Newbury Street’s Cafeteria needs to go back to school

Anthony Jimenez and Stephanie Hernandez enjoy a big fruity concoction at Cafeteria.

Occasionally we’ll get into beer and wine — and I often talk about the atmosphere of a bar as a whole — but the primary focus of this column is meant as an exploration of cocktails throughout the city.
There just isn’t enough room to get too into service or food, although if they stand out in one direction or the other they certainly deserve a mention.

That said, I’ve been working on an idea about whether or not you can tell if you’re going to get a decent cocktail at a bar by reading the cocktail menu before you even walk in,  (Short answer: Yes.) When I was looking over the list for Cafeteria on Newbury Street, a spot that I had long dismissed as, you know, “Newbury Street,” I saw a few options that changed my perception.

Most promising was the Straight A’s, made with Applejack, Aperol, apricot brandy, and Angostura bitters. Sounds good, right? About five seconds into my first sip, however, I was doing my best Will Arnett/Gob Bluth impression: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

What should have been a  fruit-forward, lightly bitter stirred cocktail was a dominated by — ugh —  DeKuyper brandy, which is essentially the equivalent of eating the little jelly packets they leave on the table at diners. Lose the brandy and the rocks and this could work.

The Bee Student, made with Bulleit bourbon, fresh grapefruit, lemon, honey syrup and bitters, likewise seemed like a winner. Unfortunately, the bottled grapefruit wasn’t “fresh” as advertised. It also wasn’t — like the bitters — actually served in the drink until I asked about their omission. Worse still, when the ingredients were added, it became a cocktail of sugary heartburn.

Strangely, the best of the bunch was the Cherry Coke; cherry-infused vodka, simple syrup, lemon, cola and sweet vermouth, because although it was definitely sweet, at least it came as advertised.
For all I know, this is what people actually want on Newbury Street, so maybe this isn’t tailored to my less populist taste. Just kidding, everyone out there has awful taste!

So, bars: you should get your act together and give Newbury Street something better in 2013.

Still, a nice enough place …

The boutiquey little brownstone restaurant has just installed a new 12-seat stone bar in its second floor dining room. The space is warm and welcoming, and a nice place to duck away from the crowds on the street. It  will be particularly enjoyable in the summer months when they open the large second floor windows. Just remember: Stick with wine or beer.

279a Newbury St., Boston


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