Once a month I have dinner with a group of five girls. Given all of our schedules, finding a date that works for everyone is nothing short of a miracle.
For June we decided to have our monthly dinner at ArtBar in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Not sure where that is? I wasn't either.
ArtBar (and the Royal Sonesta) is behind the Museum of Science and across the street from the Cambridgeside Galleria.
The night that we went was the first night of the intense summer heat wave that kicked off about two weeks ago. It was a Wednesday. I remember because it was the hottest Wednesday of my life.
As you approach the entrance to the hotel, the sign for ArtBar is prominently displayed against the brick exterior of the building.
Once you enter the hotel you have to weave your way down a long hallway, but eventually you arrive at ArtBar, which true to its artistic name, has a large, metal sculpture outside the entrance to the restaurant.
Despite being over 90 degrees outside, we had made a reservation for the outdoor patio a few weeks before and the girls really wanted to keep the outside table. I was a bit nervous about dining in the extreme heat, but we headed out there anyway.
From the patio you get an incredible view of Boston. You can see across the Charles River into Beacon Hill and to the right, you can see the John Hancock tower peeking out over the bridge.
Our table had vibrant, orange placemats positioned with contrasting black napkins. The ArtBar menu melds both the orange and black for a sleek looking list of offerings.
On the inside of the menu, on the very first page, there is a list of all the local farms where ArtBar gets their ingredients. I am a huge fan of restaurants that prioritze local and sustainable food.
Since it was painfully hot outside we needed ice cold drinks. None of the cocktails appealed to me, but there was a punch option that looked incredible. ArtBar offers a few different punch varieties and they come in servings meant for two, four or six people.
We ordered the French Standard which was vodka, lillet, St. Germain, lemon and grapefruit bitters. It came in a giant serving piece with a spigot! Each of the glasses that came with the punch had a scoop of ice cubes, a fresh cherry and a lemon rind. Yum!
This drink was sensational! It tasted dangerously like fruit juice. I could have drained that pitcher by myself.
For an appetizer we ordered the fried mac and cheese. The mac and cheese came stuffed into crispy wontons and served with a cheese fondue for dipping.
The mac and cheese itself was very bland tasting, but the addition of the wonton shell added a fantastic crunch.
For the entree course the friend sitting across from me ordered the Caesar salad. It was the perfect ratio of lettuce to parmesan to dressing.
Two of the ladies ordered the Boston Bibb salad. Which came with strawberries, goat cheese, brown sugar pecans and a maple chive vinaigarette. One of the girls opted to add grilled chicken which she said was excellent. When I asked how she liked the salad she replied, "I don't know how, but the end bites were even better than the beginning. I loved it!"
I had a sea of choices for my dinner, as ArtBar has an entirely separate vegetarian menu. They don't bring it out with the regular menu, so if you want to see it, you have to ask. After much deliberation, I went with the veggie burger.
The veggie burger came topped with a pickle that was speared to the bun. The French fries came poking out of a wire, silver basket. I also received a delivery of three, small condiment bottles for my burger and fries.
The veggie burger was a disappointment. It crumbled apart as I ate it and the patty was just too big. Additionally, the patty itself was super dense. It was made from lentils and portabello mushrooms. Veggie burgers are always a gamble and I lost on this one.
ArtBar's French fries were underwhelming. I normally clear my plate when it comes to fries, but I left half the basket on the table.
I wish I had visited ArtBar on a night that wasn't sweltering. My discomfort from the heat definitely colored my take on the experience. For example, our waitress routinely disappeared for 15-20 minutes at a time and had I not been sweating and dying for more water, I probably wouldn't have cared or noticed.
If I worked in the neighborhood (like the hundreds of employees across the street at EF) I think I'd love ArtBar for after work drinks with a view. The patio is a delightful urban oasis and that punch really was superb.
Have you been to ArtBar? Should I give it another chance?