Sunday, February 26, 2012

Parish Café II - A Place to Be

by Shannon O'Neill

Parish Café II, located at 463 Mass. Ave. (the corner of Mass. Ave. and Tremont St.) has become a staple in the South End. Its claim to fame is its artfully crafted sandwiches designed by local chefs. Creator Gordon Wilcox reached out to chefs in the Boston area to have them create a sandwich for the Parish menu, and each sandwich is not put on the menu until the chef who came up with it deems it perfect. The standards at Parish Café are high, something that any guest will notice right away.

My boyfriend had a gift certificate to Parish that his mother gave him for Christmas (she bought it one day after he brought her there for lunch). I’ve visited before and have really enjoyed each of my experiences, but the fact that it is next door to my apartment adds to its appeal. We were seated quite quickly and we even had a choice of where we wanted to sit. It was busy for a Tuesday night, but not overcrowded or uncomfortably cramped. While I can’t say we learned our server’s name, he was attentive without being overwhelming and he had impeccable timing.

The interior of the restaurant was recently renovated. Most noticeable was the fresh paint on the walls, the new floors, new tables, and some cool mood lighting added throughout the space. The renovations, however, didn’t take away from its original charm. The bar remains the same – cozy as ever with what seems like an endless amount of beer mugs hanging overhead. The window seats were also left untouched. While Parish lacks outdoor seating, it boasts huge windows that open to the street in the warmer months. Even when the windows are closed, they create an openness that makes the space feel larger than it is.

The atmosphere at Parish could best be described as casually cool, but not pretentious. In other words, you won’t feel out of place if you’re not hipster, but it’s a place that can be enjoyed by hipsters, Baby-Boomers, and everyone in between. The soundtrack in the background fit the atmosphere well, including songs by Miike Snow, MGMT, and Modest Mouse. The playlist was great but it wasn’t played too loudly and didn’t take away from the conversations of guests. Parish is a place to socialize, and while the music adds to the atmosphere, you won’t have to shout to have your voice be heard over the sound system.

Wafting off from the bar is the faint scent of beer. Generally, the smell of beer coming from a bar is bad thing – from years of spills that had never been cleaned up – but that is not the case at Parish. The aroma is fresh and makes you crave one of the many beers that the bar menu offers…and they do have MANY. The beer menu is impressive – a few pages long, in fact. That being said, it is well-organized and easy to navigate. Beer-lovers will rejoice, but for others, Parish has a full bar that offers many wines, sangria by the glass or pitcher, and specialty cocktails.

The beer list itself will make you want to try everything that is offered, and Parish’s “Mug Club” is an incentive to do just that. The Mug Club works kind of like a loyalty card – you get a card, and if you try all of the 100 beers that are offered within six months, you become an official member. The greatest perk of being a Mug Club member? A 25oz. beer mug of your very own that you can drink from whenever you visit (and you can even have it personalized).

Parish offers more sandwiches on its menu than many restaurants offer in appetizers, entrees, and deserts combined. Sandwiches are its specialty…but these aren’t your typical deli sandwiches or lunchtime snacks. These sandwiches are complete meals and as, if not more, delectable than any entrée at other casual-dining restaurants. Sandwiches range from traditional (like “The Zuni” that consists of sliced turkey and a cranberry-chipotle sauce) to gourmet (like “The Campbell” which includes a soy and ginger roasted veal flank). The spectrum of sandwiches is wide, but there is something for everyone.

I ordered “The Bond Herb Roasted Chicken Salad,” a dish created by the Executive Chef of the Langham Hotel Boston, Mike Sapienza. Chicken salad is often thought of as simple and classic, but this dish was anything but average. To begin with, there were whole chunks of breast meat – not an unidentifiable slew of shredded, meat-like substance. The chicken was not mixed in just a mayonnaise, but in garlic aioli, roasted onions, scallions, thyme, and tarragon. I am not a huge fan of tarragon, but in this salad it worked perfectly; I could taste it, but it was not too strong. Also on my sandwich was Romaine lettuce, tomato slices (some of the juiciest tomatoes I’ve had in a long time), and shoestring fried onions. When reading the description of this item, I must have missed “fried onions” but they were a nice addition that went surprisingly well with chicken salad.

I cannot say enough good things about my sandwich, but I found that the potato salad was a bit disappointing. The menu proudly claims that homemade potato salad is served as a side, but it tastes more like potato salad that you would buy by the pint at the grocery store deli than something you would expect to go with sandwiches of Parish’s caliber. At times, I thought (and my boyfriend agreed) that the potato salad had no taste to it at all, while other bites had a weird tanginess that just didn’t work. Parish puts an extreme amount of care into crafting their sandwiches, but the care that is put into the potato salad seems to have fallen by the wayside.

The prices at Parish are more than reasonable, especially for the quality of the food, service, and atmosphere. No sandwich or entrée is more than $20, and most stay within the $10-$15 range. Also, while many of the beers are from microbreweries and are hard to come by, they are not overpriced to make them seem more exclusive. Altogether, my boyfriend and I ordered one beer, one iced tea, and two sandwiches, and our bill came to a total of $35. Parish is proof that a couple can get a great meal for under $50.

Parish Café II is a place that I will return to again and again, but also one that I would encourage others to visit. Whether you are looking for lunch, dinner, or just drinks with friends – Parish offers it all. Parish offers great food at great prices and is something that every Bostonian should experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment