By Dane Feldman
Photos by Dane Feldman.
Highland Kitchen is located on 150 Highland Avenue in Somerville, Massachusetts. I had the opportunity to dine here when I was staying with a few friends just outside Somerville, which is just outside the city of Boston.
Highland Kitchen serves brunch, dinner, and dessert all with a southern flair. The brunch menu includes items like hushpuppies, fried chicken, shrimp and grits (or if you’re really feelin’ southern, there’s catfish and grits), and even fried green tomatoes, blackened catfish po’boys, and smoked pork hash.
I wish I could say I’ve been here for brunch, but alas I have not. Instead, I came for dinner, which I must say is just as exciting. This menu, too, includes shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, oh, and spicy Texas-style beef chili.
But my cohort and I went for the truffle mushroom balls to start. They were delicious and I’m now thinking I want to try making fried mushrooms this way at home.
Then, we each ordered an entree: the Highland Cheeseburger for me (an Angus steakburger with caramelized red onions served with fries and greens) and my dining companion ordered the braised rabbit fettucine (served with pancetta, wild mushrooms, and Sicilian olives).
The burger was one of the best I’ve had in a long time—the meat was fresh and the onions were perfectly caramelized. I also tried rabbit for the first time and was pleasantly surprised that I liked the taste. (It’s not nearly as gamey as I expected.)
Truthfully, the real reason we found ourselves at Highland Kitchen is because I had heard about it after watching Esquire Network’s Best Bars in America episode about Boston. I was hoping to try at least one of the places on the list and Highland Kitchen seemed the perfect choice because of its proximity to my friends’ homes.
We were certainly not disappointed. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the extensive list so completely that I needed several minutes to decide what I wanted to try the most. But more on that later.
The drinks menu is divided into cocktails, old school cocktails, “Locals Only” cocktails, agave, beer (several on tap and plenty more in bottles and cans), wines (white, red, and sparkling), and then by spirit: bourbon, scotch, whiskey/rye, vodka, rum, gin, tequila/mezcal, brandy/cognac, and cordials. See what I mean when I said before that I was overwhelmed?
Initially, I was considering the Ward Eight off of their locals only section, which contains rye, fresh lemon juice, fresh orange juice, and house grenadine, but after scouring the old school section I eventually settled on the Vieux Carre: an exceptionally boozy cocktail that’s a bit of a nod towards New Orleans cocktail culture containing rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud’s bitters, and Angostura bitters.
This thing was killer and I would absolutely order it again. I only needed the first sip to know that Highland Kitchen’s bar is the real deal. It deserves to be featured on Best Bars in America without a doubt in my mind.
If I hadn’t been sold on Highland Kitchen’s worthiness after my drink, the service certainly would have done the trick. The restaurant itself isn’t overly different from anywhere else.
It’s dimly lit and simple with a vintage feel and a nice big bar, but the staff makes the experience whole. Our waitress was excellent. She was quick, attentive, and quite knowledgeable. She never lingered, yet we still felt like we were being pampered. My dining companion at one point said she loved the olives in her dish, though she normally dislikes olives. The two of them bonded over a similar feeling, and I said something about drinking dirty martinis with pickle brine instead of olive juice.
The next thing I know, the waitress served my cohort an off-menu cocktail: a dirty martini with their special porcini-stuffed olives. That will stay with me a long while as will the entire experience. Highland Kitchen earned the 4.5 stars it has.