Around Davis Square: iYo Cafe, Five Horses Tavern, Painted Burro brunch
A few notes from around Davis Square over the past month.
iYo Cafe: just tried this new place this morning. The space has kind of an industrial vibe (bare brick, exposed pipes), with plenty of space to sit. Unfortunately, if they are expecting to compete with Diesel they are going to have to seriously step up their game. Coffee is from Barrington, which is good, but an espresso I had this morning was fairly mediocre (nothing approaching what I've had at the Barrington cafe in Fort Point), and served in a large to-go cup to boot (they claimed to be getting small espresso mugs "soon"). I didn't try the drip coffee which might be better. In addition to coffee, they have yogurt, frozen yogurt, and waffles that you can top from an extensive toppings bar, although it is pretty hard to figure out what they offer since the screens they have to display the menu are on a 15-second rotation. The toppings were actually pretty good - I had yogurt with blueberries, mango, and granola - if a bit pricey. Lots of flavors of frozen yogurt, which I didn't try, but this may be there strength and is worth another look.
Five Horses Tavern: I initially wrote this place off after trying it soon after opening and being somewhat disappointed, as well as hearing pretty mixed reviews on Chowhound. However, I went here kind of a on a whim one night a few weeks ago, and was very pleasantly surprised. I had the Kentucky fried Cornish game hen, which seems kind of gimmicky but came fried to perfection, very tasty, well seasoned, and moist and tender inside the crispy exterior. My DC had the veggie burger and reported it to quite good, a vast improvement over the version from November 2011. Impressive beer list, too. Could easily join the regular rotation for Davis Square places, and seem to be hitting their stride about a year after opening.
Painted Burro brunch: Painted Burro started offering brunch about a month ago, which we finally tried yesterday. I had chilaquiles, made with tortilla chips, a pretty spicy red salsa, chicken, and two over-easy eggs. I am not enough of an expert on Mexican cuisine to comment on authenticity, but these were quite good, with a nice kick to them and perfectly cooked eggs with nicely runny yolks to mix into the dish. My DC went in a totally different direction, and had chipotle-chocolate chip pancakes, which were reportedly delicious but very sweet (as one might guess from the ingredients). Lots of egg options, including fried eggs over Yucatan meatloaf and a version of huevos rancheros that looked appealing. Overall very good and a nice addition to the Davis area brunch scene.
I like Five Horses Tavern, though it's on the pricey side for lunch.
They have an amusing obsession w/ pork belly.
My fav's so far: the duck config pizza, short rib tacos, calamari appetizer and maybe their burger (one time I had it and it was nice and crusty on the outside and moist on the inside so it was easily better than the Boston Burger Company...2nd time it was dryish so it's a tossup).
The crab cake sandwich looks tiny so I'm glad I never tried it...
Perhaps it is just one of my favorite rants, but i am not a fan of authenticity; I just want good food. In most countries there are plenty of variations on a recipe. Even if that variation comes from Somerville rather than some place in the Yucatan, if it tastes good, then I am for it. That said, i have read that the painted burro uses "authentic" recipes that were taken from the childhood of the Mexican cooks who work there.
I was impressed by the amount of work they've put into iYo. It's completely overhawled from its days as Farmer's Bounty convenience store. The coffee's rich and tasty, the baked goods fresh and worthwhile (both made in-house and sourced from Lyndell's). Friendly, personable owners. I think they'll do well.
I was also pleasantly surprised by Five Horses when we went a couple of months ago. I expected it to be another "gasbropub" but they seemed to be trying to do interesting things with the food and the beer list is great.
Thanks for checking out the Painted Burro brunch and reporting. It had looked promising so I'm glad to hear that it panned out. I've enjoyed my two dinners there.