March 20th, 2007
East Coast Grill – Best Boston bars
Specialty: Cocktails, wine, beer
Atmosphere: Serious food in an unserious setting, fresh-juice cocktails adorned with little plastic monkeys.
See Best Boston bars for address and contact info.
For many years, one of my life’s great pleasures has been to sit at the bar at the East Coast Grill, grazing on raw shellfish and drinking margaritas made with fresh citrus juice. The food and drink at this Inman Square institution are so consistently fresh and satisfying that I find myself thanking my lucky stars for the place every time I manage to nab a stool at the always — always — crowded bar.
In the contemporary Boston bar scene, ECG pioneered using fresh-squeezed lemons and limes (instead of powdered sour mix) to make its margaritas, plus fresh pineapple and mango puree for other tropical cocktails. These bright-tasting, not-too-sweet drinks are the liquid counterpart to the kitchen’s equally bright-tasting, equatorial, often fiery dishes. Owner and cookbook author Chris Schlesinger, a member of the nation’s grilling & barbecuing elite, says that the fresh-grapefruit Greyhounds he used to drink at a Key West bar called Pedro’s inspired his own drink-mixing practices. Patrick Sullivan, a bartender at ECG in the mid-’90s, brought the fresh-squeezed philosophy with him when he opened his own pioneering bar, the B-Side Lounge, in 1998.
That’s the other thing about the ECG bar — it has always had cool bartenders. Schlesinger describes his staff’s service as “unpretentious, hardworking and relentlessly friendly.” OK, that’s true, but senior bartender Nick Weinstock pinpoints the crux of the matter: “It’s non-corporate. You’re not dealing with canned personalities here.” Weinstock is a perfect example of this. In addition to being a total professional, he’s brash in a lovable way and amusing without being a suck-up. He and his colleagues genuinely appear to be having a good time behind the bar, and they manage to get the customers in on the fun without monopolizing anyone’s night out. It’s a nifty trick.
Most cocktails here are in the $8 range, and there are always a couple of good New England beers on draught (Buzzard’s Bay, Cambridge Brewing Co., Allagash), not to mention PBR tallboys. A really good, reasonably priced sparkling wine is always available for your oyster-eating pursuits, and the wine list is well tailored to the cuisine.