Eat Dessert First: The Chocolate Tarte and Highland Kitchen
By Rachel Leah Blumenthal
Go ahead, eat dessert first! I won't tell.
There's a stretch of Highland Avenue in Somerville, heading past the Somerville Hospital and towards
Union Square, that doesn't have much going on. Not much, that is, except for a bakery with the best
cupcakes in the world (The Chocolate Tarte) and a fantastic restaurant (Highland Kitchen).
Pro tip: The restaurant often has a long wait, so put your name on the waiting list and then head down the street to The Chocolate Tarte for a sweet "appetizer."
Some justification for my outrageous cupcake claim: Last summer, spurred by an intense late afternoon cupcake craving at work, I began a cupcake quest to find the best cupcakes around Boston. Several sugar highs and thousands of calories later, I stumbled on The Chocolate Tarte - walking distance from my new apartment! - and no other cupcakes have been able to measure up since then. Proprietor and baker extraordinaire Linda Hein creates treats that will ruin all other treats for you. You've been warned.
The best option for a pre-dinner dessert is a mini cupcake... or two. At a dollar each and good for a bite or two (or more if you're particularly dainty), these will give you a few seconds of paradise without spoiling your appetite. The selection varies, but red velvet and chocolate are almost always available. The cake is good, but the frosting is what will spur your addiction. It's as if it were "whipped by an angel," says my boyfriend, one of my cupcake-questing companions.
Let's not forget about dinner; it's probably time to walk back to the restaurant now. Highland Kitchen has a bit of a retro feel, complete with a jukebox and specials written on a chalkboard - in cursive! There's even a monthly spelling bee, which I have yet to attend, but I'm looking forward to dominating it. You see, I was once the second best speller in Massachusetts, according to Scripps. (True story.)
Start with a cocktail. Watch out; they're strong. Go for a Dark and Stormy (and be sure to request it made with the house-made chili-infused ginger beer) or a Rock and Rye, which includes a rock candy swizzle stick.
The pricing structure and plate sizes make it easy to mix and match among entrees, sides, and appetizers. For example, instead of an entree, I often order an appetizer - either the handmade potato gnocchi with short rib ragu and parmesano reggiano ($9.95) or the ricotta and mozzarella fritters with chili-honey dipping sauce ($7.95) - and the organic mixed greens salad with sherry-mustard vinaigrette ($5.95). A must-try appetizer is the Buffalo-fried Brussels sprouts ($6.95), the lovechild of, you guessed it, wings and sprouts. The spicy goat stew ($18.95) is the star of the entrees, but avoid it if you can't handle a bit of heat. The specials are always worth considering as well; they never fail to impress.
What's that? You want more dessert? You might be in luck. Once in awhile, Highland Kitchen offers red velvet cake from...The Chocolate Tarte!
Hours: Tue - Fri 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Hours: Mon - Sun 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.; Sun 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
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