Not Your Average Burger and Beer

By Jenn LaVardera

While I don’t like to consider myself a “beer snob,” there are two things that I know for sure: I like good beer, and when I drink good beer, I like to eat good food. Luckily, I have had no trouble finding spots in Boston that meet these criteria. However, in a city filled with dining and bar options, it can sometimes be tricky to decide where to go (and where to avoid!) from the menu alone. Rather than let you blaze the trail on your own, here is a rundown of a few of my favorite places for a good meal, and a good beer.

Publick House

1648 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA 

Publick House might just be my favorite dining establishment in Boston. The wide variety of craft beers and the extensive  menu have yet to disappoint me. Publick House serves everything from homestyle favorites such as macaroni and cheese and meat loaf to more refined options, including charcuterie platters, mussels, and a fish-of-the-day.

A few weekends ago, I spent both Friday and Saturday night enjoying the delicious food and drink at Publick House. At 8:15 pm on a Friday night, my friend Tommy and I were quoted an hour and a half wait for a table. Apprehensively, we put our name on the list and hoped for the best. To pass the time, we ordered beers from the bar; a Delirium Tremens for me and a Delirium Nocturnum for Tommy.

A little over an hour later, we were seated for dinner. Immediately we put in an order for another beer (La Chouffes for us both) and began studying the menu. Though I was initially in the mood for their burger (highly recommended), our server persuaded me to try their seafood stew, a dish that doesn’t typically fit into the category of “bar food.” Tommy decided on their baked macaroni and cheese, with the addition of peas and prosciutto.

By the time our food arrived, it was past 10pm; I felt like a child on Christmas morning at the sight of our plates. The meal was well worth the wait. The stew was served in a generous portion; large chunks of fish, scallops and shrimp in a creamy tomato broth, accompanied by French bread for sopping up the liquid. If you’re a seafood lover like me, this dish will not disappoint. Though I only had a taste of Tommy’s macaroni and cheese (I don’t mess with hungry men when they have had a couple of beers), the bite I tasted was outstanding— a creamy consistency, crunchy baked topping, and ample amounts of his added ingredients.

One of the aspects I appreciate most about Publick House is their customer service and attention to detail. The group seated next to Tommy and me (let’s just say they may have had one too many craft beers) threw their napkins in the air when they left, which happened to land on our table. Our server immediately noted this and refreshed our nearly empty beer glasses with fresh drafts, on the house. Also, with such an extensive beer selection, it can sometimes be difficult to choose a drink that you know you will like; the staff is more than willing to offer small tastes of their draft brews before you make a final decision. Their attention to detail is evidenced by the fact that each beer is served in its proper glass.

When I returned the next night with my friend Emily, I decided to sample their veggie burger and was highly impressed. The burger was made with shaved carrot, green peas, zucchini, fresh cilantro, and cumin, served on an artisan roll. The burger was served with fries, which I typically do not care much for. However, I can attest that no fry was left behind at this meal. Emily opted for the beef patty; I heard no complaints from her side of the table.

If you go for dinner, either go during the week, get there early, or be prepared to have drinks at the bar while you wait. While the food at Publick House is affordable ($$), the bill can add up once you start sampling the wide selection of craft beers.

The Otherside Café

407 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02115

* Note: The Otherside Café will be closing on December 23rd and hopefully reopening soon in a new Boston location.

If you’re in the mood for a night (or afternoon) of good beer but don’t enjoy typical greasy snacks like French fries and potato skins, The Otherside Café is the place for you. Located on the corner of Mass Ave and Newbury St, The Otherside Café features a rotating selection of quality draft beer and a mostly vegetarian/vegan menu of reasonably priced salads, sandwiches, and soup.

I visited on a rainy Wednesday night. The restaurant is very casual; upon walking in I was given two menus and told to sit wherever I liked. I had a few minutes to wait for my friend so I took a seat at the bar to scan the draft menu, which frequently rotates a selection of about 15 craft beers. I wanted to try something new, and the bartender readily offered his advice and a small taste glass.

When my friend arrived I decided on a pint of a pub ale similar to Boddingtons to drink. I ordered the Nature Boy platter to eat, which is a sampler plate of mock chicken salad; the filling of their lettuce wraps (a mix of ground peanuts, carrot, cilantro, and garlic); and a dip of blended macadamia nuts, cashews, garlic, and lemon. The three spreads are served with sliced carrots and cucumbers for dipping, and I requested a sourdough roll as well. My friend chose the Buffalo Tempeh wrap served with bleu cheese, and potato chips.

Though the food was not completely out-of-this-world; I was pleased to see these vegetarian and vegan options in a bar setting. The dips on my platter were all uniquely flavored and delicious, though all had pretty much the same consistency. The roll was a complete disappointment, but at least they didn’t charge me extra for it! I never tasted the sandwich, but my friend, who had never eaten tempeh before, thoroughly enjoyed it. My only gripe about the menu: sandwiches are served with potato chips, and a side salad substitution is an additional $2.

Meadhall

4 Cambridge Center Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142

The first time I visited Meadhall, I swore food and beer had never tasted so good. It may have been because I had spent my entire afternoon moving into my apartment lugging heavy boxes up five flights of stairs in the September heat. But I think it would have been pretty darn good regardless.

Back in September, I met some friends from Friedman at Meadhall for a beer, and ordered dinner there as well. The first thing that I noticed in the bar was the large chalkboard displaying their massive beer selection; immediately I knew I would like it there.

Though it took us awhile to finally decide on beers, our waitress was patient and gladly answered our questions. I was the only one to order food, and I decided on the veggie burger which is made with lentils, faro and rice; topped with tzatziki and roasted red pepper tapenade; and accompanied by hand cut frites with herbs, parmesan, and roasted garlic aioli.. This was an outstanding, homemade burger; I could distinctly identify each component of the burger by sight and taste. And as I said before, I can be quite picky about fries; I do not think a single crumb was left on my plate.

While the entrees at Meadhall are on the pricey side (average $25), the menu does include a small plates section priced between $8-$13, including a mesclun salad, mussels, a hummus plate, steak tartare, a cheese platter, and a snack selection ($3-$6) including olives, mixed nuts, hand cut frites, and picked vegetables.

My advice: if money is not an issue, go for an entrée and a beer. The ingredients are fresh and high quality, making the food worth its price tag. The burgers are reasonably priced dinner options for the amount of quality food you are given ($11 for the veggie and $12 for the beef). If your budget is a bit tighter, this is a great place to come later in the night for beers and a small plate to share. The environment is relaxed, and the upstairs is filled with couches and coffee tables to hang out with friends.

Jenn is a first year Nutrition Communication student and gained an appreciation for craft beer while studying abroad in Europe. When she is not going out to eat and drink she can be found at Dave Matthews Band concerts, in her kitchen cooking, or watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

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