On July 31, 2012 I closed on my very first home. I was ecstatic. I would spend the next couple of days packing up my rental apartment in Oak Square in Brighton before moving to my new digs in Watertown.
My parents flew up from Miami, FL to help me move in that very first weekend. After a long day of unpacking and making critical decisions like, "Should my cups live in this cabinet or my bowls?" we were famished and ready to eat dinner. We sat down on my brand new couch (still one of my favorite things in the entire place) and asked ourselves, "Where could we eat dinner tonight that would be quintessentially Watertown?" A few seconds later my mom shouted, "Strip-T's! That's where we should go."
I grabbed my phone, found the number and dialed. I asked if they could take three people for dinner, we'd accept a reservation at any time. Unapologetically, the woman on the other end of the line said, "We are totally booked. There is absolutely no way we can host you this evening." We were disappointed and back at the drawing board.
Since that phone call in August 2012, I haven't tried to get into Strip-T's. I drive past it constantly, but always remember that very first interaction (can you tell I'm a grudge holder?). Well, finally, on December 31, 2015 I set foot inside.
A friend of mine from college, on school vacation for her teaching job, met me at my house at 12pm and we decided to head to Strip-T's for lunch. The restaurant is just before the corner of School Street and Arsenal Street, a very high traffic corner.
To my surprise, we walked right in and had our pick of any table we wanted. We chose a spot in the back corner where we could both sit on the booth side of the table.
The dining room has a ton of natural sunlight and a great people watching view.
I was super excited to check out the menu. Strip-T's opened in 1986 with Paul Maslow at the helm. Now, his son Tim is the executive chef. Tim worked for David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York City and currently runs the kitchens at Strip-T's and Ribelle in Brookline.
The lunch menu is a fun mix of junk food (wings, gravy fries), Asian classics (ramen, pho, banh mi) and American standards (reuben sandwich, fish & chips, fried chicken).
I love that the original 1986 Strip-T's logo is stamped onto the printed menu. That dancing piece of meat makes me chuckle.
After a few minutes with the menu, we were ready to order. My lunch date started with the gravy fries. Strip-T's uses a chicken-based gravy.
Once she'd had a few fries I asked for her take on the dish. "The fries themselves are excellent. They have the right amount of salt and the right amount of crisp. And then once you dump cheese and gravy on them, I mean, come on!" She also added, "The amount of cheese and gravy wasn't too much and the fries never got soggy. They were just down right delicious."
For her main meal she decided to go with the lunch special, the smoked miso ramen. It was pork, menma, soy egg, greens and scallions. On the menu it mentions that you can add more pork or noodles if you please.
When the bowl arrived it was presented beautifully. The pork was sliced very thin and was resting against one side of the bowl. The egg white had turned a light brown color from the soy flavoring. My friend described, "I loved the way the pork and the seaweed were placed on the sides so you could work them into spoonfuls as you wanted to. There was a really generous amount of noodles, way more than I am used to for these types of dishes. The broth was very tasty and the egg was to die for."
Stepping way outside my usual list of go-to orders, I went with the Japanese eggplant banh mi.
The sandwich was on the most delicious, crusty baguette and stuffed with eggplant, crispy tofu, carrots, pickles and cilantro.
This sandwich was incredible. The bread was the major highlight, serving as the best possible vessel for all the goodies inside. The eggplant was thinly sliced and soaked in a delicious marinade. The tofu was cooked in a batter that ultimately looked like a fluffy pillow in the center of the sandwich. The acidity from the pickled vegetables added a nice bite. I coudn't quite figure out what sauce or aioli was spread on there too, but it had a nice heat.
When our waitress came to clear our plates we asked about the homemade cookies we had noticed on the menu earlier. She said, "Oh! Today's cookies are chocolate chip and a coconut dulce de leche macaroon." We looked at each other and then I said, "We'll take one of each."
The chocolate chip cookie was a darker hue than usual, likely indicating a higher percentage of brown sugar. Nothing wrong with that! It also tasted of butter on butter on butter.
The coconut dulce de leche macaroon reminded me of the desserts I often eat during Passover. If you love coconut, Mounds or Almond Joy, you'll love this treat.
Though Strip-T's and I had a rough start back on that August evening in 2012, I am now a total convert! I was majorly impressed by the variety on the menu, the bold flavors in the food and the overall dining experience.
A couple of things to note - Strip-T's is in a neighborhood with open parking on its street and the surrounding side streets, so you don't have to worry about meters or garages (perks of the 'burbs!). We arrived at 12:30pm and by 1:00pm the entire dining room was full, so if you're coming for lunch, plan to head over early. The food arrives very quickly so it's a great place to come with kids (or impatient parents).
Over the course of our lunch I was eyeing everything being delivered to the surrounding tables and was developing a severe case of envy! I've already decided on my next trip I plan to try the fried cauliflower sandwich the provolone cheese and broccoli rabe.
Have you been to Strip-T's? Do you have a favorite dish?