the happy hour menu and got to work on the drinks. The drinks were great we stuck to classics to ensure the depth of knowledge(Last Word, Pegu Club, Orignial Pink Lady, French 75 and then we each had an original. The drinks were spot on, I did notice that Liz was a more junior bartender but her technique was correct on the drinks not to mention the most important details I think we all realize and would agree overlooked is service!! Liz was pleaseant, spoke with us, did not interupt our conversation, overheard us talking about food and chimed in with suggestions, very hospitable. Now I have not been to the depth of establishments in Boston yet but will be sure to be taking notes as it seems Boston truley is a cocktail town and quality is in this city no doubt!! I am excited to try the patio as I am a sucker for water and warm weather ( after spending so much time in California, St. Thomas and of course toronto) and can totally see what you mean.....Now I also have my eye on the water front as I hear some great places down there, any you reccommend?

                My final take was that it is a solid pick, i think you are sure to get a great drink, great food and both times on service was excellant. I think it can be improved as the bar does not create the atmoshpere that great bars do, there is not an area in the restaurant that is seperate from the dinning room so drinking on top of tables is awkward. Some of the glassware choices was a bit odd as i asked Liz and she said they are changing all of them so at this time akward. The entrance needs some appeal, it did not create that vibe of I have arrived and I never want to leave feeling now that being said what was served in the glass and on the plate great! I will return but not for a while since I was just here twice now and have a lot of other great places to see epscially with all the city has to offer!!

                1. re: Xkgb_toronto

                  If you haven't been to Drink , it's one of the very best places anywhere (seriously) for cocktails and quite close to a couple of waterfronts (Fort Point Channel and Boston Harbor) - do try to go off peak as much as possible for the best experience with the terrific bartenders there.

                  This advice is based on my most recent 4 visits on Thurs-Sat (and often Sunday as well!) from 6p onward it's become an overrun zoo scene - a door monitor holds you in line in the stairwell with very little communication and then eventually doles out a standing room spot by the wall or around a big column - you have virtually no interaction with the person actually making your drinks, though it will be properly made and taste great - it's just a disappointing overall experience on those nights that usually causes me to head elsewhere now (which requires quite a trek as there's nothing comparable nearby).