Highland KitchenHighland Kitchen, photo by Derek Kouyoumjian.

Restaurant in Assembly Square: River Bar
661 Assembly Row, (617) 616-5561

There are three words right near the top of River Bar’s website—small, creative, lively—and they encapsulate exactly what’s so great about it. The diversity on its one-page menu promises to engage your culinary imagination. Bored with brunch Benedicts? Try the pork schnitzel with gravy, served on an English muffin with fried eggs. Need a ’cue fix? The tuna poke is barbequed ahi with pineapple and rice cakes. Even the Caesar salad is transformed by the presence of kale, the queen of leafy greens, along with roasted mushrooms and brown butter croutons. Beautiful plates of inspired flavors, accompanied by imaginative cocktails, served in a cozy space.

Restaurant in Davis Square: Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar
381 Summer Street, (617) 629-9500

It’s 1941, and Citizen Kane opens with the enigmatic line, “Rosebud….” And according to the big sign on top of the building, Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar is founded in 1941. So, was Charles Foster Kane simply hankering for some comfort food? Clearly, yes, and who can blame him? Their menu is chock full of things like grilled bone-in pork chops, loaded mac’n’cheese, or a good, old-fashioned, griddle-cooked burger. OK, yes, there’s duck and fig flatbread and Moroccan stew, too, but comfort knows no borders. Top it off with a blueberry crumble and Old Man Kane will forget about that sled in favor of this Rosebud.

Restaurant in Teele Square: True Bistro
1153 Broadway, (617) 627-9000

Mesclun has humble beginnings. After all, initially it was just the earliest leaves from a variety of greens brought to market by the farmers of Provence in France. But like so many humble things, it can also be sublime—as when the chef at True Bistro elevates mesclun in the company of the freshest fruit, cashews with Jamaican jerk spices, and a champagne vinaigrette. Brunch finds you ordering the waffle with buttermilk-fried tofu and chili-infused agave; dessert, the kataifi nest with its white chocolate mousse, pisatcho, rose water and fresh fruit. This is how the True Bistro vision of fine vegan dining plays out: elegant dishes that represent the highest purpose of the plants they are based upon, served at tables swathed in white linen and lit with candles, in the heart of Teele Square.

Restaurant in Ball Square: Sound Bites
704 Broadway, (617) 623-8338

Mixtape or mash-up or fusion, call it what you will. Wherever two or more things of disparate origins are brought together, the sum is greater than its parts. At Sound Bites, the Middle East is getting in the blender with American diner classics, and that means things like Jimmy’s Moroccan Eggs, which arrive on sauteeéd onions, peppers, and tomato, with a dash of cumin. Or start your meal with muhammara—red peppers, tahini, walnuts, and breadcrumbs, flavored with pomegranate and lemon juices, served with pita for dipping—followed by fish and chips with onion rings, and finish things off with a Faymousy Chocolate Cocktail (Dutchcraft vodka, chocolate, and cream).

Latin American: Machu Picchu
307 Somerville Ave., (617) 628-7070
Read our article on Machu Picchu here.

Asian: Lemon Thai Cuisine
215 Highland Ave., (617) 591-1772

Highland Kitchen
Restaurant Not in a Square
Service Staff
150 Highland Ave., (617) 625-1131

Let us not quibble: Brunch is the best. Especially at Highland Kitchen, where they’re serious about you enjoying it. Hence the Dirty Bird—a fried chicken breast and bacon on a buttermilk biscuit, with a fried egg and sausage gravy. Somebody gimme a “Hell yes!” Not feeling brunchy? Go for the smoked bluefish cakes with mango-mustard hot sauce, which takes an under-appreciated fish and transforms it into an appetizer worth coveting. The grilled corn likewise elevates a beloved Mexican street food, with garlic mayo, cotija cheese and chili-lime salt. Or how can you go wrong with a spicy coconut curried goat stew? Served over jasmine rice with fried sweet plantains, it will cure what ails you.

Restaurant in East Somerville: La Brasa
124 Broadway, (617) 764-1412

Wood plus heat equals smoke. Heat plus steel equals grill. Grill plus smoke plus food equals … well, it may have no equal, when you get right down to it. La Brasa just keeps proving that point. But Chef Daniel Bojorquez understands there’s another element to the equation: people. From humankind’s earliest days, the hearth was the focus of the home, and in La Brasa, Bojorquez has captured that essence and created a third space that embraces diners like family, where the kitchen is steps away from the table and the food speaks in every tongue. So order up the pork chop with green tomatillo barbeque sauce, or the roasted skate wing with capers, hazelnut, and fingerling potatoes, and let the wood and smoke and heat into your belly.

Restaurant in Union Square: The Independent
75 Union Square, (617) 440-6022

Union Square is a focal point for Somerville, and The Independent is a focal point for Union Square. It’s a place to begin the night with a cocktail, perhaps the Evil Twin’s Brother (gin, blanc vermouth, rose water, bitters) or the Somerville Sling (rum, applejack, amaretto, lemon, ginger beer, bitters). While you’re there, why not indulge in some dinner? Creamy, cheesy risotto primavera with asparagus, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and corn; classic bangers and mash, heady with garlic and rich with Guinness gravy; and definitely the Prince Edward Island mussels with chorizo and arugula in a mustard cream sauce. And since you’re already there, end the night among friends, with a bowl of popcorn and a plate of Indo poutine for the table.

Restaurant in Magoun Square & Bar Eats: Olde Magoun’s Saloon
518 Medford St., (617) 776-2600

Believe it or not, there was an era when the term “bar food” was a red flag. It didn’t mean things like roasted garlic and preserved lemon hummus, or pizza from a brick oven. It didn’t envision Irish chicken curry, couldn’t have encompassed a Florentine eggs Benedict, not to mention ahi tuna. Fortunately, such dark days are long past, and you can enjoy serious food and thought-provoking beers in a boisterous and friendly pub that cares about you (and your taste buds) enough to offer you small-batch bourbon while you watch rugby with your friends. We are living in a magical time, people!     

These winners are part of the 2018 Scout’s Honored issue of Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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