I have a long history with Inman Square in Cambridge, MA. My dad's office was there for most of my life, and when I graduated from college, my very first grownup apartment was in that neighborhood. While many of the spots are still the same - 1369 Coffee House, The Druid, S&S, Christina's Ice Cream - a few new places have popped up recently.
Highland Fried, from the same team that runs Highland Kitchen in Somerville, MA, is in the space formerly occupied by the East Coast Grill. That restaurant was legendary, known for its annual Hell Nights featuring outrageously spicy food.
Even in its new iteration, the space feels wonderfully familiar - the bar is in the same place and there's still an open kitchen.
We made a reservation a few days before, and when we arrived, the hostess walked us straight to a table for two that was bathed in natural light from the big windows in the front.
Our first order of business was to check out the tiki drinks. I loved the little illustrations of each cocktail.
My dinner date went with the Saturn cocktail (front) and I chose the painkiller (rear). How fun are these straws?
After a few sips, my friend commented, "This is super delicious. It tastes just like juice!" I was very pleased with the painkiller. From the very first sip I felt I'd been transported to a tropical beach. It was also the ideal blend of pineapple and coconut (not tasting too strongly of either fruit).
For food, we started with the buffalo fried Brussels sprouts with blue cheese dressing, which is the signature dish at Highland Kitchen. In fact, you may remember that when I filmed an episode of the show The Foodie List, we taped at Highland Kitchen to highlight this exact dish!
The sprouts were drenched in buffalo sauce, which had a great kick to it. They remained crispy even while swimming in all that sauce.
For the entree round, my friend went with the BBQ chopped brisket plate. For her two sides she chose the sugar snap peas (a farmer's market special) and the coleslaw, and they tossed a slice of cornbread on the tray too.
When I asked what she thought of the brisket, she replied, "The meat was very good. I didn't think I would be able to eat it all, but whoops - I did!" She described the snap peas as "super fresh," but was underwhelmed with the coleslaw. In the end, the cornbread was the star of the tray and turned out to be her favorite item of all four.
I hit the jackpot with my dinner choice. In most BBQ places I wind up eating a lame garden salad or a potpourri of random side dishes. At Highland Fried I was able to order a monster sandwich! It was smoked portobello mushrooms, a fried green tomato, BBQ sauce and cheese sauce.
I picked mac and cheese as my side (duh) and it was excellent. The classic elbow pasta was coated in a cheese sauce so creamy and flavorful that it didn't even need black pepper.
Now, you know I am a dessert gal, and I can always make room, but my dinner date was feeling pretty stuffed, so we passed on a sweet treat. That said, all of the confections at Highland Fried are made in house, so I feel obligated to share with you what you can enjoy when you visit: key lime pie, chocolate peanut butter pie, a hot fudge sundae or peach cobbler a la mode. Our waitress shared, "The desserts here are so good that I often tell people to come back just for pie and drinks!"
While I still miss East Coast Grill, Highland Fried is a tasty addition to the neighborhood. The tiki drinks are festive and fun, the BBQ selections are awesome, the side dishes are just as noteworthy as the meat, and they have surprisingly great vegetarian options.
So, who wants to meet me there for pie?