When we’re not organizing bar crawls, we still find ourselves visiting bars and fun spots around the city.
The Fenway area is well known for the raucous pregame bars that line Landsdowne Street, but the area is also home to some great dining and amazing cocktail bars. We recently made a day of it to try out one of the newest additions to the area, as well as hitting up our favorite joints.
We started the outing at Sweet Cheeks Q. Ran by former Top Chef, and current and always badass Tiffani Faison, this popular spot has been open for about five years and is well known for its delicious take on southern BBQ. We had dinner plans later on, but we couldn’t help but order the bucket o’biscuits. These are monstrous and delicious, with an amazing honey butter on the side. Flaky and tender, these are a carb lover’s dream. An order comes with four, but that is plenty due to their size.
We meant to head next to Faison’s adjacent venture Tiger Mama, but it wasn’t open yet. But we can report form previous visits that this Asian fusion spot also has great food and well-made Tiki based cocktails. We continued down Boylston St. to Citizen Oyster Bar. This place is as well known for its whiskey selection as the bivalves in the name. This isn’t a stuffy or fancy place as many oyster bars in Boston tend to be, this place is almost more of a dive bar feel (in a good way). They have a whiskey focused cocktail menu, but will just as happily serve you a shot and a beer.
Next up was the main event of the evening, dinner at Eventide Fenway. A causal concept from the more formal Eventide Oyster Co in Portland Maine, this new counter style restaurant opened recently and we couldn’t wait to try it. True to the fast-casual style dining room set up, there are no reservations and mostly counter-style seating, so it may be tough to go with a group. We managed to snag part of a table and began perusing the menu. We sampled much of it, and it was quite a feast. We started with oysters, of course, and they were well shucked and served with the usual accoutrement. The highlight of the meal was the brown-butter lobster roll. Instead of the traditional New-England style split hot dog roll, this is served on something reminiscent of a steamed bao. Fluffy and light, this is a great an unobtrusive vehicle for the tender, buttery lobster meat. We also sampled the tuna crude, which was crisp and refreshing; the clam chowder (a rich yet thin broth, not too thick), the chicken katsu sandwich (crunchy yet juicy) and roasted cauliflower. Everything here was good, but the portions were small and the price tag was large. That is not unexpected for what is clearly fresh, well sourced seafood, but it’s a little jarring to rack up such a hefty bill in such a casual setting.
For dessert, we headed to one of our top spots in the city, Hojoko. We reviewed Hojoko when it opened in 2015, and it remains one of our favorite spots today. A perfect post dinner drink is their frozen pina colada, served with a roasted marshmallow. They usually have one or two other frozen drinks, and also a large selection of cocktails that seem Tiki inspired with interesting Japanese influence. This place always has good music, the bartenders are fun and knowledgeable, and it’s some of the most interesting food and drink in the city. This is our go-to spot for a reason, so if you haven’t been yet, make a point to head there, preferably before the crowd head back to Fenway in April.
We’re introducing a new feature on the website. We’ll use the Monday Morning Hangover to review places we’ve gone or things we’ve done when we’re NOT crawling. Restaurants, bars, tastings, events, we’ll cover them here
Hojoko is the newly opened restaurant and bar in the Verb Hotel, formerly the Howard Johnson in the Fenway. From Tim and Nancy Cushman, the husband and wife duo behind one of Boston’s priciest places, O Ya, Hojoko is a kitchy, funky place with tiki-inspired cocktails and twists on Japanese food.
The décor is in line with the rock and roll vibe of the hotel. From Hello Kitty frozen drink machine to the anime movies playing on a giant projector, to the table top old-school video game machine (which you can play gratis, no quarters needed), the vibe is relaxed, comfortable, and fun.
We visited a few times when they first opened for drinks at the bar. The drink list is varied and vast, with frozen concoctions, drinks from the tank, which can be served as a cocktail or a bowl, classics with an Asian fair, as well as a section called “bombs away”, which boast a sake bomb and other interesting takes on the “drop a shot in your drink” format. From the frozen section, we particularly liked the Japanese Caucasian, which is a play on a white Russian. Vodka, coffee brandy, cold brew coffee and condensed milk make a great drink with a pick me up. The Chiyoda G&T is another twist on a classic, with avocado oil, ponzu, and sesame punching up the flavor of the standard drink. The sake list is also quite long, but we haven’t delved into it.
After much anticipation to try the food, we finally made it for dinner on Friday night. The food follows a small plates format. The menu is sectioned off by type including rolls, teppanyaki, fried, cold, warm, robuta (grilled over charcoal), randos and sandos. There is a lot to choose from, and there are things for both adventurous and conservative eaters.
The first item we got was super gimmicky, but this is a gimmick that works and was both fun and delicious. It’s called “Wasabi Roulette”: a spicy Hamachi roll served with a small baby bottle containing Pina Colada. One of the unmarked pieces had a huge piece of wasabi inside, and the recipient of the extra spicy piece gets to drink the Pina Colada to cool off. It’s one of those dishes that have everyone at surrounding table asking what it was, and was just a fun way to start the meal.
The chicken meatball was a highlight for half of our group. It was served a on a skewer with a side dish containing an egg yolk. It was suggested by the server that we beat the egg yolk and dip the meatball in it. The two of us who love a runny egg yolk loved it. The meatball was flavorful and salty and the yolk was a perfect accompaniment to it, creating a creamy foil for the meat. The two of our group who don’t eat runny yolk thought it was just salty, but the yolk is really needed balance it out and make it a perfect bite.
The Steak-um was a group favorite, and really did evoke the childhood cafeteria staple, only elevated with wagyu short rib and served with a tangy kimchi. The crispy maitake tempura was an umami bomb, with rich mushroom flavor in every bite. The udon carbonara was an interesting take on the Italian classic, but more like a soup, with the amount of sauce to noodles. We also tried the crispy chicken tails after inquiring as to what they were, since we figured it must be a name for something else. It turns out, there is meat in a chicken tail, and you can eat it. These were tasty, salty, and tiny. Interesting to try, but they were so small, it seems like it wasn’t really worth the $7 price tag. We also tried the Brains on Crack, which are fried calves brains served with XO butter and bonito flakes. They were flavorful and well cooked.
For dessert, Hojoko only offers mini Ben and Jerry ice cream cups for dessert, so we opted instead for some of the frozen drinks. The “Ohhhh Mommy” Grasshopper tasted like a mint chocolate milkshake, and the pina colada was festively topped with a toasted marshmallow.
Service was friendly and helpful. Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu and offered good suggestions. Other servers who brought and cleared dishes were likewise friendly and nice. We received glasses of sake on the house at the end of the meal, which was an unexpected and nice touch.
They recommend about 3 plates per person, and the prices really run the gamut so you can get out rather inexpensively (or not), depending on what you’re after. With the exception of the aforementioned chicken tails, I think the prices were fair for the high quality of the meal. We tried about 12 dishes and I feel like we barely cracked the menu at all, so we look forward to returning and further exploring both the food and drink menus. Overall, this is a stellar addition to the Fenway neighborhood for both food and drinks, as well as a great atmosphere.