Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

New England Regional | The Tastes of Somerville

Where the Gentrified Antelope Play

The unhip discover Davis Square.

September-October 2001

Three decades ago, Davis Square in Somerville was the pits. A Cambridge matron who lives nearby recalls walking her children over there for ice cream, but nothing else she wanted was on offer. The movie theater, which had once been an opera house, was closed, presumably for want of trade. Depressed and depressing was Davis Square.

GARGOYLES ON THE SQUARE

219 Elm Street, Somerville.
617-776-5300
Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 5:30 to 10 P.M.. to 10:30 Friday and Saturday.

Things have changed. The subway now runs there--it's just two stops from Harvard--and Davis Square hums with life, much of it young. Here as elsewhere, there seems no shortage of people willing and able to pay $50 a head for a very good and interesting meal and a glass or two of wine in a neighborhood bistro. Enterprise has provided just such a place amid former blight: Gargoyles on the Square. It has a website, naturally: www.gargoylesonthesquare.citysearch.com/1.html.

One enters into a lively bar where people in the summer of their lives are chatting each other up while drinking whatever and noshing sweet potato fries with cranberry ketchup ($4.50) or potato and scallion griddle cakes with apple butter and sour cream ($4.75). The dining room is in back and is a bit on the dark side, but passable. It was almost full on a July Tuesday night. The only men in the room wearing neckties were the waiters. The noise level did not preclude conversation at a table for four.

For starters came a soft-shell crab tempura that was delicacy itself, with California rolls ($9); a fine romaine salad with green goddess dressing ($7.50); and some perfectly grilled scallops (half an entrée, not ordinarily splittable, $11.25). One resolved to try the pea soup with scallops, pansies, and crème fraîche ($7.25) next time.

modern, formal dining room at Gargoyles

The dining room at Gargoyles on the Square--and they don't mean Harvard.

Photograph by Joe Greene

The grilled lamb chops with moussaka and braised fennel ($19) were first-rate, although the diner who had them thought her plate off-puttingly full. The beefy slices of duck breast ($19), served medium rare as requested, came in a sweetish port wine reduction and were accompanied, as seemed typical at Gargoyles, by food of strongly contrasting flavors--bitterish dandelion greens and a sourish tart of goat cheese, onion, and rhubarb: altogether a great success. A vegetarian combo of grilled portabello mushroom, onion and potato tart, and spinach ($14.50) seemed to its partaker wonderful flavors in a mishmash. The medallions of veal in a tarragon-mustard-Madeira sauce, with morels and wild ramps ($21), and the grilled Cornish game hen with a jambalaya of sausage, mussels, and crayfish ($17), cried out for future investigation. Only the crème brûlée ($6.50) was a bust, the crème insufficiently custardy.

The Cambridge matron came at 3 a.m. along to Gargoyles. She thought she would try the trout in bacon with haricot-vert stuffing ($18) until she heard that one of the b.c. specials was grilled antelope with chanterelles ($25). Not just any antelope, but Broken Arrow Ranch antelope. She was disappointed by it: less flavorful than beef and a bit tough. But what a find in Davis Square.

~C.R.