For those who have never been to the original Parish Cafe, you’ve been missing out on one of the hidden jewels of the world of Boston chefs. Owner Gordon Wilcox (also of Bukowski’s and Lower Depths fame) approached a plethora of Boston’s finest kitchen experts to craft a sandwich for the menu.
So now these gourmet creations are available at a second location, in that indistinct “not quite the South End, not quite Roxbury, not quite Boston Medical Center, but definitely not Back Bay” neighborhood. (Unless you’re buying a condo, in which case the real estate agent is definitely telling you it’s the heart of the South End.) Located in a completely remodeled street-level retail storefront—a former Rent-A-Center—right on the corner of Tremont Street and Mass. Ave., it’s not going to blow you away with the décor, but is bright, airy and open. A long bar stretches down the far wall as you walk in, with a single plasma showing the sports highlights and a ton of tables big and small scattered around the rest of the dining room. It’s cozy, and already seems to have established itself as a neighborhood hangout, with everyone from regulars chatting with the bartender to a pair of stressed-out-looking women spread out at one of the big tables cramming for what sounds like a neurochemistry exam.
Let’s start with the beer list. While not as extensive as Bukowski’s by any stretch, it’s more of a greatest-hits version. All the styles are represented, from Hefeweizen to IPA, but with only three or four of the better examples on offer. I dive in with an Endurance Arctica Pale Ale ($6.50) and my partner asks for a Lagunitas IPA. After taking a couple sips, he finally realizes that it’s actually a Lagunitas Pale Ale ($6) that was brought, and further inquiries reveal they don’t actually have the IPA, but you’d imagine that’s a new restaurant ordering mix-up they’ll correct.
My sustenance for this adventure is provided by the zuni roll ($11.50), created by the chefs at the Cottonwood Café. It’s a superb version of a turkey rollup, served with a generous portion of crispy bacon and havarti cheese, and the cranberry sauce and mayo isn’t inside where it could soak through the crispy grilled wrap, but rather artfully drizzled on the plate beneath. The accompanying potato salad is OK, with great flavor, but the potatoes themselves are a little firm for my taste. The dbar ($13.50), created by Chris Coombs, the executive chef at dbar in Dorchester, is a little further off the beaten sandwich path. A veal cutlet with bacon, gruyere, tomatoes, capers and mustard on a crunchy baguette is awesome, and despite looking small, is nearly too much to finish.
Rounding out the evening, we grab a pair of BBC Coffeehouse Porters on tap ($6) and an order of the bread pudding ($7.25). Way too much to finish by yourself, this white chocolate custard and brioche creation is served warm with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate. Nary a raisin to be found (just like Momma Main used to make), it’s a great finish, and pairs well with the beers.
With good food and a kitchen open till midnight every night, you now have another reason to go to this nebulous neighborhood.