Somewhere in Somerville on a street lined with dusky houses and neon-lit convenience stores stands The Kirkland Tap & Trotter. Yellow-tinted light pours out of the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows onto the deserted and quiet sidewalk, allowing cold passersby a peek into the cozy setting.
Even though The Kirkland Tap & Trotter — Tony Maws’ second restaurant — just opened on Monday, crowds have already begun to flock to the casual and cozy Somerville location.
Tony Maws of Boston’s enormously successful Craigie on Main decided to open The Kirkland Tap & Trotter in the former location of the historic Kirkland Cafe, a local bar and neighborhood favorite popular in the 1970s. He describes the food at The Kirkland Tap & Trotter as the food he enjoys regularly:
“The Kirkland Tap & Trotter is an ‘every night of the week’ kind of establishment, serving favorites you would find my friends and family gathered around on a Monday night,” Maws said on The Kirkland Tap & Trotter website.
Bon Appetit named Craigie on Main one of the top 10 brunch restaurants in 2009, and Food and Wine — which regularly features Maws in the magazine — awarded him the title of “Best New Chef” in 2005. Bon Appetit and Food and Wine are not the only publications following Maws’ success, however. Boston’s Eater.com followed the opening of The Kirkland Tap & Trotter closely, signifying the restaurant opening as an anticipated event for the Boston food world.
On the left of the restaurant, a dense and noisy crowd gathers around the bar. In the back, vapor emanates from an open kitchen and dances in front of the eyes of hungry customers seated at the counter. In the center of the venue, families, lovers and friends sit on wooden chairs and huddle around wooden tables piled high with plates. Waitresses and waiters briskly fly from table to table, casually dressed in their own plaid shirts and jeans.
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter definitely has a rustic feel to it. The bare, stripped walls reveal some faded red bricks from times gone by, and the dimmed lighting reverberates on the exposed beams and pipes, the wooden floorboards and the glass bottles lined behind the bar. Songs from Arctic Monkeys, Cold War Kids and The Black Keys, among other popular artists, accompany the jovial chatter and the clinking of cutlery on ceramic plates.
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter is unpretentious, simple and welcoming, and the food only reinforces these characteristics.
The menu consists of three pages clasped onto a wooden clipboard. The first page presents the food while the other two place primary focus on the restaurant’s drink and liquor options. The dishes listed are a succession of house-made products, grilled and braised meats with special herbs and greens playing an important role.
The house-made farmhouse terrine with red onion compote and country mustard ($14) was surprisingly light with a silky, almost airy layer of white fat on top that melted on the tongue. Paired with it was the stringy red onion compote, which was sweet, tangy, and tart all at once and placed atop two pieces of grilled crostini. On the side, three kinds of mustard were available: country mustard, mustard seeds and mustard greens. Each element of this dish seemed to have come straight out of a French farm, with an unexpected and sophisticated rawness to it.
The second dish was the night’s special: duck fat Brussels sprouts ($8). The dozens of little Brussels sprouts glistened with duck fat, their green and yellow colors hidden under the top burnt layers. The sprouts were tender with just the right amount of crispiness. With the surprising flavor of popcorn, the meal embodied a childhood memory paired with the most unlikely of greens.
The house-made spaghetti came equipped with chicken liver, pumpkin and brown butter ($14). The spaghetti was thick and doughy and tasted like it was made by an old grandmother living in Sicily. The chicken liver was turned into a purée with the brown butter, giving the combination a thick gravy-like texture with a strong essence of sage. The taste of liver in this dish was subdued, and pieces of diced yellow pumpkin added the finishing sweet touches to the pasta. The incredible array of flavors truly set this dish apart from the rest.
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter may be on a lost street in Somerville, but it is certainly a hidden pearl. The rustic atmosphere, the simple architecture and the decor give the restaurant an undeniable charisma. The food just has that authentic homey-yet-refined taste that will keep you coming back.
It’s only a 10-minute walk from Harvard Square, and once winter comes, there will be yellow-tinted light and the husky voice of Alex Turner there and ready to greet you.
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter is located at 425 Washington St. in Somerville and is open seven days a week from 5 p.m. until midnight.