There may be such a factor as an ideal neighborhood restaurant. I imagine it’s Highland Kitchen. That it isn’t in my neighborhood is irrelevant however deeply regrettable.
The restaurant opened in Somerville’s Spring Hill in 2007, run by Marci Pleasure and Mark Romano, a literal mother and pop joint; the couple has two children. It’s recognized for a number of issues: An extremely well-curated jukebox crammed with wide-ranging deep cuts, guaranteeing that the temper is just a little bit totally different each night time and it’s all the time good. (Additionally karaoke nights and spelling bees, and an annual spin of the whole New York Dolls’ debut album in remembrance of Anthony Bourdain.) Bartenders who know tips on how to make an ideal cocktail, whether or not it’s a basic or one thing just like the brunchy Cereal Killer (it includes milk flavored with sugar cereal), plus a robust choice of native craft beer. A menu that includes the bar meals of your goals, plates that will be at residence in an upscale bistro, Southern cooking, sudden specials, and, all the time, taste with out sacrificing method. Even the gloriously towering double cheeseburger is exact slightly than sloppy, not less than till you begin consuming. However above all, there’s something ineffable, a mix of humor, genuineness, kindness, enjoyable, humility, excellence, onerous work, and nice vibes that may maybe be greatest summed up as coronary heart. Or true hospitality.
Anyway, I like it right here. It had been too lengthy since I waited for a desk alongside all the opposite individuals who know a desk right here is definitely worth the wait. Highland Kitchen closed as a result of pandemic March 15, 2020, reopening a number of months later for takeout. There was a pop-up window peddling issues like beignets and muffulettas. Sister restaurant Highland Fried, in Cambridge, supplied takeout, too, after which out of doors eating. Specializing in fried hen and tiki drinks, the Inman Sq. spot is positioned within the former East Coast Grill, the place Pleasure and Romano met. Opened in 2017 and at the moment on hiatus, Highland Fried will shut for good, says Romano. “It’s simply me and Marci and we are able to’t do two eating places this fashion,” he says. “It’s an excessive amount of with all the things occurring, the most recent masks mandate or fears of Delta. To maintain our sanity, it’s greatest for our household to downsize to 1 place.”
Cambridge is admittedly going to overlook it. Clients must migrate, together with the employees; the entire Highland Fried workers have been supplied jobs at Highland Kitchen. In Somerville, the occasion continues. Now, greater than ever, we want it. Highland Kitchen is open for eating and ingesting seven days per week, though brunch stays on hiatus. Should you present up on a Tuesday, Cambridge Metropolis Council candidate and longtime Highland Kitchen bartender Joe McGuirk is perhaps on responsibility. I can’t consider a greater technique to domesticate and perceive a voter base than spending years behind a neighborhood bar.
On a latest wet night time, I’ve an opportunity to revisit an previous favourite. A good friend and I seize the second when the showers pause. We cross by the eating room I’ve sat in so many instances, heading out the again to take over certainly one of a dozen out of doors tables. Romano rearranges our chairs so we are able to sit within the driest ones. The desk is a bit wobbly, and when our first spherical arrives — the Dazed and Infused, a potion of mezcal infused with charred pineapple and jalapeno, Montenegro, apricot brandy, lemon, and bitters — the glasses slide once we put them down, proper into our ready palms. Time for the following sip, then put the glass down to slip once more. It’s good. All the things is a bit wobbly as of late. We’re all simply making an attempt to make it work.
Confronted with the menu and our starvation, ordering looks like an unattainable activity. Overordering is the one possibility. There’s a particular of smoked and fried pork ribs in BBQ sauce over cornbread salad that smells too good to withstand; the ribs are excellent, tender meat that protests however weakly if you strip it from the bone. We’ve to get the Buffalo fried Brussels sprouts, scorching, crisp nuggets in fiery, tangy sauce with blue cheese dressing. Highland Kitchen has mastered this type of bar snack. It’s a system — fried factor plus spicy factor plus creamy factor — nevertheless it’s higher than anybody else’s model. And we actually must get the ricotta and mozzarella fritters, that are pillowy, nubbly, golden-crisp orbs of tacky magic to be dipped in spicy honey. The alchemy!
We’ve a salad, as a result of well being, that’s a pile of shredded kale and Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts, Pecorino cheese, figs, and lemon French dressing. The figs are a great shock. The hazelnuts are excellent. My good friend orders mussels in coconut curry-lobster broth with grilled Iggy’s bread for dunking. I all the time need the deviled eggs, and the catfish po’boy, and the jambalaya, and that cheeseburger. The roast hen’s good too! And the fish dishes! However greater than something I crave Highland Kitchen’s coconut curried goat stew, and that’s what I’m having. The goat is scrumptious, tender and flavorful, and I want extra eating places served it. Root greens, plantains, and rice are perfect foils for the spicy golden curry. It’s been an ideal dish since Highland Kitchen opened, and it’s an ideal dish nonetheless. (In 2015, within the remaining spherical of the Globe’s Munch Insanity restaurant event, Highland Kitchen invaded competitor Island Creek Oyster Bar with a child goat, a brass band, and the reward of a case of Budweiser. It won.)
Then we eat heat banana bread pudding with caramel sauce and whipped cream. Hey, we had a salad.
A De La Louisianne — rye, candy vermouth, Benedictine, Herbsaint, and Peychaud’s Bitters — is the proper nightcap within the mild drizzle. I sip it slowly, ingesting a silent toast to an previous good friend now gone with whom I used to return right here usually. A lot has modified since I final ate at Highland Kitchen, and it’s as bittersweet as what’s in my glass.
It’s actual life, and there’s no higher place to have fun and mourn it. The subsequent day, once I open my fridge, there are leftovers.
150 Highland Ave., Somerville, 617-625-1131, www.highlandkitchen.com