Meet Your Scout’s Honored Winners: Food & Drink

Photo by Jess Benjamin.

NEW BUSINESS: NU CAFE AND JUICE BAR

Best new business? More like best nu business. Just nine months in, Nu Cafe and Juice Bar is right at home in Union Square, where its warm vibe makes you want to be a regular. Come grab a hearty lunch—we’re digging the chipotle avocado and lime super grain bowl—or kick back with cold one; Nu Cafe just upped its beer game by adding Night Shift Brewery and Maine Beer Company brews to the menu.

195 WASHINGTON ST. (617) 764-2482, NUCAFE.COM

 

RESTAURANT OVERALL // RESTAURANT IN WINTER HILL // DATE NIGHT SPOT // PLACE TO SPLURGE // CHEF, CASSIE PIUMA: SARMA

Nestled in a largely residential Winter Hill neighborhood, you’ll find the best Middle Eastern food in the region. Yes, it’s time to talk about Sarma, the pride and joy of Somerville. How can we single out a single dish? Close your eyes and point at the menu, and regardless of where your finger lands—on the feta cheese gnocchi or the crab and red lentil kibbeh; the pork belly biscuits or, oh my god, the steak tartare—you can rest assured it’ll blow you away. Believe the hype, folks.

249 PEARL ST., (617) 764-4464 SARMARESTAURANT.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN EAST SOMERVILLE: LA BRASA

The flavors forged in the wood fire of La Brasa’s kitchen—Peruvian, Middle Eastern, Mexican—are as much a part of its chefs’ heritage as they are a reflection of the East Somerville community the restaurant calls home. Perhaps that’s why, whether you’re eating duck heart kebabs or tuna crudo or chicken wings, it all tastes like comfort food. Damn good comfort food.

124 BROADWAY, (617) 764-1412 LABRASASOMERVILLE.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN TEELE SQUARE: RUDY’S

You may not be great at math, but if there’s one formula that’s always true, it’s tequila + Tex-Mex = happy customers. Rudy’s delivers on both fronts, with fresh guac, fiery fajitas and a chili con queso we’ve been known to dream about. (It’s not weird!)

248 HOLLAND ST., (617) 623-9201RUDYSCAFE.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN ASSEMBLY SQUARE: RIVER BAR

Say you want to eat outside, but it’s just a little chilly and/or rainy. No problem! River Bar has you covered—literally—with their fireplace and the awning over their downstairs bar. On sunny days, though? Head straight for the rooftop and kick back with a Kick ‘Em Jenny.

661 ASSEMBLY ROW(617) 616-5561RIVER-BAR.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN BALL SQUARE: SOUND BITES

Take one part no-frills diner, one part gourmet Middle Eastern fare, a pinch of outstanding hospitality and a dash of Somerville pride and you get Sound Bites, the little-bit-of-everything Ball Square staple where you can feel just as confident ordering a coffee and pancakes as a mai tai and muhammara.

704 BROADWAY, (617) 623-8338 SOUNDBITESCAFE.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN MAGOUN SQUARE: OLDE MAGOUN’S SALOON

Olde Magoun’s might just be our favorite neighborhood watering hole, a great place to catch a game or catch up with friends over a few rounds of drinks. The food rules, too—the massive, inventive burgers, creative signature sandwiches and brick oven pizza all make for a menu that’s a few steps ahead of your standard pub fare.

518 MEDFORD ST., (617) 776-2600 MAGOUNSSALOON.COM

 

RESTAURANT NOT IN A SQUARE // BRUNCH // SERVICE STAFF // SERVER (PATRICK): HIGHLAND KITCHEN

The flavor-packed comfort food at Highland Kitchen will have you coming back for more on its own—and then, there are the clever cocktails and the lovely staff and the perfectly curated jukebox. And brunch? It’s only served for three hours, one day of the week, but it’s good enough to have our readers voting it in as the city’s best.

150 HIGHLAND AVE., (617) 625-1131 HIGHLANDKITCHEN.COM

 

BREWERY OR DISTILLERY// COMEDY SHOW (BEER ME COMEDY): WINTER HILL BREWING COMPANY

The brews from this Winter Hill hangout are just too good, so maybe we should’ve known they wouldn’t stay confined to the neighborhood for long! As of this summer, you can find Darlin’s IPA on draft at Publick House in Brookline, Hugh O’Neill’s in Malden and Flatbread in Davis Square. And don’t worry, there’s more great stuff afoot on Broadway, too; the brewery just began releasing its new “Transitory Series” of single hop beers.

328 BROADWAY, @WINTERHILLBREW WINTERHILLBREWING.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN DAVIS SQUARE: PAINTED BURRO

Trot—don’t walk—to the Painted Burro, where the wide front windows welcome passersby to step inside, sidle up to the bar and order at least a few excellently crafted margaritas. The food is outstanding across the board, but we’ve gotta give it up to the nachos, which are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in town.

219 ELM ST.(617) 776-0005 PAINTEDBURRO.COM

 

BAKERY: LYNDELL’S BAKERY

42,115 days. That’s how long Lyndell’s has been open—and by the time you read this article, it’ll have been even longer. Lyndell’s isn’t just one of the oldest scratch bakeries in Somerville, it’s one of the oldest in the country. And that 130 years of experience shows in every pastry, pie, cupcake and cookie that come out of the oven.

720 BROADWAY, (617) 625-1793, LYNDELLSBAKERY.COM

 

CATERING: REDBONES

So you want to have a southern-style barbecue, but you’re stuck up here in the northeast. That’s literally not a problem at all thanks to the Redbones pitmasters; they’ll bring the down-home flavor to you with their grills and heavy-duty smokers. All you have to do is grab a few dozen of your hungriest friends.

55 CHESTER ST., (617) 628-2200, REDBONES.COM

 

BAR EATS: FIVE HORSES TAVERN

We’ll take one of everything from the Five Horses starters menu, thanks! Seriously though: cast iron cornbread, spicy shakshuka, and, man, those Chinese BBQ wings… so good. Need something besides beer to go with those bar bites? Five Horses just launched whiskey, scotch and bourbon flights—more than 150 bottles to suit every palate and wallet.

400 HIGHLAND AVE., (617) 764-1655 FIVEHORSESTAVERN.COM

 

BEER PROGRAM: BRONWYN

Let’s be frank: Bronwyn is the schnitzel, and so are the beers here. (No surprise, given that it’s a German-style tavern and all.) Grab a pal and split a two-liter boot of haus bier anytime, or spend a Saturday afternoon drinking Eastern European brews on the patio chowing down on Brondogs—specialty hot dogs with haus sausage on a soft pretzel bun served straight from the grille. And don’t forget: Oktoberfest is coming up, and at Bronwyn, that means a month-long celebration. Prost!

255 WASHINGTON ST., (617) 776-9900 BRONWYNRESTAURANT.COM

 

SWEET TOOTH SATISFIER: UNION SQUARE DONUTS

Here’s a true story: once, an editor who shall remain nameless brought a dozen Union Square Donuts to a friend’s lake house, thinking they would easily last four people the weekend. They, uh, didn’t. They were gone in less than 24 hours. But when the donuts are this good—soft, pillowy and decadent without being cloying, can you blame us?

20 BOW ST., (617) 209-2257 UNIONSQUAREDONUTS.COM

 

MOBILE EATS // VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN: TACO PARTY

711 BROADWAY, (617) 764-0683 TACOPARTYTRUCK.COMLook, we promise: you don’t even have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to fall in love with Taco Party. Order your favorite meat-loving pal the soy ginger marinated jackfruit, or the cornmeal crusted mushrooms, or the especially good chorizo seitan, and watch with satisfaction as they see how utterly delicious plant-based meals can be.

 

COCKTAILS: BACKBAR

Bless the Backbar bartenders—beautiful souls, all of them, who know how to make a drink you’re gonna love, whether you prefer bright, refreshing citrus or smoky bourbon or have a hankering for something you can’t quite articulate. And if you haven’t been to the tucked-away Union Square speakeasy in a bit, you’re due for a repeat visit; this summer, they went ahead and introduced an entirely revamped, rotating food menu from the folks at Field & Vine, which will open in the adjacent space this fall.

7 SANBORN CT.(617) 718-0249BACKBARUNION.COM

 

BREAKFAST // OUTDOOR DINING: THE NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT

What can we say about the Neighborhood that hasn’t been said already? There’s a reason the line so often stretches down the street, after all: it’s simply good food done just right—ample portions of homestyle fare prepared with love and reasonably priced.

25 BOW ST., (617) 623-9710 THENEIGHBORHOODRESTAURANT.COM

 

BUTCHER: MCKINNON’S MEAT MARKET

Were Ron Swanson a resident of Somerville rather than Pawnee, Indiana, we’ve no doubt that the red-blooded, steak- and burger-loving Parks & Rec director would make McKinnon’s his second home. The meats here really are a cut above, and they’re sliced up by staff members who know what they’re doing, making the old-school shop a blessing during barbecue season and beyond.

239 ELM ST., (617) 666-0888 MCKINNONSMEATMARKET.COM

 

KID-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT: FLATBREAD

One look at the menu—they’re all decorated with crayon art from young Flatbread fans—and you’ll realize coming here with the kids in tow was the best choice you could’ve made. Even if you can’t land a candlepin lane, the outstanding pizza here is well worth a trip, whether you’re eight or 80.

45 DAY ST., (617) 776-0552 FLATBREADCOMPANY.COM

 

CHEAP EATS: ANNA’S TAQUERIA

Munchin’ on a budget? Look no further than Anna’s, where a “super burrito” is just $7.55 and comes absolutely stuffed with fixins, whether you want to keep it vegetarian, feel like going in on some savory, slow-cooked beef tongue or are daring enough to give the ultra-fiery chile verde braised pork a go.

236 ELM ST., (617) 666-3900ANNASTAQUERIA.COM

 

TAKEOUT: MACHU CHICKEN

If you’ve never had Machu’s Peruvian charcoal chicken—or anything from their grill, really—just set down the magazine and go get yourself some right now. Here, heaping portions, wonderfully seasoned, make for a truly unrivaled takeout experience.

25 UNION SQ., (617) 623-7972 MACHUCHICKENBOSTON.COM

 

LATE NIGHT HAUNT: TRINA’S STARLITE LOUNGE

Okay, yes, closing time is, by law, 2 a.m., which makes “late night haunt” something of a misnomer. But if the staff at Trina’s would let us, we’d be here all night long, sipping craft cocktails (or, more often, Miller High Life) and slamming down gussied-up hot dogs until the sun rose.

3 BEACON ST., (617) 576-0006 TRINASTARLITELOUNGE.COM

 

PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH: MIKE’S FOOD AND SPIRITS

The time of day doesn’t matter; a lunchtime sub stop is as good as a late-night pizza run when it comes to people watching out the wide, street-spanning windows at Mike’s in Davis Square. There’s always something going on, and you can take it all in from the comfort of these cozy booths.

9 DAVIS SQ., (617) 628-2379 MIKESONDAVIS.COM

 

BARTENDER: KRISTEN CALLAN, BRASS UNION

When bartender and manager Kristen Callan is behind the stick at Brass Union, you’re in for a good night. The longtime ’tender—she’s been at this chic Union Square lounge for six years—is a pro at mixing you a mean drink and someone you can enjoy spending hours across the bar from.

70 UNION SQ., (617) 623-9211 BRASSUNION.COM

 

COFFEESHOP OR CAFE // BARISTA, BECCA: 3 LITTLE FIGS

This tiny, bright Highland Avenue coffeeshop just warms our hearts, and we couldn’t be more pleased to hear that they’re growing, extending their kitchen into the next-door unit and debuting a new menu concept called “Health Club” by 3 Little Figs. This fall, Health Club will see the shop adding organic smoothies, salads, bowls and more clean foods to the already excellent menu of sandwiches, pastries and coffee drinks. Which is a relief, because while they’re probably not the healthiest, you can have our goat cheese scones when you pry them from our cold, dead hands.

278 HIGHLAND AVE. (617) 623-34473LITTLEFIGS.COM

 

RESTAURANT IN UNION SQUARE: THE INDEPENDENT

August was a tough month, and let us tell you why: we had to go without the Indo for a few weeks. That’s right—after celebrating its Sweet 16 earlier this year, the beloved restaurant closed for renovations, leaving us in the lurch. (What, are we gonna go somewhere else for fish and chips?) But absence makes the stomach grow fonder, and we’re happy to report that this Union Square mainstay is on track to reopen in mid-September, better than ever.

75 UNION SQ., (617) 440-6022THEINDO.COM

 

This story appears in the September/October print issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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