There’s something so decadent and novel about having a cocktail made tableside that it’s a wonder more restaurants don’t do it. After all, once a drinks cart rolls out, heads turn and people stare. More often than not, when that excitement ceases, a server is summoned to do it all over again across the room. This act doesn’t occur nearly as often as we’d like it to, but these three spots in Boston have the art down to an intoxicating science.
Jody Adams, the James Beard Award-winning chef who reigned over the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Rialto for more than 20 years, recently shuttered her famous spot, only to open a new place in the Back Bay (keeping her portfolio at three restaurants). Porto focuses on Mediterranean fare, with a special emphasis on fresh flavors and local products. Diners can enjoy dishes like raw scallops with chamomile, Niçoise olives and lemon balm or a whole fried black bass with okra, peppers and Aleppo aioli.
As for drinks, fresh is also the order of the day. Bar manager Neil Quigley offers a daily special cocktail, which is prepared on a stocked cart rolled right to your table. One recent example was the cherry wood-smoked Mahogany, made with Beefeater gin, Averna, Cocchi Americano and black walnut bitters. Before serving, the bartender smokes the inside of the glass with cherry wood and then strains the drink into it, making for quite a tasty show.
Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse
Davio’s is a Boston staple, famous for handmade pastas and excellent service. Its fame and popularity are such that the restaurant also has branches in Philadelphia, New York City and Atlanta. Sunday brunch is an extravagant affair, with everything from antipasti and waffles to steak and eggs, and accordingly, the restaurant’s make-your-own-bloody-Mary cart is over the top. With items like sopressata skewers, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and gorgonzola-stuffed olives, you could almost make brunch from the cart. Besides your preference of liquor (several types of tequila, vodka and gin), spice options include Sriracha, Cholula and Tapatío, and you can even choose your preferred seasonings (Urfa Biber, Istvan Style or chili-lime salt). Special add-ons include bacon, butter-poached lobster and Manila clams. While many restaurants have great self-serve Bloody Mary bars, the fact that you don’t have to compete with anyone else for space as you reach for celery — except for, maybe, your tablemate — makes Davio’s special.
Wink & Nod
Wink & Nod is a South End speakeasy-themed bar and restaurant that has a novel, rotating culinary pop-up program. Every six months, an up-and-coming chef comes in to take over the kitchen and do what he or she will with the menu. It gives new chefs a chance to showcase their work, and patrons look forward to seeing who might be the next “it” toque.
What is always constant, however, is the stellar bar program upon which Wink & Nod prides itself. Every cordial, juice and infusion is made in-house from scratch. The cocktail menu rotates by season, and as the cold weather approaches, the Arkansas Toddy sounds like the perfect warmer. The ingredients include Arkansas Black Applejack, Bulleit bourbon, absinthe, lemon, honey and chai. Once brought to the table, it’s topped with hot tea and served with toasted baking spices and an orange peel alongside a honey jar with a dipper for you to customize as you’d like.