425 Washington Street – right near the Somerville/Cambridge border – may be a bit out of the way, but heading over there is well worth the journey because the Kirkland Tap and Trotter is the gourmet pub you have always hoped to encounter. The restaurant is owned by chef Tony Maw who wanted to create a place where fine food and casual dining mesh. Equal parts rustic and modern, the restaurant’s interior personifies it best: at any given point, one can spot tarnished brick, white wood, pastel grey plaster and a facade composed entirely of framed glass windows. Along with the slim Edison bulbs above the bar, this dimly lit venue has a gorgeous atmosphere, and, more importantly, delicious food.
The menu at the Kirkland Tap and Trotter is essentially composed of pub cuisine – rich flavors built around fairly standard dishes: fish, burgers, pork sausage and ribs. But the menu is still peppered with more unconventional items, such as the grilled salmon head. Served with a radish and arugula salad, the salmon is so tender it practically falls apart at the touch of a fork. The Maine mussels, which come in a saffron-infused broth, are just as good, if not better – an impressive feat considering how difficult it is to make mussels shed their often fishy taste and stringy texture.
And those are only the appetizers. The entrees are just as exciting, and here, the main courses have subtle nuances that distinguish them from your standard pub food. Tap and Trotter’s grass-fed cheeseburger comes with kimchi Russian dressing and melted Emmental cheese. It is a decadent, melt-in-your-mouth burger that tastes both savory and pleasantly sour, served on a small sesame bun with a side of seasoned potato crisps. One menu item, simply called Pork Three Ways, comes with – you guessed it – pork done three different ways: two types of sausage and a slice of pork stomach. The menu also contains a number of vegetarian options, and the desserts – like their entree counterparts – are basic dishes embellished with quirky additions.
With food like this, it’s no surprise that the drink menu is also impressive. Cocktails are comparable to the restaurant’s food in taste. Indeed, The Kirkland Tap and Trotter is not afraid to use more exotic liqueur such as cachaca, Corralejo and Bigallet – to name only a few. There is also a wide variety of beer on tap and a number of craft beers to choose from. It’s difficult to imagine anybody not finding something they’d like, and, moreover, every option reflects the restaurant’s screwball sense of refinement and the overall excellence of their ingredients. If neither beer nor cocktails are your cup of tea, the restaurant also has an extensive wine menu. The bar is small, comfortably intimate and very well stocked.
The Kirkland Tap and Trotter is thoroughly consistent in its ambiance and offerings. A casual yet classy environment sees waiters wearing aprons draped over plaid shirts and track lighting that lines the ceiling where exposed pipes and air conditioning vents are visible. Though the restaurant’s sense of rusticity can feel somewhat calculated, this is precisely the point: to have the feel of an unpretentious restaurant with the fare of an upscale gastronomic pub. This is a foodie’s eatery – a place that can serve as an appropriate venue for both big and small occasions, and one that can house both casual outings and formal events. The food is inspired, the atmosphere is perfect and the drinks and service are great. The Kirkland Tap and Trotter deserves all the praise it receives.