When Deep Ellum first opened in 2007, there wasn’t much to speak of business-wise on the Allston block the neighborhood favorite inhabits. “There was nothing there, it was half going out of business,” co-owner Max Toste says. A few years later, he opened Lone Star Taco bar in the adjacent storefront, and since then, the block has been teeming with action. A similar scenario seems like it could play out around the second incarnation of Lone Star in East Cambridge, which opened at the end of the summer.
New place, familiar look
Lone Star part 2 will be familiar to fans of the Allston incarnation, although you won’t have to have been to the first one to follow the story. For one thing, it’s bigger, with a 21 seat bar, and 64 seats throughout. Much of the food menu is carried over, although a Torta Milanesa, a huge pork cutlet topped with refried beans, grilled pineapple, pickled onions, queso Oaxacan, and habanero mayo is a gut-busting addition, as are more than a few of the cocktails, with the addition of a handful of rotating, seasonal specials. As ever from this team, the beer list is a strength, albeit at a somewhat reduced size.
That’s in part because Deep Ellum isn’t next door with its 28 drafts to borrow from, Toste says, but he also wanted to tailor the offerings to the different character of the neighborhood.
“I felt like I could sell a lot more funky, cool wines, heavy on the roses and orange wines and sherry.” There are a lot more families in this neighborhood, he says, which means they seem to eat more than the Allston twenty-somethings. “We actually had to buy more high chairs,” he jokes.
Ultimately, he says, “I wanted to open a German beer garden inside my Mexican restaurant.” More than half the beers are German, with a few other German styles form around the world. “I really think those are really fun beers with the food. [With] salty, fatty, grilled food with lots of flavor, you get the big, bright, refreshing flavors with acidity.”
Margaritas, are, of course, a staple, as well as other Mexican style cocktails, like the Paloma, made with tequila, grapefruit, lime, salt, and grapefruit soda, and the Oaxacan Old Fashioned made with mescal, tequila, agave and mole bitters.
“We basically sell no vodka, which is funny, like literally none,” Toste says. “The people who are there are getting it. We’re here, drink tequila, and check out the whisky menu, the beer and wine. Drink your vodka soda somewhere else. I think just the general acceptance of what we’ve been doing, people seem genuinely excited about something different slash yummy, which is our goal as a company.”
Other highlights from the cocktail list include the Chica Facil, made with tequila, Aperol, lime, agave, and chartreuse, a bright, fresh, lightly bitter sip. The Por mi Amante is a traditional Mexican infusion of strawberries and mescal made here in a gimlet style with lime and sugar. Surprisingly, the beer cocktail, made with tequila, Campari, lime, and Stone Go To IPA may be the only beer cocktail I’ve ever enjoyed, although Campari admittedly makes everything better. “I think beer cocktails are stupid,” Toste says. “I find them to be completely lame 99% of the time…” But this is the exception that proves the rule.
Toste says he’s happy to see more restaurants opening East Cambridge, quickly becoming the latest culinary outpost. “The more stuff in the neighborhood the better. Unless somebody wants to open a taco joint across the street,” he says, before thinking twice. “I really don’t care actually. Go for it. I dare you!”