Friday, March 26, 2010

Trina's Lites Up Inman Square

The next time you’re planning a pub or app crawl, you might want to check out the sometimes-overlooked neighborhood of Inman Square. Nestled between its more popular cousin squares of Harvard and Central, Inman is a favorite among hipsters, college kids, and folks in the restaurant industry. With the addition of Trina’s Starlite Lounge this past September, Inman has solidified its status as one of Boston’s best neighborhoods for great food and cheap beer.

Trina’s takes over the old Abbey Lounge spot on the Somerville side of B
eacon Street, on the very outskirts of Inman Square. Located under an old-school Miller High Life sign, in a plain and unassuming brick building, it might be easy to mistake it for the type of dimly lit joint where old men hide from the sunlight, swapping stories over Wild Turkey while they inhale the dust from piles of losing scratch tickets. On the contrary, when you enter Trina’s, you are welcomed into a 1950’s throwback lounge that keeps things classy and restrained despite the invitation for kitsch. Local artist, and part-time bartender, Thomas Tietjien provides much of the cozy space’s retro-inspired artwork.

Trina’s is the brainchild of Trina and Beau Strum, who spent years behind various Boston bars before tackling their own enterprise. Josh Childs, co-owner of the legendary downtown Silvertone Bar and Grill, is a partner in the business, as is general manager, Jay Bellao. Given the ownership’s deep connections in the city, Trina’s was a highly anticipated project that proved to be an instant success upon opening. Fueled by one of Boston’s most creative cocktail lists and a whimsical menu of delicious comfort food, word of mouth quickly spread.

Perhaps their most popular menu item, Trina’s Dog of the Day has reached a cult status through daily Facebook status updates sent to their 1,500 friends. Every day, Trina’s chefs use their wit and creativity to come up with a new way to cook a hot dog, with consistently delicious results. Recent dogs have included the Tostada Dog, the Fish and Chip Dog, and the Farmer’s Market Dog, which is made from all local ingredients, wrapped in smoked bacon and topped with brocolli and Brussels sprouts hash, laced with a mustard maple sauce. Trina’s also features the best Chicken and Waffles available in the city. The chicken is moist and juicy, fried picture-perfect and crispy on the outside, and served over homemade buttermilk waffles. All of that is topped with a
hot pepper syrup that contributes to the dish’s spot-on contrast of sweet and savory. There is a superb veggie burger also available to those so inclined.

The cocktail list features the freshest seasonal juices, fruits, herbs, and spices. As
they say, “if we can make it ourselves, we do.” Many of the liquors that they use are obscure, which can make for a fun learning experience. Try their Samata, made from Bison Grass vodka, ginger syrup, lemon juice, green tea, and mint if you want something refreshingly different. On a cold winter day, try the Adirondack, made with butter-infused bourbon and real maple syrup. If you’re not really into the fancy cocktails, then check out their beer list, which appeals to the hipster looking for an ironic can of Schlitz for $3 or the beer snob, who might appreciate the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA on draft. My favorite happens to be the bucket of Miller High Life ponies for $11.

Because the owners have all spent years working in restaurants, they have recently started hosting industry brunches on Mondays, though everyone is more than welcome. Complete with classic sugary cereals, Saturday morning cartoons, and their signature “Velvet Elvis” French Toast, stuffed with peanut butter, bananas, and chocolate-covered bacon, Trina’s has applied the same ideas that have made them such a successful nighttime establishment to the day shift. There might be no better way to start the week than a plate of Huevos Rancheros and a Hair of the Dog, a dangerously easy to drink combination of vodka, Licor 43, orange juice, and orange soda.

Trina’s joins Bukowski’s Tavern and Chef Chris Schlesinger’s seminal East Coast Grill in Inman Square, as exciting options for great food that maintains a sense of fun and won’t break the budget. Bukowski’s, which also has a more popular sister location on Dalton St. in the Back Bay, is born from the same love of nostalgia that Trina’s is and boasts one of the city’s most impressive beer lists. If you’re overwhelmed by the selection, leave it to the fates and give their Beer Wheel a spin. Right next door to Bukowski’s is the East Coast Grill, which has been serving up delicious food for over twenty-five years now. With its focus on bright flavors, fresh seafood, live fire and barbeque, its popularity is at an all-time high, thanks to a featured segment on the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food. Similar to Trina’s, they draw industry people into their dining room on Mondays by holding special events like Hell Night, Bob Marley Night, Pig Around the World Night, and Put a Little South in Your Mouth Night. These events sell out almost as quickly as they are announced.

There are a lot of good things going on in this often forgotten-about neighborhood quietly tucked away in the middle of everything. If you can’t drive, then hop on an MBTA bus (lines 69, 83, or 91) and get yourself a Nacho Dog at Trina’s or a Hobo Special at Bukowski’s or a bowl of Ghost Chili Pasta at the East Coast Grill (though, you might want to bring a pen, as you’ll need to sign a waiver).

(Trina’s Starlite Lounge is open 7 nights a week from 5 pm – 1 am, serving dinner until midnight. Brunch is available Mondays from 12 pm – 4 pm. Trina’s is located at 3 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA 02143.)

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