Phantom Gourmet: Kirkland Tap & Trotter In Somerville
SOMERVILLE - When you take a world class chef, give him some great ingredients and a wood fire grill, you get something really special. That's the magic combination at Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville, where they are proving you don't have to be fancy to be fantastic.
"What we've done is we've just said, 'Hey, this place is about great food on a plate. It's not about foopy things going up or stripes or dots going around," said Chef and Owner Tony Maws. "We cook the food right. It goes on a plate. We get it to you. That's what this place is about."
Maws likes to keep things simple, or as he calls it, "old school." So whatever you see on your plate, be it mustard, pasta or a slice of pie, you can trust it was made fresh in-house. The most old school aspect of all, though, has to be how Tony and his team actually cook the food: on a giant, wood fire grill.
"You walk in here, and that's one of the first things you can sense. You might even smell it walking down the street," said Tony."It just makes you start to salivate and crave. And it's very homey that way."
A friendly neighborhood spot with a menu full of elevated comfort food – that's what you'll find at Kirkland Tap and Trotter.
For starters, there's Beer Battered Bread and Butter Pickles served with a horseradish Russian dressing, perfect for dipping; decadent grilled pork belly over creamy rice grits; and housemade macaroni topped with rich lamb ragu.
The best way to get your meal going is with an order of Crispy Fried Pork Ribs.
"Beautiful Memphis ribs that we dry rub, and then we braise for a long time. Then we fry them, so it's got the best of everything," described Tony. "They're falling-off-the-bone tender, but they've got a really nice little crisp, crunch on the outside.
"People will be like, 'Oh yeah, one order will be fine.' And the next thing you know, they're ordering three more ribs."
Once you're ready for an entree, the menu offers fire roasted chicken over pumpkin puree and grilled bok choy, and a grass fed burger capped with a crunchy kimchee Russian dressing.
"Terrific chuck on a great bun that we make here. It's a brioche bun, served with handcut fries -also done in-house. It's a really good, beefy burger. I think it puts a smile on a lot of people's faces."
For a smile that's sure to last all week long, come down to Kirkland on a Monday night for one of their signature hot dogs.
"A good hot dog is one of my favorite food groups," declared Tony. "We set out to make a hot dog, and this is a pretty bomb dog. It's a combination of beef and pork, and we generally serve it on a housemade pretzel roll. Our own relish that we make; our own mustard that we make; our own chips that we make.
"If you're a hot dog connoisseur, I think it's absolutely worth the detour to come here on a Monday to try that dog."
If you're thinking about coming here Sunday through Thursday evening, you can feel free to bring the kids along, because Tony might be a world class chef, but he doesn't mind making food for the children's menu, even if he's giving it away for free.
"Mommy and Daddy can have a great pint or a cocktail and some good food and not feel like they're not getting their kid something delicious," said Tony. "Why should a kid get any less respect in the food that we're cooking for them than anybody else?"
So the kids can enjoy a great meal, like the Beer Battered Fish served with French fries and greens, and there's still room in the budget for that little something extra. If that something happens to be dessert, order up a slice of tangy, crispy lemon meringue pie.
"One of my favorite things to eat is lemon meringue pie, but it's hard to get a good lemon meringue pie. So we set out to make it," Tony explained. "It's got a great almond crust. I think it's got the great balance between acidity with the lemon, but not too tart. Just the right amount of sweetness. We serve it with a little bit of blackberry coulis. It's pretty easy to devour."
Though the menu boasts many of Tony's favorite foods - from hot dogs to lemon meringue - his favorite part about his restaurant is what it reminds him of every day.
"I think, being a chef, it's all about cooking food for people. And that's what I fell in love with at the very beginning, and I've never lost that. So even on the hardest days, I get to look out at the dining room, watching people having a great time. They're smiling, and they're laughing, and I think that kind of gathering around a table is what it's all about."
You can find Kirkland Tap & Trotter at 425 Washington Street in Somerville, and online at kirklandtapandtrotter.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.
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