I wrote the following restaurant review for a graduate class last semester and am posting it here for all Bostonian readers looking for a fabulous, casual spot to go for good food and beer…well, mostly beer. Because, trust me, Sunset Grill has A LOT of beer.
Photo from Planet99.com
The Sunset Grill and Tap has 112 beers on tap daily and almost 400 bottled varieties. If you’re not a beer lover, this probably isn’t the place for you, right? Wrong. With over 500 beers available, even the biggest beer loathers will likely be able to find a few to suit their tastes.
I have several friends who absolutely refuse to drink beer. And really, who can blame them when they went through four years of college surrounded by Keystone Light and Natty Ice? But many of them have a desperate desire to like beer. Let’s face it: guys like a girl who can down a few brews while enjoying some Sunday football. OK, it can’t help you with the football part, but I can assure you, Sunset Grill and Tap will make you seriously enjoy beer.
At first glance, you’ll probably be overwhelmed by Sunset’s drink selection. The beer menu’s fifteen pages are daunting to say the least. Even if you enjoy a good beer now and then, how can you possibly sort the hundreds of lagers, ales, meads? Meads? Yes, Sunset serves mead (anyone up for some Shakespeare?). But don’t despair if you’re feeling overwhelmed, simply ask the bartender or your server for help. They know what they’re talking about when it comes to beer. If you can’t make up your mind, you can always try one of Sunset’s flights, which includes four 5 oz. glasses of beer. Or if you really know what you want, you can order a 116 oz. table tapper for your whole party; that’s a lot of beer.
I assume that we must have appeared fairly harmless when we walked in to Sunset Grill and Tap on a Thursday night, about an hour before playoff game #5 between the Red Sox and the Indians. We are three not very threatening looking girls in our early twenties. Our waiter came over and asked us what we wanted to drink and we immediately laid it on him.
“I don’t like beer,” Sara said, “but I want to try something. What should I try?”
He calmly asked her what she doesn’t like about beer, thought about it for a bit, and made a suggestion.
Chelsee greatly dislikes most beer as well. She’d rather have a Raspberry Stoli and Sprite than a Bud Light. But with over 500 beers, there has to be something she likes, right? She asked our waiter about the lambics and he told that they don’t really taste like beer and are pretty sweet. Sounded good to Chelsee. She decided to go for the raspberry lambic and immediately exclaimed, “Oh my god, how can they even call this beer?”
Lambics differ from other beers because rather than being fermented by cultivated strains of brewers’ yeasts, they are produced by spontaneous fermentation: exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria. A fruit lambic basically tastes like really good juice. But it comes in a cool glass and you can say you’re drinking beer. Because you are.
Sunset serves my favorite beer so I knew just what I wanted before we even arrived. The only problem was that I can never remember what it’s called.
I looked at the waiter and said “I’ve had something I really like here, but I forget the name.”
“OK,” he looked at me skeptically. As if he was supposed to be able to read my mind.
“It’s dark,” I said, “and maybe comes from Czech, but it could be Romania.”
“Oh! Is it Krusovice Cern?” he asked. It’s almost scary. But this isn’t the first time the bartender or waiter here has correctly guessed exactly what I’m looking for.
Unfortunately, on this night they didn’t have my favorite. The waiter told me about a different Krusovice they had on tap, but claimed it’s very different from the one I was looking for.
“Do you have anything similar to the Cern?” I asked. And he quickly returned with Sam Adams Black, which I have to say is pretty darn close to what I was craving.
I wanted to try a pumpkin beer next (hey, it was a long game), but the menu featured 9 different pumpkin beers. How on Earth do I choose which one I want?
I asked the waiter and he immediately answered, “Cambridge, you want the Cambridge.” And the Cambridge was delicious.
While we were testing our beers, we ordered dinner, starting, naturally, with an appetizer. The three of us get nachos pretty much everywhere we go, but this time we decided to switch it up a bit and get the Mediterranean nachos. Pita chips smothered in hummus, feta cheese, eggplant, and olives; this could be what heaven tastes like. However, I should warn you: eat too much of this and you won’t even want to look at your dinner, no matter how scrumptious it is.
The menu is large, though not so large as the beer menu. I ordered the blackened swordfish sandwich, which was the perfect meal after the heavy appetizer and beer. Sara had the besto pesto melt, grilled chicken with pesto, mozzarella, and marinara sauce. Chelsee got the Vermonter cheeseburger (bacon and cheddar) and claimed it was one of the best burgers she’s had in the Boston area. The burger menu is extensive and allows you to choose from one of their many selections or to make your own combination. All of our meals came with french fries, and while they weren’t bad, they certainly aren’t anything special. Honestly, though, after filling up on the Mediterranean dip, I wasn’t too hungry for fries anyway.
Happy with our beer selections, full of good food, and satisfied with the winning outcome of the Sox game, the night ended when I looked over and noticed Chelsee discretely slipping two of Sunset’s beer glasses into her purse.
“What?” she said when she saw me looking at her in astonishment, “They say ‘Lame Stolen Beer Glass’ on them. They’re practically asking to be stolen.”
I wonder if she’ll bring them home and drink beer out of them, or rather, raspberry lambic.
Sunset Grill and Tap- 130 Brighton Ave. Allston, MA 02134