I hope you enjoyed yesterday's post about New City Microcreamery in Hudson, MA. I think I've re-read the post about 15 times and I get excited all over again every time.
As I mentioned yesterday, New City Microcreamery was actually the second venture for co-owners Karim El-Gamal and Michael Kasseris. Their first baby, also in Hudson, is called Rail Trail Flatbread Co.
Just like New City, Rail Trail's name honors the town of Hudson, which is part of the Assabet River Rail Trail.
What you can't tell from the above photo is that as you walk by the front windows of the restaurant, you can see the team kneading and tossing the flatbread dough.
Inside, the space is divided into three main areas - the front dining room, the bar, and then a third dining area in the back (for some of the . . . noisier customers).
While we waited a few minutes for a table, Karim explained to me about Rail Trail's beer program. When he and Michael were opening the place, they had really noticed the craft beer trend. They decided to have twenty taps and develop a sophisticated beer program.
They've become so known for their beer selection that breweries have approached them to offer limited edition creations as well as to do a "tap takeover" where the brewer will come in and provide twenty different beers. Rail Trail has done this with a few suppliers including Dogfish, Stone and Jack's Abbey.
Since I'm not much of a beer girl, I decided to order a cocktail. The bartender was super friendly and chatted with me the entire time he was mixing my drink.
I went with the Sucker Punch, which is dark rum, lemon, sugar and iced Earl Grey tea. I tend to really like spiked ice tea. The alcohol taste was very strong!
With drinks in hand, we took our seats and began looking over the menu. Karim became very animated as he thought about what I needed to sample.
The very first thing he insisted we try was an appetizer called hot tots. Let me pause to say that I love tater tots. I have a bag in the freezer at all times. But combine tater tots with buffalo sauce and bleu cheese? That's on a whole other level.
As a vegetarian, it's very rare that I even have the opportunity to eat buffalo sauce. Whenever I've presented with the chance, I jump on it!
Rail Trail's hot tots are made from thinly shredded potatoes then fried in a buffalo sauce batter and served with cold bleu cheese dressing. Karim explained, "We all have a Pavlovian reaction to the hot tots. They go by and your mouth waters immediately."
I loved the texture of the tots, the heat from the buffalo sauce and the tangy, creamy bleu cheese dressing. In fact, I could have had a second dish of the bleu cheese.
We also shared the summer chips, which are fried, panko crusted summer squash served with a side of ranch aioli. Rail Trail makes all of their own sauce sand dips and it shows. Each one is expertly paired.
For me, the squash itself was a little bland, but I did like the crunch from the panko. The ranch aioli actually tasted more like a tartar sauce.
Karim also wanted to be sure I sampled some of Rail Trail's vegetarian offerings. He said, "We make our vegetarian food for people who love food, not just people who don't eat meat."
With that in mind, he ordered us up a dish called the Muse. It was two generous pieces of eggplant fried in falafel batter, couscous farro salad, red pepper pesto, Greek yogurt tahini and xoriatiki salad.
The Muse had a lot of traditional Mediterranean flavors. The cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and kalamata olives tasted like a Greek salad on top of the dish. Our waitress described the eggplant as "melt in your mouth" and it surely was. It was refreshing to see a vegetarian dish that was so inventive. Typically vegetarian options are an after thought.
I couldn't visit the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. and not have a flatbread, right? In fact, when we first walked in I mistakenly called it pizza and Karim was quick to correct me and joked, "Molly, we use the F word here." (F as in flatbread).
As we perused the flatbread specialities, I was having a tough time deciding between two flavors. A smile spread across Karim's face and he said, "So we'll get half and half." I asked, "We can do that?" To which he replied, "Of course, that's always an option."
With that, we placed an order for a flatbread that was half Melizana and half Lemon Spinach Artichoke.
I was most excited for the Lemon Spinach Artichoke, so I pulled a piece of that half first. It had an alfredo base, fresh spinach, artichokes, lemon, caramelized onions, smoke gouda and a cheese blend.
This was incredible. The tartness from the lemon helped cut through the creaminess of the spinach and artichoke. In every bite you could taste the smoked gouda, which is one of my favorite cheeses.
The Melizana had a crushed tomato base, roasted eggplant, garlic, fresh mozzarella, ricotta and basil.
Given all we had already eaten, I had to tap out after one piece of each. Karim sent me home with the leftovers and I have to say, the flatbread was just as good on day two. In fact, the Melizana actually tasted better on day two.
Even though I had already consumed over twenty five flavors of ice cream at New City and I had just downed three courses at Rail Trail, I felt compelled to experience the dessert at Rail Trail too.
Karim explained that they have three desserts at all times: the chocolate creme brûlée, the peanut butter mousse brownie and a key lime pie. Right away I was intrigued by the chocolate creme brûlée.
The dish's name can be a bit misleading because the creme brûlée itself is not chocolate flavored.
The chocolate component is a smear of ganache along the bottom of the ramekin that you discover as you make your way through the cracked sugar top and the rich, decadent custard.
I was only able to take a few spoonfuls because I was worried I'd have to be rolled back to my car.
Throughout our entire meal we were warmed by the heat of the flatbread oven. There is one table that is directly in the line of fire and that's the one we dined at for lunch.
It was actually pretty fun to watch all the different flatbreads come in and out.
Just like New City, Rail Trail has a culture of experimentation. The chef tests all his new dishes through the specials board. The team waits to see how a dish performs and the feedback they receive from guests before adding it to the menu for the season.
You already heard about all the amazing vegetarian options, but I also wanted to mention that Rail Trail can make any sandwich or flatbread gluten-free.
Before we had even finished our meal, I was already thinking about when I could return to Rail Trail. The food is fun, creative and above all, outrageously fresh and delicious.
The staff know all the regular customers by name. If you're a first time visitor, they introduce themselves, walk you through the menu and explain any dish that may need further elaboration. They are attentive, but also know when you need to scoot.
The next time you have a free Saturday or Sunday, plan to make a road trip to Hudson for lunch or dinner at Rail Trail, followed by dessert at New City.
A huge thank you to Karim, Michael, Jason and chef Tom for their generosity. I can't wait to hit the road and enjoy this one-two punch again.
*Though my meal at Rail Trail was complimentary, all opinions are 100 percent my own.