Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Vegetarian in a Meat Eater's World: Redbones, Davis Square, Somerville

"I see no entrees without meat in them," Eric said, glancing over his menu at me, "except the Portabello Mushroom Sandwich. We can't both eat one thing, should we just order appetizers?"  I glanced at my menu and took a sip of Sam's Summer*,  "I don't see why not, I've never tried succotash."

We had come to Redbones because summer was coming and we wanted to try something different.  Redbones is something of a local favorite with Tufts and Harvard students: the surf shack decor, the cheap booze, the affordable food, the fact that it is one of the few places in the Greater Boston Area where you can get decent barbecue.  Eric and I are past our student days, and barbecue is not really on our radar.  Our visit was made in the spirit of experiment:  what would two vegetarians eat for dinner at a place called Redbones?

"Well," I said, "I call dibs on the mushroom sandwich.  They have a veggie burger option, but I don't know... I've had bad experiences with those.  Does the spelling of chicken as "chik'n" indicate that they're using fake meat?"
"I don't know, we'll ask."
"Mmmmm.  I've always wanted to try hush puppies, ever since the characters ate them in Summer of My German Soldier."
"And the garlic mashed potatoes look good, and maybe succotash? It looks meatless."
"What exactly is succotash?"
"Well, here it's made of lima beans, corn, onions, and peppers."
"Weird. I always pictured it as more of a fried-spinach type thing, like ravis."

The waitress came to our table and took our orders, the "chik'n sandwich," sadly, was made of real chicken, so we pigged out on the cornbread.  The cornbread was made of the fine, white corn meal that is a hallmark of Southern and Midwestern cooking (Sarah Vowell talks about it in her famous Thanksgiving essay), but is relatively hard to get in the Northeast.  I ordered my mushroom sandwich, and Eric got three appetizers: the mashed potatoes, succotash, and hush puppies.

Our food arrived quickly.  My mushroom burger was wonderful, well fried and with a satisfying sense of chewiness.  The "onion merlot jam" was merely a certain type of pickled onion, and was delicious.  It came with an unremarkable side salad that Eric and I shared.  Eric's appetizers were really big, an entire plate of garlic potatoes, a big bowl of succotash, and another plate of hush puppies.  No one was going to go hungry eating any of those dishes.  I asked to try a hush puppy, and Eric graciously let me grab one off his plate and dunk it in the garlic sauce.  It reminded me a bit of the french fries I used to get at chippies in Edinburgh: vaguely oniony, crisply fried starch soaked in vinegar.  Comfort food.  I also cadged a forkful of garlic potatoes (real potatoes, just the right amount of garlic, wonderful), and finished off his succotash when he got full.  (It tasted a little like minestrone, except more bland.)

The results of this experiment: any vegetarian can go to Redbones with his or her meat-eating friends and be assured of something to eat.  However, it would probably not be a good place to regularly go for dinner. Obtaining a pre-date snack, though, should be no trouble at all.

*I have an allergy to some preservatives in alcohol, so you'll find few reviews of local brews (or, for that matter, red or rose wines) on this blog.  I just stick to the boring offerings I know are "safe".

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