Two of our favorite things:
- Discovering a new cocktail neighborhood with a pile of great places clustered near each other.
- Drinking with fun, knowledgeable and umm …. “high-stamina” company! No, that doesn’t mean folks who like to drink a ton and get wasted. In fact, kind of the opposite – the kind of people who can hop from place to place all night and NOT get wasted.
In that light, when Danna (one of our all-time favorite bartenders) & Tom from Island Creek Oyster Bar invited us to hit up a few of their favorite places at Lowell, we were ALL IN.
We’re heard that Lowell was fast approaching hotspot status and judging by the three places we went to this reputation is 100% deserved. If you had blindfolded me, knocked me out, put me on a plane, landed somewhere and driven me straight to these three places, I could easily have been fooled into thinking we were back in Portland, OR (yeah, I just watched 3 Mission Impossible movies this weekend, can you tell?).
Lowell had the same unpretentious, witty, energetic vibe of Portland, but also shared its deep respect and appreciation of bar culture (well, at least these three places did – Danna and Tom steered us clear of the sports pubs and frat dives).
Our first stop was the 1981 Ramen Bar – man, I wish there were more places like this in Boston: Lively but not jam packed, a cocktail list with some interesting originals, strong selection of whisky and sake, and loads of expertly executed Japanese appetizers. (the ramen itself looked spot-in but we resisted, knowing that there was loads of food waiting for us later on in the night).
Right when we entered, Danna & Tom shared some fruit-flavored sake (coconut and lime, respectively). To be honest, I’ve never ventured in that direction but when I saw it was nigori (the cloudy, unfiltered type of sake) I got a lot more interested. Not sure if that makes me a legit sake drinker or a hopelessly uncultured one, but generally the thicker, richer flavor and mouthfeel of nigori sake is my preference. It was a fun way to start the evening.
I ordered the Tequila Flame which was a worthy concoction but proved once again that pineapple is a bully that doesn’t always play perfectly with others. Part of the charm of tequila is the subtle fruit notes that come from the agave plant, especially in blanco, the youngest of the three categories (four, if you consider Extra Anejo its own category) and rightfully the most common tequila used in cocktails. Pineapple ran roughshod over those notes, resulting in a tasty, refreshing drink but not a tequila revelation.
Lorri spotted Yame 10 (which we first met at Pagu) – it’s definitely a great choice in a time of rapidly disappearing quality Japanese whisky. We also spotted several Kaiyōs (which we haven’t tried yet), so clearly this place is seeking out interesting new whiskies beyond the normal Suntory and Nikka releases.
I’d love to tell you what Danna and Tom ordered but we were suddenly hit with a killer array of Japanese appetizers, most notably a superb trio of baos (stuffed buns) and I stopped paying attention to anything else!
One of the baos had a heavenly amount of mayo on it (yes, I love mayo). This made the mayo-averse Tom tell a horrific story of how the kitchen staff loved to make him dish out his customers’ mayo servings out of a huge container where he had to reach deep down and get the mayo out while coming perilously close to coming into contact with the vile ingredient. Lorri (who has bad childhood mayo memories) was in deep sympathy with Tom’s ordeal and they had a nice bonding moment over their Mayo PTSD … while Danna and I were silently plotting each of our next mayo drenched culinary experiences.
I would have loved to dive into their Mai Tai or the Q-Gin but it was THAT TIME OF THE NIGHT when everyone’s pretty much finished up with their round … and you jet off to the next place … or a new string of Cocktail Tetris begins and you’re in one place all night.
So off to Warp and Weft we went!