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Harvard Squared | Tastes & Tables

Slinging Meat

A neighborly pub on the Somerville-Cambridge border

November-December 2014

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, a convivial bistro-cum-pub not far from Harvard Square, draws crowds for beers, burgers, and banana splits.

The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, a convivial bistro-cum-pub not far from Harvard Square, draws crowds for beers, burgers, and banana splits.

Photograph courtesy of Kirkland Tap & Trotter

As its sign suggests, the restaurant is grill-centric.

As its sign suggests, the restaurant is grill-centric.

Photograph courtesy of Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Casual dining is the norm.

Casual dining is the norm.

Photograph courtesy of Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Pining for the warmth of human babble on a wintry night? Duck into The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, the casual, grill-centric restaurant of chef Tony Maws, where hunks of meat and swillable drinks comfort a shivering crowd.

The place can be loud, beware, and carries the feel of an English pub. Chunky wooden forms—mismatched table and chairs and benches—and white pillars with coat hooks dominate the interior. A ceiling with exposed beams and piping is painted black. Diners help themselves to utensils kept in metal buckets, although waitstaff hand the steak-eaters hefty five-inch blades. (Are we supposed to kill the cow, too?) But what do the vintage airplane propellers and other industrial relics on display have to do with anything? Perhaps they promote the idea of the open kitchen as a forge, or the ruggedness of the chefs therein, who bound around clanking pots and pans and tending the flames over which much on the menu is cooked.

Grilled corn was featured in the bold garlic and cilantro sauce that came with a pile of tender Maine mussels ($14). Among the cold appetizers was a “salad” with pickled peaches and peanuts, slices of prosciutto, and a handful of Gouda shavings ($16). Greens were scarce, however, and the vinegary taste of the fruit, and the soaked, crunchless peanuts, overwhelmed even the salty meat and made for an odd mix. The homemade whole-wheat rigatoni ($15) was chewy and filling, even without the creamy ham ragout with corn and parsley. Perfectly grilled, the sirloin-tip brochette (time to use that big knife!) was paired with a rich salsa verde and grilled avocado slices ($32). The latter, charred yet soft, was irresistible—but a crisp salad with a citrus kick might have better balanced the dish.

All told, the Kirkland Tap & Trotter seems to relish its lack of finesse. Maybe that’s the point. Among the best items there is the cheeseburger ($16)—extra-thick, with a puffy bun, and topped with Russian dressing, kimchi, and Emmentaler. It fed two people, especially when followed by the bourbon-caramel banana split ($10), a gooey mass of dense chocolate ice cream, a fruity ice milk, and candied spiced peanuts. Drink-lovers are equally indulged. Drafts rotate, as do the inventive cocktails. We hope the bar has stocked plentiful makings of “Sky’s the Limit,” a blend of Dutch gin and old Scotch whiskey touched with maple syrup, lemon juice, and bitters. A generous jolt of that ought to ease the pain of any nor’easter, right, mate?

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