Dinner for two: $100
327 Newbury Street
(at Massachusetts Avenue)
If you have ever strolled up and down Newbury Street doing a tough day of shopping, you will no doubt have walked by this restaurant. In the summer, its high French doors open onto the sidewalk, making it prime people-watching real estate. However, the warm glow and bustling atmosphere revealed beyond its picture windows will beckon you into Sonsie even in the winter.
Opened in 1993, Sonsie is a staple of Boston’s social scene. It has been busy every time I’ve gone there, and you can count on an interesting bar crowd. Given the location, it’s bound to attract some tourists, but the overall mix of this restaurant/bar has a constant, attractive energy.
At the always buzzing mahogany bar, the bartenders deliver excellent versions of the classic martini but their house specialty libations are worth sampling. One sip of either the Sonsie Doli (Finlandia infused with fresh pineapple) or sangria (rioja, Grand Marnier, Brandy and fresh fruit) will take you back to the beach vacation that is now unfortunately a distant memory. If you are stopping in for a post-dinner drink, Sonsie offers a great selection of ports, grappas, cognacs, single-malt scotches and even calvados. Personally, I’m a fan of the espresso martini (Ketel One, Kahlua, Baileys and a shot of espresso), which makes for a perfectly creamy and sweet dessert.
New American food is the focus of both the café and slightly more formal restaurant in the back. Classics such as clam chowder with homemade crackers or a hot cubano sandwich made with spicy pork, ham and cheese and served with excellent crispy plantain chips are favorites from the café menu. Sonsie’s brick oven turns out good pizzas and foccacia with interesting topping choices. One of the more eclectic pizzas is the chicken and jack cheese pizza with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.
For purists, the foccacia with whole roasted garlic and assorted olives is a recommended start to your meal. Other standout appetizers include salmon tartare served with melba toast or a generous serving of flash-fried calamari served with homemade tomato sauce. On a menu that tries hard to include something for everyone, entrees range from Mee Krob (a spicy Thai crispy noodle dish) to a flavorful charcoal-grilled duck breast to the hefty 16-ounce sirloin steak. You can also order side dishes to accompany your meal. Brussel sprouts and other assorted vegetables are good for you, but I never fail to get the addictive hot and spicy French fries!
Chocolate is a strong suit on the dessert menu. It is hard to choose between selections such as chocolate pot de crŠme with blood orange mousse or a rich dark chocolate s’more sundae with a marshmallow topping that will bring back good campfire memories. The ultimate, though, is Sonsie’s award-winning chocolate bread pudding. Warm and intensely chocolate-y, it is an ideal send off, back into the night on Newbury Street.
*This article was originally included in the January 31, 2006 edition of the Harbus.