Whenever a standout restaurant and bar opens outside of the city proper, it’s talked about as an aberration, almost like finding a unicorn out at the end of a rainbow, if the rainbow was a suburban strip mall. But in the case of The Backroom in Waltham, there’s no geographic qualifier necessary: this would be your new favorite spot if it opened anywhere inside of Boston proper as well.
The Backroom is a dining room and bar that opened as an offshoot of Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions in April this year. And, like in the deli out front, the focus here on the menu is on meat, and lots of it. Owner and chef Joshua Smith and his team’s extensive selection of cured meats head up the menu, and, in fact, appear on the menus of many other restaurants around the city and throughout the country. There’s 89 different products they cure in house, from animals they raise out in Auburn, from coppa and salami to pates and everything in between. Naturally, that sort of culinary concept comes with the intuitive pairing of cheese and wine, and the wine list comes with a similarly curated and hand-selected approach. Many of those wines are served by the glass in an Enomatic machine, which reseals the bottle with gas once it’s been opened, keeping them fresh for up to 40 days.
The impetus for the opening, Smith says, was that they had been doing private wine dinners at night in the lunch-counter style style, and people really took to it. The space is a delight, a combination of materials, steel walls, hand-blown light fixtures and reclaimed limestone from a French Abbey. “It gives you the feel of being in a castle almost,” he says. Two wood fires blaze throughout the night, one a copper dome for firing flat breads and sausages and pasts. The smell of the smoke permeates, with the light from the fire bouncing off the steel wall. Large cuts of cured meat hang from the tall ceilings.
“We opened with an epic wine selection, really esoteric,” Smith explains, pledging his allegiance at the moment to west coast wines, Northern California, Washington and Oregon Pinots, Cabernets and Zinfandels. The price point isn’t cheap, but the pours are large.
The same applied to their list of bourbon and tequilas, both of which are deep, and run the gamut. “There are enough bars out there that have a big mix, but we focused on the top tier. Our well is all really top shelf liquors,” Smith goes on. “We have a strong cocktail program which was a shock to me. I wanted it to be a wine joint, but our mixologist is really creative, and the guests are sort of driving that. You open something and you have an idea of what you want, then guests want something different and you say no problem.”
Those spirits show up in a deftly executed cocktail list, handled by bartenders Ana Borras and Wesley Krell. Among the most popular are the Accommodation, made with rum, falernum, lime and grapefruit bitters, and the Primero, made with tequila, mezcal, Gran Classico, lemon and sugar.
It’s not a slice of the city in Waltham, it’s just another addition to a great culinary scene that’s already there, Smith says. “Moody Street has always been known for a place to go to get a great meal. That’s a tradition we’ve tried to carry on.”
If you go
The Backrooom at Moody’s
468 Moody St., Waltham