If, after all the bubbly, & all the eggnog, all the turkey, & the green beans, & the pumpkin pie à la mode, the leftovers, the bickering, & the leftovers, & the Tums, you can’t fathom why an 8-buck dinner of brats & kraut with peppers & a baked potato (plus salad)
With every drink you die a little more inside, lean a little more hellward.
That’s the moral to the story of Eastern Standard in Boston’s Kenmore Square, where celebrated young buck of a bar manager Jackson Cannon is the devil with whom you strike a Faustian bargain—the tenderest cut of your soul for but a sip of bliss, believe you me.
But hey, moral, happy ending, same difference. Especially in the light of day—midday, to be exact; nothing like a few vodka cocktails over a 3-hour-long lunch in the company of old friends to feel, in Stephen Dobyns’s words, your “great red soul
trembling like a cubic meter of raspberry Jell-O.”
Or frothing like a Russian Tea Room.
This slug of beet-infused Christiana vodka, shaken with just a touch of yogurt & citrus, went down like a borscht slush, & so did the 2nd one, & the Earth & Brine—
combining Reyka vodka with celery-infused vemouth & bitters to create what was indeed less a dirty martini than an earthy one—went down just as easy, & so did the conversation, veering from extreme shepherding to Incubus, a 1966 horror flick in Esperanto starring William Shatner. I love my weird friends.
And so, on that note, did the Heather in Queue—a “riff on a gimlet” with gin, vermouth, Fernet Branca, orange liqueur & a flamed orange peel—which just happens to be named for the friend, an ES regular, who told us about the neon sheep & also about bookending a single meal at Osteria Marco with orders of burrata on a recent visit here to Denver. Such is the stuff that makes a legend of a girl.
All the while we noshed on the likes of deep-fried sweet Maine shrimp—their season so short, their memory so fresh in its lingering—
& the house charcuterie plate, which Chef Kickass Jamie Bissonnette made famous before decamping for the Oringer Empire & which the current crew has kept up to snuff: this one boasted smoked sausage & the most luscious mortadella, chunky with cubes of pure fat & pistachios.
And steak tartare—to my tastes a little overworked, its strongly seasoned add-ins obscuring rather than enhancing the flavor of the meat,
but given that it came with a side of shoestring fries all had to be forgiven, if for no other reason that it, an appetizer, came with a side.
That’s my kind of generosity. Hey, could I get a side of sandwich with that salad? Does that soup come with a side of cake?
Meanwhile, Yumyum—a longtime regular on Chowhound’s Boston board to whom Boston Magazine recently gave cred for expertise where it was overdue, as well as to my old pal MC Slim JB et al.—shared her schnitzel
along with her right-on opinion it needed more lemon. The breading was ideal though.
And so on, & so on—the Director knocked back a couple of Medjool date–infused bourbons; dear Michael, dreamy Dasha & stunning young Elizabeth shared various green things & discussed Dasha’s recent work on an energies calendar, which I really don’t know what that means other than something breathtaking (& purchasable here, along with numerous other beauties):
And Lisa & her beau, who stopped by just to say hi & then plopped down for lunch after all—because that’s what my friends do best, is surrender to indulgence.
Talk about setting the eastern standard.
Yeah, not even close.
But it is a grill complete with an “e” in a Holiday Inn (for whose grandness I’ll always vouch)—
where the waitress managed, much to her own surprise, to unearth a full-grown bottle of wine amid the baby bottlettes of Sutter Home white zin;
the ol’ split-top dinner rolls were still warm;
& the buffet, AYCE for $8.99, had an actual whole smoked salmon garnished with cubes of cheddar, actually tender & juicy (for all its thorough cooking) prime rib, actually-terrible-but-awesome creamy broccoli salad with raisins & sunflower seeds
& all the heart-of-the-heartland fixins,
along with everything else from teriyaki to minestrone. What more can you ask for? We may find out on the drive back to Denver from Cedar Rapids. I’m thinking fishsticks.