Best Place to Go When You're Waiting to Be Seated Somewhere Else

Hanson's Grill and Tavern

Single-handedly saving South Pearl from the yuppie invasion, Hanson's Grill and Tavern offers a comfortable oasis amid all the SUVs and boob jobs. After its opening last summer (in the former home of the beloved Oak Alley Inn), this mellow neighborhood eatery quickly became a favorite of construction workers and corporate types, frat boys and professors on hiatus, drunken poets and families out for a night on the town at a place where they don't have to show off their new nipple piercings just to get through the door. With its deep, snug booths and dark-wood tables, its rough brickwork and exposed pipes, Hanson's has the feel of a perfect post-grad college bar -- the kind of place you want to become a regular at in your twenties and still be a regular at twenty years later. The food is surprisingly good, too, with a fairly creative menu offering everything from simple pastas and burgers to herb-rubbed grilled salmon steaks, green-lip mussels and po' boys, at prices even a po' boy can handle.

Best Place to Go When You're Waiting to Be Seated Somewhere Else

Hanson's Grill and Tavern

Hanson's Grill & Tavern
Single-handedly saving South Pearl from the yuppie invasion, Hanson's Grill and Tavern offers a comfortable oasis amid all the SUVs and boob jobs. After its opening last summer (in the former home of the beloved Oak Alley Inn), this mellow neighborhood eatery quickly became a favorite of construction workers and corporate types, frat boys and professors on hiatus, drunken poets and families out for a night on the town at a place where they don't have to show off their new nipple piercings just to get through the door. With its deep, snug booths and dark-wood tables, its rough brickwork and exposed pipes, Hanson's has the feel of a perfect post-grad college bar -- the kind of place you want to become a regular at in your twenties and still be a regular at twenty years later. The food is surprisingly good, too, with a fairly creative menu offering everything from simple pastas and burgers to herb-rubbed grilled salmon steaks, green-lip mussels and po' boys, at prices even a po' boy can handle.
Thomas Nesler told the neighborhood he was going to put a cool new bar/tapas restaurant/neighborhood hangout in a run-down space on 15th Street -- in a building that was a firehouse back in 1879, then a grocery store, then a saloon for fifty years, most recently the Highland Bar -- but no one envisioned how very cool his Forest Room 5 would be. The chic tavern is a fitting gateway to the newly hip Highland neighborhood, full of big TVs, artsy patrons and lots of attitude.


Forest Room 5
Thomas Nesler told the neighborhood he was going to put a cool new bar/tapas restaurant/neighborhood hangout in a run-down space on 15th Street -- in a building that was a firehouse back in 1879, then a grocery store, then a saloon for fifty years, most recently the Highland Bar -- but no one envisioned how very cool his Forest Room 5 would be. The chic tavern is a fitting gateway to the newly hip Highland neighborhood, full of big TVs, artsy patrons and lots of attitude.
It was a noble experiment, what Pat Perry tried to do with her Highland's Garden Cafe: turn it into a mostly private dining facility, available for parties and, occasionally, dinners open to the public. But all the public could remember was how much they loved eating at Highland's Garden -- loved eating there, and hated having to remember when they could. Fortunately, Perry took pity on foodies and reopened the restaurant to everyone in the evening, as well as at Friday lunch. So now you never have to wait more than a few hours before you're sitting down in an elegant Victorian-era dining room, or perhaps Highland's exquisite garden patio, with one of Perry's interesting, innovative dishes sitting before you. Welcome back.


It was a noble experiment, what Pat Perry tried to do with her Highland's Garden Cafe: turn it into a mostly private dining facility, available for parties and, occasionally, dinners open to the public. But all the public could remember was how much they loved eating at Highland's Garden -- loved eating there, and hated having to remember when they could. Fortunately, Perry took pity on foodies and reopened the restaurant to everyone in the evening, as well as at Friday lunch. So now you never have to wait more than a few hours before you're sitting down in an elegant Victorian-era dining room, or perhaps Highland's exquisite garden patio, with one of Perry's interesting, innovative dishes sitting before you. Welcome back.
There's nothing that Clair de Lune doesn't do well, but the one thing Sean Kelly's place does better than anyone else in town is appetizers. Picture the plateau de fruits de mer -- one of the few mainstays on a menu that changes according to the whims of the chef and the winds of commerce -- with its spiced shrimp, half a lobster and immaculately fresh Littleneck clams and Malpeque oysters lying like knobby gems on a bed of ice. Or the antipasti misti -- a wildflower sketched in food with bright-orange persimmon, powerful house-cured sardines, roasted red peppers, caper berries, black olives, tiny cubes of marinated chèvre, homemade bracciole and crisp-fried baby artichokes drizzled with basil aioli. Yes, Clair de Lune puts out some wonderful dinner plates. Yes, it does great desserts. But in his starters, Kelly is painting a picture. To every diner who sees one of these plates in front of him, he's carefully explaining, in the best way he knows how, what that diner can expect from the rest of his meal: excellence, and nothing less.


There's nothing that Clair de Lune doesn't do well, but the one thing Sean Kelly's place does better than anyone else in town is appetizers. Picture the plateau de fruits de mer -- one of the few mainstays on a menu that changes according to the whims of the chef and the winds of commerce -- with its spiced shrimp, half a lobster and immaculately fresh Littleneck clams and Malpeque oysters lying like knobby gems on a bed of ice. Or the antipasti misti -- a wildflower sketched in food with bright-orange persimmon, powerful house-cured sardines, roasted red peppers, caper berries, black olives, tiny cubes of marinated chèvre, homemade bracciole and crisp-fried baby artichokes drizzled with basil aioli. Yes, Clair de Lune puts out some wonderful dinner plates. Yes, it does great desserts. But in his starters, Kelly is painting a picture. To every diner who sees one of these plates in front of him, he's carefully explaining, in the best way he knows how, what that diner can expect from the rest of his meal: excellence, and nothing less.
Triana warmed our hearts -- and stomachs -- with its molten chocolate cupcake. It's just what it sounds like: a spongy, dark-chocolate cupcake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, with milky chocolate lava inside that oozes out to mix with sweet macerated strawberries, vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of thick caramel sauce. While it may take a while for your cupcake to reach the table (the menu suggests you order it before your entrees so that it will be ready when you're done with dinner), it's so good, so devilishly decadent, that we'll never again look at the cellophane-wrapped Hostess variety with anything but pity.


Triana warmed our hearts -- and stomachs -- with its molten chocolate cupcake. It's just what it sounds like: a spongy, dark-chocolate cupcake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, with milky chocolate lava inside that oozes out to mix with sweet macerated strawberries, vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of thick caramel sauce. While it may take a while for your cupcake to reach the table (the menu suggests you order it before your entrees so that it will be ready when you're done with dinner), it's so good, so devilishly decadent, that we'll never again look at the cellophane-wrapped Hostess variety with anything but pity.

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