Friday, February 27, 2015

5 Napkin Burger, Back Bay, Boston

Sometimes there is nothing, and I mean nothing, like a burger.  Grilled beef, sandwiched between buns...yeah there's some connotation there, and there should be.  When the craving hits- is there anything that satisfies the desire more?

However, on the flip side, there may not be anything more disappointing than an ill prepared burger.  Improper meat temperature, poorly put together, too many toppings, a flimsy bun...any of these can ruin the entire burger experience so finding the right spot to indulge is pretty critical.  You may have heard about this place, this New York founded spot that touts not only amazing burgers but also options for those of your party not jonesing for the escalated sandwich.  5 Napkin Burgers is delivering not only tasty burgers, but a host of other dishes encompassing a wide range of desires.

We started out exploration of the new offerings with a sampling of their appetizers: a Pesto Flatbread, Soy Bean Hummus, onion rings and Rhode Island style calamari complete with those fried peppers.  It would be incredibly difficult to find fault here.  The flatbread had a warm, crisp crust, topped with garlicky and salty pesto then smothered in cheese and can you go wrong?  The onion rings were a sight to be seen, arriving at the table, golden circles stacked upon each other.  Their batter fried to perfection and yielding as you bit into each one with a satisfying crunch. The batter didn't overwhelm the onion, nor the onion overwhelm the batter and, best of all, the fry didn't permeate each bite with that harsh reminder that those delicious rings are, in fact, an indulgence.  My favorite here however, was the Soy Bean hummus.  The natural nutty flavor of the beans was preserved and paired with the refreshing crisp of peppery radishes.  It was an appetizer packing in nutrients that you can feel great about ordering.

I elected to have the turkey burger, topped with asiago cheese, pepper relish, pesto mayo and a slice of roasted tomato.  One of the things I love about 5 Napkins is their options for sides with their burgers- instead of being forced into fried accompaniments, here there are a host of options to enhance your meal.  I chose their tomato, avocado and cotija cheese salad.  I gotta say this was the MOST flavorful turkey burger I've ever had.  The combination of the salty asiago, the pesto mayo and the pepper relish packed a wallop.  The burger itself was juicy and well seasoned.  I loved the light feeling of the tomato salad.  Not dressed at all, the true fresh flavors of the ingredients shone on their own.  

Now no burger meal would be complete without a frappe.  I'm going to
assume that you all have not been to Kimball's Ice Cream and explain that a frappe is a milk shake that incorporates ice cream.  I realize that in the rest of the world a milk shake has ice cream but around here a milk shake is milk and syrup so from here on out- we're chatting frappes. 5 Napkin offers a wide array of frappes- think S'More (WITH a toasty marshmallow!), or Cookies 'N Cream, or Salted Caramel...

5 Napkin Burger is a large scale restaurant with a neighborhood vibe.  If you're looking for a great burger, or perhaps tacos or chicken and waffles - their menu is extensive with something for everyone.  So go, head on over and try out all of their new offerings!  


Monday, February 16, 2015

Johnny's Luncheonette, Newton Center, Newton

Warm up with this Portuguese inspired fish stew made with all locally caught seafood
There are those people out there, those companies founded, that are just good.  They do good things.  They bring good to people.  They operate in a good way.  They create good opportunities.  They make good food.  This is the story of two of these companies.

We'll start with an institution. A home away from home.  A place that has earned itself a space in the hearts of Bostonians for decades- Johnny's Luncheonette. Nestled in the heart of Newton center, Johnny's has provided a hearty meal, a welcoming smile and a neighborly feel since it opened in 1993.  Johnny's is a diner, maybe not an old boxcar diner, but a breakfast all day, blue plate special, ice cream in your milkshake diner. 
Baked local white fish, lightly breaded served with local veggies
Their food has always been big, it's been comforting and it's been carb-tastic with the heaping stacks of pancakes, piles of fries (both French and home), and mouthwatering sandwiches.  It hasn't, however, been environmentally friendly, at least not until March 2014, when the Masterson family took the helm.  Well known from their days at Nourish, their style has always been great food, locally sourced.  They have brought their skills, and their connections, to Johnny's and are now making those sandwiches on Iggy's bread, getting their ice cream from Richardson's, and their meat from a small ranch in Maine.  I hear you though maybe this isn't groundbreaking anymore. Maybe this use of the fabulous artisans around the area is come to be expected.  So what about their seafood?  This is where my second story comes into play.

You may recall an article I wrote several years ago about an incredible Boston based company finally giving those fishies who swim in our waters but aren't the mighty scrod, or a lobster or scallop a name.  I am, of course, referring to Red's Best.  This little company, based on the fish pier in oh so trendy fort point channel now, is doing, I must say not only good
Fish tacos- local fish crisp breading, loaded with flavor
work.  They are doing the best work.  They have given our small fisherman, in our harbors, the ability to hit large markets.  They have taken the stage away from just the big name fish and are showcasing true local flavor.  To wax on a bit, they are doing their part to save our fishing industry. They are doing great work.

The team at Johnny's has teamed up with the guys at Red's Best, to bring in their catch, and make it even more delicious.  So now, that fish and chips you feast on?  The lightly
What's a meal without dessert?
breaded tender white fish you so enjoy?  The fish stew that warms you up on a cold night?  That's all made with locally caught seafood, sourced by Red's Best.

Johnny's Luncheonette, though improved, is the same great spot to pull up a chair, settle in and indulge in some of the best classic comfort food.  Those improvements have only made that comfort food tastier, their carbon foot print less, and their feel more neighborly.

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...