Last night, I finally had a chance to try Highland Kitchen in Somerville (617) 625-1131 http://www.highlandkitchen.com/, a restaurant people have been telling me good things about for a very long time. Folks were right. Although it's located in a gentrifying, vaguely hipster neighborhood, this isn't just another upscale gastropub. Instead, Highland aims for half local hangout bar, half s**t-kickin' Southern-inspired dive, and somehow nails this eccentric target dead on. There's live blues and a bluegrass brunch on Sundays, karaoke night on Wednesdays. There's seafood gumbo, pulled pork, and deviled eggs on the menu. There's a wall of sound—equal parts TV, jukebox, and loud, happy patrons—that engulfs you the minute you walk in.
|Shrimp and Girts at Highland Kitchen|
There's friendly service, too, and best of all, genuinely terrific food and drink. Appetizers looked most intriguing, so we tried (and would recommend) the fried green tomato special—a salad presentation with arugula, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese dressing sharing the plate with the crisp, delicious tomato slices. After pausing for a briny, super-fresh Cape Cod Bay oyster apiece, we moved on to shrimp and grits: sheer heaven, with slow-smoked bacon, mushrooms, and tangy, meaty, perfectly-cooked shrimp.
(The menu doesn't go into detail, but I'm pretty sure those grits were stone-ground.) Dessert presented an almost painful dilemma: bourbon pecan pie, warm chocolate pudding cake, sweet potato pie, or what...? In the end, we split an order of banana bread pudding with caramel sauce. My dinner companion found the caramel a little too sweet and not sufficiently buttery; I thought it went well with the intense French Roast decaf (Jim's Organic Coffee of Wareham, MA, according to the menu) and was content. But then, I'm a New England girl—we like our desserts on the sweet side—and I'm not much of an expert on caramel.
There's an extensive drinks menu, featuring interesting-looking cocktails, plus beer, wine and liquor selections that range from the respectable to the downright quirky (Southern Comfort as a 'cordial'? Really??) I'll have to go back with a hard-drinking buddy, someday: the only alcoholic beverage we sampled was a London ale special by Pretty Things http://prettythingsbeertoday.com/site/ from Cambridge MA, which my friend pronounced extremely good.
In the final analysis, Highland Kitchen is great...and great fun. They're totally serious about some things: quality, artisanal ingredients, local sourcing, and the like. But they don't take themselves too seriously—witness their motto, "serving Somerville...since just the other day." It's since 2007, in fact, and I find myself hoping they'll be around for many days to come. Now that I've discovered this place for myself, I want to come back and try everything on the menu.
As long as I can withstand the wall of sound.
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