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Commonwealth - Cambridge

Now that I've been to Commonwealth three times, I figured it was a good time to throw out some early thoughts.

Our first meal was a dinner on their first week. The sides were (and still are) comically overpriced at $9. On what planet ~10 potato wedges or a tiny cast iron pan of plain old roasted brussel sprouts is worth that is beyond me. The highlight of our meal was a spinach salad with a really great cheddar cheese. The mint chip ice cream was also very good.

Second meal was lunch. We shared the steak and cheese and brisket sandwiches. Both sandwiches felt like they were missing something to cut a little of the fat, but were still quite good.

Third meal was also lunch. We both had the pastrami sandwiches which were outrageously good. Served on marble rye with cole slaw and thousand island dressing. Also comes with fries and a side salad for $12. Really solid value at lunch. They were also cranking out the food quite quickly, so it totally works as a work lunch spot.

I recall six beers on draft (Jacks Abby, Night Shift, Dogfish Head, Stone, Weihenstephaner and Brooklyn) as well as a crafty bottle and can list.
Service at the bar has been very good. Some of the waiters are still a little raw, but that will most likely improve with time. We will definitely be back for that pastrami. Also excited to try their Sunday brunch. Not sure if we will do dinner again in the near future. Not crazy about the value proposition as compared to other places in the area. I haven't gotten to try any of the food in the market area beyond the ice cream, but they've done a really nice job stocking that space. Chef Nookie has also been there on each visit, and he's been working the line each time.

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  1. Ive been hoping to see some reports on Commonwealth. I've only made it to the market and cafe so far, which is not all that helpful for actual grocery shopping but contains some nice looking specialty and homemade items. The pastry I had was very good, and they have me a free end-of-day baguette, which was nice. I also saw Chef Nookie there working the line.

    I really like the look of the place and think they did a good job with that. I'm eager to try the bar as well as their new Marky Mark Funky Brunch or whatever it's called. I'd love to see them add two options for takeout dinners each night, not just one, and make one a bit healthier, a salad or something.

    MK, on the dinner pricing, could you get by with 1 entree and 3 apps, vegetables or sides? I like that they are trying to do something different, although the prices do cause a bit of sticker shock, which I wonder if perhaps has as much to do with human psychology as the actual total amounts. In a way, they are serving the anti-Value Meal. McDonalds didn't decide to start Supersizing for no reason.

    4 Replies
    1. re: CportJ

      We haven't ordered an entree, so I can't really comment on if you could get by with the 1 entree & 3 apps. The portion size / price ratio on the dinner items we had (salad, brussel sprouts, fries) was just plain silly. I do not know if that lack of value extends to the entire dinner menu.

      On the flipside, that pastrami sandwich was an outrageous amount of food for lunch. I needed a nap after. My wife ate half of it and she was stuffed.

      There just seems to be a real disconnect between the two menus, so I'll focus my dining dollars on lunch (and brunch, which looks really interesting). That pastrami sandwich was the 2nd best sandwich I had all year behind the fried chicken at Cutty's. Total worth a visit just for that.

      1. re: mkfisher

        Based on your comments, I looked up their menu on line. They apparently change their menu weekly but the on line version was only for early November. Anyway, the pastrami sandwich was no longer on the lunch menu. And the sides at dinner are now up to $10! Wow.

        1. re: BBHound

          As you point out, the on line menu is from early November. It may be the case that the cost of sides has been reduced since that time from $10 to $9, not that they were increased from $9 to $10.

          1. re: BBHound

            Yes, they have decreased from $9 to $10. I know they were $9 on my most recent visit. Was fairly sure they'd come down $1, but that online menu confirms this. Regardless, they're overpriced at $9 and $10. It's also possible that this price decrease came along with an increase in portion size. Look, this was Nookie's first restaurant. I'm sure there's a lot of guessing on his end when it comes to prices and portion sizes. It wasn't going to be perfect on that first week.

      2. So, I took one for the team and tried out the Commonwealth brunch. I ordered the chicken & biscuits ("Chicken Fat Biscuits, Fried Chicken, Sausage Gravy, Fried Egg, and a Gym Membership"). While not the healthiest thing I've ever eaten, it was quite good.

        1. http://commonwealthcambridge.com/brunch/

          hmmm. this brunch menu looks v good. $1 oysters all day; chilaquiles, beignets, duck fat fries...

          Anyone else been lately? mk, i know it was a month ago, but your fried chicken there- was it spiced or just kind of plain? and were the biscuits amazing or just o.k.? thx. we might try to get there this wkend. Esp. if those $1 oysters are Island Creeks...

          5 Replies
          1. re: opinionatedchef

            I haven't been to brunch, but I like the food and cocktails (try the Nookie). Plain, simple food, esp. the vegetable sides. Just got 2.5 stars in a very positive review from Devra First in the Globe. I just had the brisket takeout with potatoes and slaw, and I enjoyed that. Good golden beet and ham quiche, too.

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Did make it there today for a late brunch. What a ginormous space; no wonder
              it was such a huge effort to get this place up and running. Market, bakery, bar, 2 areas with seating. We opted for the quiet of the sunny Market area (v.s. the loud dark main dining room).
              Food was very good; service was very meh. Spinach and apple salad, Poached Eggs w/ Hollandaise on Pastrami Hash; Oysters, Chilaquiles. At $1 a pop, I didn't hesitate to polish off 6 dozen (just kidding but i had alot) Island Creeks; all perfectly shucked and chilled on platters of ice. Couldn't have been happier. The chilaquiles were def not trad, but they were def delicious--
              fried taco chips stirred up with a ground beef, salsa, and kidney bean chili, all topped with over easy fried eggs, sour cream and rich very fresh guac.

              Our server was inattentive (to put it mildly) but i don't know if that's because we were in the market area and a distance from her other tables. I do know that the friendly not- busy hostess was a lob away from our table but never once looked over to check on us looking for assistance.

              We considered getting the 'huge sticky bun' but once i saw them, we didn't order any. Completely wrong as far as what a sticky bun should be.If "the pastry chef from Clio" produces those, she has lost major cred w/ me, but she has displayed some pretty chocolates, macarons (the new Cronut) and other baked sweets .

              I checked Yelp before we went because there were so few CH comments, and the yelpers were up and down and up and down and up and down with their reviews. I find those the most confusing (The ice cream was too big to eat; the ice cream was laughably miniscule...) But our experience was, except for the service, very good ,and the food was all fresh and well proportioned and executed. We'll def return for brunch as good as this.

                1. re: maillard

                  everything- size, dough, texture, execution......Did you ever have Bond and Burkhardt's(sp) pecan sticky buns? Now THAT was a sticky bun . But then again, YMMV.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Chicken was not spiced. There was so much going on with that plate, spice would've been too much.

                Biscuits were very good. Not as good as Sweet Cheeks. On par with ICOB.

              2. I didn't love the Commonwealth pastrami sandwich. The marble rye was meh, and while the pastrami was flavorful, it lacked the oomph factor of really good pastrami. The Mem chai ice cream, however, is utterly delicious.

                While the kitchen does turn out the food rapidly, some servers are quite busy doing nothing, thus the wait to order can take quite a while.

                1. Hit Commonwealth for brunch yesterday.
                  Sat quickly, server came by quickly and took our drink order. Waited about 10 min to get them. Mimosa for $5 seemed to be a good deal, fresh squeezed oj, and bubbles of some kind. bloody Mary was so mouth scorching hot, I had to send it back.
                  Ordered dozen oysters, fried chicken and biscuits and the pastrami hash.
                  oysters never came, server forgot to put them in.
                  Hash wasn't so much a hash as warm pastrami topped with a potato galette. Super thin strands of potato fried. that aside, it was delicious. Poached eggs were cooked perfect. chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy was HUGE! a lot of food for the price. Biscuits were crunchy on the outside but moist inside. gravy was more sausage than gravy, which is not bad at all where I come from, and the chicken was crisp and jucy.

                  Other than the service faux pas, Great time for $44

                  Gutterman

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: gutterman

                    hope you get your ersters next time.Plse tell re the chicken- spices or pretty plain?

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      I would call the chicken lightly spiced . Mind you my mouth was still a little numb from the bloody mary.
                      there was some spice. balanced. tasty

                  2. Anyone tried this recently? their patio made a 10 best patios list so it might be time for a visit?!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: momoftwo

                      It's convenient for me, on my walk home from the T, so I've been there several times, including I think twice for brunch. Brunch is good, some items on the yummy/heavy side, and $1 oysters is a big draw. For dinner, we sometimes get 2-3 sides/apps and one main. I still think they do a nice job with simple sides and salads, although the meats are good, too. Ordering them separately allows you to customize a little more.

                      Also, the Nookie cocktail is very good. I think it's a Manhattan variant.

                      1. re: momoftwo

                        It's right behind my office so I've been to the patio. In nice weather it's a pretty great place to be with a cocktail. I wish they had more bar snack items on their menu - they have fries, onion strings and risotto cakes but nothing else easy to share. And those are $9 each which is a little obscene.

                        The cocktail list online isn't updated so I can't find the cocktail I normally order but any drink I have had there has always been very good.

                        1. re: Bugsey34

                          thanks, just took advantage of a slow down at work and walked by. Looks very inviting! that whole area is great. I am closer to One Kendall so don't get to that end of the street too often but am already planning my first after work outing...maybe today!

                          1. re: momoftwo

                            The picnic tables at Firebrand Saints are also a nice option, and there may be less traffic with the Longfellow Bridge work.

                            Oh, and the Commonwealth ice cream and topping options (basically choose-your-own-sundae) is tasty and fun.

                        2. re: momoftwo

                          My favorite meal is still lunch. The turkey sandwich and spinach salad are perfect for two people to share. Had the roast pork sandwich for the first time last week. It was pretty good, but the meat needed more seasoning. Beer list changes regularly and they've had some good stuff (Stone Enjoy By, Lost Abbey Serpents Stout). The list does constantly lean IPA/Pale heavy - usually 4 or 5 of the 8 tap lines.