Today’s post was written by Nancy Pollard, La Cuisine
“Where do you like to eat regularly in Old Town?” is a question that gets asked often in the shop. We always ask what they are looking for in a meal and try to recommend the best fit. A special appreciation has to be made to Cathal Armstrong’s restaurant group as their Restaurant Eve, Eamons, PX, and others have made such a difference. Old Town was viewed by many as a dining desert before their arrival. In fact, we always tell people that the Best Lunch Deal in town definitely goes to the Lickity Split Bar Menu at Restaurant Eve, and good Vietnamese carry out or eat-in meal would be Caphe Banh Mi, ditto Pita House for Lebanese food and Momo for sushi. Hummingbird’s deck at the Indigo Hotel and the patio Sonoma Cellar on King Street make for very happy outdoor dining.
Some however, still want to know where we regularly go to eat. Since I am not a burger or barbecue sort of girl and married to the Resident Wine Maniac, a few rules apply. We must have a decent wine list (both bottle and wine by the glass) It does not have to be fancy-schmancy, but wine by the glass should not taste like wine flavored water. And an inexpensive wine does not have to be four times the cost of what I can get it for at Balduccis (which has a great wine selection, by the way) or Whole Foods. While I don’t mind seeing a burger on a menu (it does seem to be the default choice for a lot of people). I am much more interested in menu choices which reflect local produce and selections from good small purveyors. If Sysco is your everyday supplier of food, I most likely won’t be happy.
So here are some of my favorite restaurants who offer meals which are driven by fresh and usually local ingredients, and have lovely and affordable wine lists. All are run by local owners, rather than investment groups testing out a concept.
La Fromagerie is run by a very small team headed by Sebastien Tavel – who earned his cooking chops at La Tour d’Argent in Paris. He has trained his sidekick to make excellent terrines and sausages. The front of the house is run by Laurie Loquet, who makes you feel at home, has a great palate for wine, and effortlessly serves her diners, answers the phone and handles your wine purchases. Their cheese plate selections are superb, they always have a couple of nicely done desserts – and all dishes are well thought out, beautifully prepared and in sensible portions.
A La Lucia is a larger operation run by Michael Nayeri, who ran the front of the house for Gallileo, hence his restaurant has an Italian trail running through it. He is extremely knowledgeable about wine and his selections show it. The seafood choices are excellent, (and yes, there is an occasional hamburger lurking on the lunch menu) but the mainstays of his menu are varied by season and are wonderful. They make their own mozzarella, burrata and ice cream. Stuffed zucchini blossoms in season? Check. Crispy, not greasy, soft shell crabs? Check. An excellent grilled veal chop? Check. Oh and the bread is so addictive, the Cuisinettes call it “Crack Bread”.
Our third recommendation is Nasime, a lovely and intimate Japanese restaurant carved from a tiny slice of the Lamplighter on King Street. It is our date night treat. Best to make reservations, but occasionally there will be a couple of seats at the last minute. Only one menu is served and it varies according to what the chef- owner likes that day. You eat what is served, so there is no salad with the dressing on the side- which to me is a good thing.