CAMBRIDGE — If the name doesn’t pique your interest, the food certainly will. Lord Hobo (92 Hampshire St) is the new Cambridge restaurant that replaced the hip B-Side Lounge. Chef Matt Bailey of Teatro is serving up a mouth-watering palette of kinda-fancy American fare. We highly recommend you stop in for a bite.
Red line: Central Square
Located just past Inman Square, Hobo plays up its too-cool-for-school vibe right from the get-go. The restaurant is located on the corner, but there’s no sign to tip you off. Instead, look for a bouncer slouched against the wall outside. Half restaurant, half bar, the place is surprisingly 21+. We were ID’d and then ushered in through a red velvet curtain.
Once inside, the atmosphere feels hipster-industrial, with bare, low hanging lights, exposed pipes crossing the ceiling and typical Cambridge professionals in their mid twenties to early thirties at the bar. The tables are slightly too close together, but we didn’t mind since our neighbors were kind enough to let us try their truffle fries.
Ah, the fries. Nearly every table in sight had ordered one of the three tempting options: curry chips, gravy chips, or truffle chips. We (me and my culinary educated friend, Meredith) chose the curry chips ($7). Both of us are used to the beyond delicious curry served with fish and chips in England and Ireland, and oh-my-God, this was just as good. The truffle sauce was equally enchanting, and we’re heading back soon for the gravy fries (the neighbors to our left were not as share-happy).
For our second appetizer, we opted for the Maine lobster mac and cheese ($12). The sauce was delicate and mild, allowing the flavor from the lobster to permeate nicely. The pasta was just a little less than al dente and the lobster was a little lacking (but, then again, you can never have enough lobster, especially when it’s drenched in cheese). All in all, a nice starting dish, but not the best thing on the menu.
Our third course was a salad of frisee and duck confit, which seems to have disappeared from the menu. However, it was simple and elegant, and very hard to stop eating, so we’re assuming the two salads ($9, $10) now listed on the menu will be as well.
Entr©e number one was house made gnocchi with oxtail and squash in a Parma cream sauce ($18). The gnocchi was a little too doughy for Meredith’s liking, but the oxtail was pure heaven. Reminiscent of short rib, it was tender and juicy. The sauce was a nice complement.
I had a hard time deciding on my entr©e. I was originally excited for the gnocchi, but Meredith was already schooled in oxtail, so I let her get it (I had no previous oxtail experience, but won’t hesitate to order it again). I was tempted by the hanger steak and fries, but something about the half roast chicken ($19) called out to me.
I haven’t been a huge chicken fan lately, always opting for a giant steak instead. But the dish seemed so simple — served with carrots, celery, chippollini onions and roast potatoes — that I figured it would give me a good base for grading the food. As I waited for it to arrive, I was beginning to regret my hasty choice. Why hadn’t I chosen the steak or something a little more unique, like the pan roasted skate? I decided to look forward to sampling the oxtail and tried to ignore my potentially poor choice.
When the chicken arrived, it was huge. I recruited Mere to gobble up the entire leg and pushed it over to one side of my plate. Then, I dug in. I carefully cut off a nice slice with some bad-for-you-but-oh-so-good skin on top. I swirled it around in the gravy and popped in my mouth. Then, it happened. My eyes closed and a shiver went down my spine. This was, without a doubt, the absolute best chicken I had ever tasted. Ever. The meat was juicy and succulent and the skin was as indulgent as it should be. And the gravy — oh dear God, the gravy. Creamy, buttery and just plain heavenly, it elevated the dish from delicious to absolutely fantastic. I practically binged on the meal. People around me were probably staring, but I wouldn’t have noticed. Perfection.
Okay, now that my unabashed praise of the chicken is out of the way, let’s get to the cocktails ($9). After conferring with the waiter to ensure that I wouldn’t choose anything too fruity-sweet, I went for the Cat Wagon (vodka, Chambord, Lillet Blonde, fresh lemon and Proseco). It tasted like a cherry Jolly Rancher. It wasn’t the usual sugary, more than one will make you sick cocktail. It tasted like candy and childhood (well, childhood if your mom was a raging alcoholic). It’s one of my new favorites.
Mere ordered the Triple C, which is also a no-show on the online menu. It tasted like a cherry pina colada, and we’re hoping it’s still available.
After we drained our glasses, we each ordered a glass of the 2007 Mitolo Jester Shiraz ($12). The wine list offers a nice variety, but it’s the beer lovers who will return again and again. Boasting over 40 draught beers and 38 bottled, you’ll have to head to Hobo 78 times before you’ll be truly satisfied.
In addition, the service was very good. Our waiter was knowledgeable and happy to give his opinion. He didn’t hover, but the entrees did seem to take a little bit too long to come out (most likely not the waiter’s fault).
Lord Hobo opened November 18 and has since been getting "crushed" just about every night, according to the manager, Daniel Lanigan. It’s easy to see why. The food is definitely in the A range and the drinks were clearly expertly chosen. It’s a fun place to be, offering great food and drink and the opportunity to people watch (and sometimes eavesdrop). It’s not a romantic place, but it still fits the bill for a great date or a birthday dinner with friends. Don’t pass this one by, it totally deserves a try.