Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar

Being a sister to The Franklin in the South End and Tasty Burger, I knew Citizen Public House wouldn’t disappoint. With daily specials, a whiskey list that goes on for days,  creative cocktails and raw bar items, this upscale bar/tavern has a little something for everyone’s palate.

Bread: We ordered a couple of appetizers so I think this was the reason we were not served bread. I noticed the bread basket when walking back from the restroom and it appeared to be small slices of white bread with butter; didn’t look like we missed out on anything that great.

Menu: Plenty to choose from with: Snacks (all $5), Shellfish, Clams/Oysters, Salads, Starters, and Mains. They also provided a Specials sheets with a salad, 2 entrées, and a few oysters. I would have been satisfied having a bunch of snacks and starters, but we decided to split 2 apps and each get an entrée.

July 25th specials

July 25th specials

Food/Presentation:
Grilled Apricot & Arugula Salad – chevre and crispy chickpeas
This special salad was light & refreshing, perfect for al fresco summer dining! There were enough apricots and chickpeas to go around, I just wish the cheese was more evenly distributed.

Hand-Made Burrata – duck prosciutto, fig & pepper relish
For me it’s hard to go wrong with burrata, especially when it’s paired with these accompaniments. The bread had a crunchy crust and was soft on the inside; the fig & pepper relish has a consistency of ground up dried fig which I loved; I’ve had creamier burrata but this was still a great starter!

Fresh Tuna Burger – soy-mustard glaze, pickled ginger, brioche bun, coleslaw, grilled red onion
The tuna burger was served rare and came on a perfectly rounded brioche bun. Both Alana and I both ordered the tuna burger and both appeared to be missing the soy-mustard glaze. Perhaps it was applied prior to cooking the burger, rather than added as a condiment? Either way, the bun/burger was dry which is a big no-no for me with any type of sandwich situation. I added the coleslaw and onions to each bite but had to ask for Dijon mustard to make up for the lack of “soy-mustard glaze” which I barely tasted.

Bathroom: There are 3 private restrooms labeled “His”, “WC, “Hers”. Each has black & white paisley wallpaper with a bold accent of a red framed mirror. Doesn’t necessarily coincide with the tavern style restaurant but I appreciated the alternative statement!

Service: Our server was cheery, friendly, and able to suggest the most popular cocktails when we were indecisive about the many tempting options. We noticed that all of the female hostesses, waitresses etc were all wearing the same bright pink lipstick. Not sure if that was part of the uniform…?

Overall: I didn’t spend much time inside since we sat on the patio, but Citizen Public House appears to be dressed as a sophisticated tavern; the interior is somewhat dark, complete with a large bar and banquette seating. Each cocktail we tried was excellent; my Mai Tai was served over crushed ice and was certainly strong, but in a tasty way 🙂 Citizen is also known for their extensive whiskey list, if you’re into that kind of thing. The food was good and while the entrees didn’t thrill me I’d definitely go back for their Starters, Snacks and cocktails. I’m not sure how popular this is but Citizen also offers a pig roast – complete with a “whole roasted suckling pig” – that serves 10 or more people and is complete with raw bar apps and sides. Not something you see everyday!

Mai Tai

Mai Tai

The Perfect Bite: Crunchy bread, fig relish, duck prosciutto, burrata.

http://www.citizenpub.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

 

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Happy’s Bar + Kitchen

Since April I’ve been dying to try Michael’s Schlow’s newest restaurant, Happy’s Bar + Kitchen. I’ve tried Chef Schlow’s Radius for restaurant week, I’m a huge fan of his Italian concept Via Matta, and I’ve frequented Tico a number of times for drinks and apps. Finally I made it down to Fenway to see what his first casual eatery was all about.

bar + lounge

bar + lounge

Bread: 1 slice of white country bread was served with salt & pepper and a side of EVOO that was poured at the table. While the bread plate seemed a bit empty, this 1 piece was fine for me & my mom but 4 more slices were eventually brought with our apps. Bread was soft, doughy, and tasted fresh.

Menu: The dinner menu consists of Apps + Munchies, Salads, Sandwiches, Entrees + Big Salads. None of the salads or entrees really jumped out at me besides The Famous “Kitchen Sink” Chopped Salad and the Grilled Salmon. I was debating between the Veggie Sandwich and a couple appetizers and went with the following…

Food/Presentation:
Tuna Tartare with spicy avocado, cucumbers and crispy tempura bits
A large pile of tuna tartare was placed next to a row of thinly sliced cucumbers. Typically this dish is served with some sort of chip, pita, or bread vehicle but instead I used the cucumbers to carry the tuna. This wasn’t a bad method, until I ran out of the veggie. This app was good but I was hoping for more ‘spicy avocado’ which was only seen as a spread/paste under each cucumber.

Cauliflower with chipotle, cojita cheese and “crunchies”
The cauliflower came in a cast iron oval dish, topped with the cheese, scallions, and “crunchy” fava beans. Who knew this plain dull vegetable could be so tasty! Whether you’re a fan of cauliflower or not, this app is worth a taste.

Bathroom: The women’s room has 4 stalls, automatic sinks, soap, and hand dryers. The “Aim Straight” stencil I thought made more sense to appear above a urinal, but perhaps it’s referring to the trash can directly below?


Service: Our server was really friendly and checked on us quite a few times. He recommended the cauliflower app and encouraged us to try their Adult Milkshakes but dessert wasn’t in the cards for us that evening, even though they sounded delicious! The General Manager also stopped by at the end of the meal to see how we enjoyed ourselves during our first visit.

Overall: I love the style and comfort level of Michael Schlow’s first casual eatery. The miss-matched lounge furniture and spray painted walls gives off a quirky feel in the bar area; the dining room is more consistent with blue booths and chairs but the walls are still adorned with random artwork. The menu selection isn’t bad, especially when all dinner items are $21 and under. I’d love to go back, perhaps sit in the lounge, and try the Grilled Vegetable “Dagwood” with Rosemary Aioli.

The Perfect Bite: cauliflower, cojita cheese, crunchy fava bean.

dining room

dining room

lollipops with the check!

lollipops with the check!


http://happysbarandkitchen.com/

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

Sweet Cheeks

Walking into the foyer of Sweet Cheeks I’m hit with an overwhelming aroma of smokey BBQ. Enter into the actual restaurant and the smell matches the visual of a down to earth, casual eatery with family style tables. There’s a bar with a few flat screens (we’re in Fenway after all), low and high top communal tables as well as private tables of 4. We’re led to one of the long picnic-like tables and I’m thankful we we’re seated in actual chairs rather than benches. The table consists of 3 jars of varying sauces (BBQ sauce, sweet sauce, and hot sauce), tins of napkins and silverware, and 3 Mason jar water glasses. Behind me stacks of chopped wood line the wall, I assume not just for décor but for actually cooking the meat, chicken, pork and ribs. I’ve certainly had barbecue in the past but I was not prepared for this authentic Texas-style BBQ meal that was about to go down.

courtesy of Sweet Cheeks website

courtesy of Sweet Cheeks website

Bread: If you plan on ordering a full tray or sandwich with 2 side scoops, then trust me, you’ll be glad they don’t serve bread. But you certainly can’t leave Sweet Cheeks without trying their Bucket o’ Biscuits served in a cylindrical tin with a side of Honey Butter. I could have easily split 1 biscuit with someone as these were the largest biscuits I’ve ever seen! Warm and doughy on the inside with just enough crunch on the outside. They were really incredible and went so well with the sweetened butter.

Menu: When it comes down to business you’re ordering Pork, Ribs, Turkey, Chicken, or Brisket. The menu is divided by: Trays, By the LBs, Onsies, Biscuits, Hot & Crispy (sides), Cold Scoops, Hot Scoops, Sandwiches, The Big Rig (for large parties), More Sweet Less Cheek (dessert). To get your moneys worth you essentially want to pick a main meat (in tray or sandwich form) and 2 scoops. No matter what you order you’re probably going to leave full and satisfied.

Food/Presentation:
Pulled Pork Sandwich with Mac n’ Cheese (hot scoop) and Farm Salad (cold scoop)
The pork came thrown on to a bulkie roll with fixings of pickles and onions on the side. I decided to eat just the top of the roll (open-faced style) as I was still trying to digest the enormous biscuit. I poured on the sweet BBQ sauce (the best of the 3 sauces) and after discarding a few fatty pieces, topped it with pork, onions and pickles.


The mac n’ cheese hot scoop came in a deep mug topped with bread crumbs. The first few crunchy bites led to cheesier ones as you fork your way down into the mug. Just the right amount of each!

The farm salad consists of brussel sprouts, red grapes, farro, nuts, and shredded parmesan cheese. This was a welcomed light & refreshing taste among the hearty comfort food.

Bathroom: The corner wall leading up to the bathroom is lined with halved motor oil tin cans and a giant sign reading “King Edwards Cigars”. The women’s restroom pays homage to Dolly Parton with framed pictures, her “9 to 5” movie poster, a cherry apron, and … a sticker machine? I’m not sure how that fits into Texas/BBQ/Parton unless there’s a reference I’m completely missing! I now wonder who the men’s room salutes…

Service: Sweet Cheeks doesn’t take reservations for parties less than 8, but on a Monday at 6:30pm we were seated right away. As my friend and I were waiting for the 3rd member of our party the server checked on us a few times, offering water and drinks. The meals were brought before I was able to finish my biscuit, but I could have sat there all night with that monstrosity. At the end of the evening I left my Perfect Bite card with the check and Owner/Chef (and Top Chef alum) Tiffani Faison stopped by to shake our hands and introduce herself, making sure we enjoyed our night. I love that the owner/chef was so hands-on and actually present in the restaurant! It was great to meet Tiffani and let her know how great the food was. I was a fan of her South End restaurant Rocca which closed last year, so I’m happy to see that Sweet Cheeks is becoming a big success.

Overall: I adore the comfortable and casual environment of feeling like I’m dining in someone’s backyard (regardless of the lack of outdoor space). The exposed wooden ceiling and walls along with the wooden tables and chairs also give it a barn effect, with strings of light bulbs draped above across the wooden beams. The food was excellent and the portions were more than generous. While the menu isn’t that extensive it still offers a variety of options and combos. The prices are reasonable, especially when you consider the portion sizes; I took home 1 biscuit and ¾ of my mac n’ cheese, definitely getting my moneys worth. There was a great drink selection as well and my Heartless Jezebel cocktail was pretty good.

Dollywood and Heartless Jezebel

Dollywood and Heartless Jezebel

The Perfect Bite: Warm giant biscuit with smooth honey butter. I’m confident I’ll never encounter another biscuit that compares!

www.sweetcheeksq.com

For more photos & descriptions of what everyone in my party ate, visit my Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectBiteBoston

Church

I had heard mixed reviews for Church but wanted to try it out for myself before writing it off. Being a sister restaurant of Coolidge Corner’s Regal Beagle in Brookline I was expecting a strong culinary showing, but instead experienced a slightly disappointing meal and spotty service.

Bread: None. At least we didn’t receive any. I should have realized then that what was to come was nothing impressive.

Menu: Sliders, From the Garden, Grilled Flatbread, From the Sea, From the Farm, Dessert. There were a good amount of options, and part of certain dishes stood out but there wasn’t one that I was immediately drawn to (besides the rosemary duck fat fries, which I didn’t even order). I also need to mention the cocktail menu; it was broken down into two categories, “Seven Deadly Sins” and “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. I commend Church for being creative with their descriptions, but when they omit any mention of the alcohol involved it’s hard to determine what to order!

Food/Presentation:
Margherita Grilled Flatbread: slow roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil
The four of us started with this flatbread as an appetizer. It wasn’t bad but there wasn’t anything particularly memorable about it either. I love any kind of tomato (except maybe sundried) but I didn’t like the way these were prepared.

Warm Baby Spinach Salad: cranberry-thyme vinaigrette, toasted walnuts, molten gorgonzola, and beets
My salad came in a warm skillet, with the ‘molten cheese’ crisped to the bottom of the cast iron pan. It was a little strange that the lettuce was so warm, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The salad was lightly dressed, and a good combination of sweet & savory.

Buffalo Chicken Sliders: buttermilk-blue cheese dressing and celery slaw
Two sliders came topped with slaw; sandwiched between was a pile of fries. Before ordering I assumed the chicken would have been pulled or grilled, so I was pretty disappointed to learn that in between the buns was cubed, slightly fried chicken. The slaw was decent and I liked the sauce, but the square pieces of poultry really threw me off.

Bathroom: The ladies room was actually nice with earth tones, chrome faucets, and bowl sinks which I always find quite pretty.

Service: My friend Alana arrived about 15 minutes before the rest of us and said she waited at least 10 minutes before anyone came over to offer her a drink. Once we arrived and ordered cocktails it took another 15 minutes to receive those. Our waitress was either new, distracted, or just straight up not good at her job. Our salads came before we finished the flatbread, which isn’t a huge deal but I don’t like to be rushed! The rest of the evening was fine, although it did take a while to get the check.

Overall: I think Church is more of a bar / live band scene than a restaurant; I personally would never send anyone there for the food. The cocktails were just ok; I started with Vanity (a vodka & grapefruit concoction) and ended with Death (useless description is above – turned out to be a champagne cocktail). The prices were reasonable at least and the atmosphere was lively and comfortable. The location is so remote (Kilmarnock Street) that I don’t see myself returning any time soon.

Vanity

Vanity

The Perfect Bite: I guess I’ll say the warm spinach, melted gorgonzola, and beets.

 www.churchofboston.com

La Verdad

 I’ve tried a few Mexican restaurants recently (Lolita, Sol Azteca, Papagayo) but was told by a friend or two that La Verdad was the best in the city. Located on the famed Lansdowne Street outside Fenway, I can only imagine how busy this place must be in the summer. On a cool December evening however it wasn’t packed, but was busy as it could be for a Friday night at 6:30pm. I didn’t make my way into the dining room but the bar/front seating area was a little small with some high tops and 2-4 tops, and was decorated with white ‘Christmas’ lights.

Bread: The bread of course was chips & salsa which came with our order of seasonal guacamole. The chips were good – not to oily, lightly salted – and the salsa wasn’t bad but I like mine chunkier.

Menu: Starters, Soups & Salads, Tortas & Huaraches, Tacos & Burritos, Entrees, and Sides. There were enough options and a few things caught my eye that I had never heard of before, one being Huaraches which is Mexican-style Flatbread. I was struggling between a couple different entrees and eventually settled on something a bit different…

Food/Presentation:
Seasonal Guacamole – green apples, cheese, garlic, cumin
While it wasn’t made table side, I really appreciated the guacamole with a twist! It was different and the green apples were actually a great addition. The portion looked tiny set in the large pestle but it actually was enough for the 4 of us.

Duck Carnitas – confit duck, fig marmalade, orange goat cheese, and rajas salad
Three small soft tacos were topped with fig spread, pulled duck meat, red onion, cilantro, and goat cheese & mandarin oranges (rather than “orange goat cheese” as the description stated). The portion was perfect and I loved this option of the lighter, sweeter taco. It’s nice to see inventive menu items! If you’re a duck fan I suggest this dish.

Bathroom: Two large oval mirrors hang above 3 sinks, and to the right are 3 or 4 bar-typical stalls. What appeared to be some type of playing card bordered the walls in the stall ½ of the restroom.

Service: Our table was a bit small for 4 people but we made it work. Drinks were brought in a timely manner. Our entrees arrived before the guac and chip basket was cleared which I always frown upon. Our waitress was nice and able to answer our few questions.

Overall: The sangria tasted like mostly juice and was just ok, but the multiple Mojito options (classic, mango, raspberry, strawberry, limon, passion fruit – I had the latter) made up for it! The prices were less expensive than most Mexican Taquerias I’ve been to recently, with starters topping out at $12 and entrees reaching $19 (although Matt did mention that while his Enchilada was $13 it didn’t come with the expected sides of rice and beans). The food was great, atmosphere was decent, and the total bill wasn’t scary.

The Perfect Bite: Chip with a big scoop of seasonal guacamole!

www.laverdadtaqueria.com

Sol Azteca

Another dinner adventure provided by Groupon. I have driven by Sol Azteca numerous times and don’t think I would have ever stopped in if not for the explosion of daily deal websites.

Bread: We were of course served chips & salsa in place of bread & butter. The chips were lightly salted and the salsa was mild with a few chunks of tomato. Pretty standard.

chips & salsa

chips & salsa

Menu: Apps, Soups, Salads, Traditional Plates, Specialties, Vegetarian, Dessert. The menu has a wide variety of authentic Mexican entrees, standard favorites, and even a kid’s menu with simplified dishes.

Food/Presentation:
Nacho Grande: tortilla chips, beans, salsa, jalapeno pepper, cheese
I don’t remember seeing any salsa on the plate, but it was definitely packed with beans, peppers, and melted cheese. This was the only nacho option (except for a smaller version minus the salsa) which was surprising, but it was well done leaving the chips coated with cheese but still crunchy.

nachos

nachos

Tortilla Soup: tortilla strips, avocado
I fell in love with tortilla soup when I tried it for the first time at Qdoba (yes, the chain you often find in mall food courts). Their version is cheesy, spicy, and truly delicious. Unfortunately Sol Azteca could not live up to my expectations. There was close to zero flavor! I was essentially eating soggy tortilla strips with chunks of avocado in chicken broth. Disappointing.

tortilla soup

tortilla soup

Ensalada con Pollo al Grill: mesclun mix salad with house dressing, topped with grilled chicken strips, tomatoes, avocado, and guacamole
A pretty simple salad but that’s really all I wanted. The house dressing was lightly mixed with the greens and was surprisingly delicious. They were generous with the amount of avocados and guacamole which you don’t see very often. Both Matt & I (he devoured his Enchiladas Verdes) were completely satisfied with our entrees.

grilled chicken salad

grilled chicken salad

Pastel Azteca: Light Coconut Cheesecake
We brought this home because we were both so stuffed. As soon as I presented the plate to Matt he asked if it was really cheesecake because it sure didn’t look like it. The top resembled flan and there was no graham cracker crust in sight. The menu mentioned “coconut” which there was none of and the sauce it came with wasn’t great. Good thing I had an ice cream bar in the freezer…

cheesecake

cheesecake

Bathroom: A small 1 room/stall bathroom with a peach ceramic sink and decorative tiles around the mirror. The ladies/men paintings on the doors added character.

ladies room door

ladies room door

bathroom stall

bathroom stall

Service: We had to wait a little longer than we would have liked to be greeted by the host, but that was forgotten once we were seated on their outdoor patio. Our water glasses were filled regularly and each course was brought in a timely manner. We had little interaction with the waiter but he was pleasant when we saw him.

Overall: I was disappointed for a restaurant that boasts about its award-winning Mexican cuisine. Even Matt’s margarita was sub par, served in a tiny wine glass for $7. If you’re looking for some all around great Mexican food, I won’t be quick to recommend Sol Azteca. While our entrees were the best part of the meal, I was still underwhelmed with the food in general. I’m sure their tacos, fajitas, quesadillas etc kick butt.

The Perfect Bite: For this review I have to go with the perfect sip, being the Red Sangria. While it lacked fruit (a lime wedge does not count) it still had enough flavor and pop to overly satisfy. Worthy of the “Best of Boston” award it received.

sangria

sangria

http://www.solaztecarestaurants.com/

Island Creek Oyster Bar

Being a sister restaurant of Eastern Standard (a couple of doors down in Kenmore Sq) and Lineage (on Harvard St. in Brookline) I had high hopes for Island Creek Oyster Bar. I’m not necessarily a fan of raw bars, which Island Creek does well, but I do love seafood (and food in general). Perfect place to try for a Father’s Day dinner before heading to a Sox game 🙂

Bread: We received a small wooden basket with 5 slices of bread. Soft, fresh and delicious, but the real star was the butter which was mixed with honey, cayenne pepper, and sea salt!

bread & butter

bread & butter

Menu: The menu is changed and printed daily which I love because you’ll always be presented with different options. Unfold the menu once to find the Raw Bar options complete with names of the fishermen who caught the goods, unfold once more to find the apps, salads, fish, meat and more. I originally wanted the lobster roll, and this would probably be a great place to try one, but my game time decision led me to an app and a salad.

Food/Presentation:
Yellowfin Tuna Tartar: cucumber, sesame, chive
The tuna was served in the middle of a large plate sprinkled with chives, accompanied by a bowl of homemade crispy chips; an old recycled menu acted as a doily. Some of the chips I placed on the plate to show how decorative they were! In terms of presentation I wish this all came on one appropriately sized plate (the table just wasn’t big spacious enough), but taste wise I have no complaints. The tuna was in chunks which I like, and the portion was a respectable appetizer size.

tuna tartar

tuna tartar

WestportGreens: marinated avocado, radish, spiced corn vinaigrette
The greens were tossed with the dressing and radishes, covering the sliced avocado. A simple salad in ingredients and light and refreshing in taste.

salad

salad

Bathroom: It’s not really fair to judge this bathroom as it was located outside of the actual restaurant in the Hotel Commonwealth. But, it was clean with earth toned hues, and had 2 of those cool hand dryers where you slowly draw your hands in and out…

bathroom

bathroom

Service: From the server who poured our water, to our waitress, to the guy that cleared our plates, everyone was pleasant and friendly. Our waitress allowed me to try the wine before actually ordering (which I’m seeing a trend of lately – is that fueled by my indecisivness or their hospitality?), and while my dad was in the restroom the plate clearer chatted me up about the Sox since we were on our way to a game. It’s nice when you can have a real conversation with the staff.

Overall: Not only did they have a regular bar but also a separate actual raw bar where you could sit overlooking the raw food items. I wasn’t too adventurous with my dinner selections but I enjoyed both plates. My dad really liked his raw bar choices and the skate entrée. Next time I’m craving a lobster roll I’ll be sure to stop by!

The Perfect Bite: The bread & butter was one of the best combos I’ve recently had, but the tuna tartar and homemade chips were my bite of choice.

http://www.islandcreekoysterbar.com