Pretty much the only thing you really want to know when you read a review of a new restaurant or bar is whether or not you should go. For Steel & Rye the answer is straightforward: Do you live anywhere near the Milton/Dorchester line? If so, then yes, go yesterday. This easily became the best restaurant and bar in the area the day it opened. It’s probably worth a trip if you live in, say Watertown, and you have to drive 30 miles per hour all the way there in a dangerous snow storm, too.
The new opening from chef Chris Parsons (formerly of Parsons Table) and company brings a taste of city refinement to the suburbs, with a menu of elegant rusticity and daily catch creativity. The space itself, a near 7,000-square-foot re-purposed garage warehouse with 30-foot ceilings, an open kitchen and retractable walls for private dining is stunning. But for our purposes, bar-wise, it impresses as well.
The menu is a mix of classics with slight variations, and friendly introductions to lesser-appreciated spirits. The Mill takes bourbon, Cocchi Torino, sherry and Allspice Dram for a deep raisin nuttiness and bittersweet spice. The Verona By Night, made with vodka, grappa Combier Fruit Rouge, Maraschino, lemon and grapefruit, is on the sweeter end of the spectrum, but makes for a nice gateway to grappa.
Bar manager Tracy Witkin, recently of Foundry on Elm, says for the bar program, she wanted to bring closer to home the type of thing that neighborhood residents had been traveling into the city for, but with a comfortable, approachable style.
“It’s like living in Brookline or Newton,” I overheard one local guest say to his friend. And he’s right.
What to order
“I’m proud to have a Manhattan on the list,” Witkin says. “I know it’s a classic. It’s a very simple drink, but my small twist is the addition of Cardamaro [the wine-based digestif flavored with cardoon and blessed thistle], made with rye and served down. I’m tired of the Manhattan being served up. I’m a klutz, but when people order Manhattans you want to wrap your hands around a rock glass and have something comfortable.”
While the rye list is still in building stages (they plan to roll out a selection that fits the name in the coming months), the best option is the High West Rendezvous Rye, a versatile rye-forward recipe, alternating between hot spice and smooth sweetness, and the occasional touch of briny pickle.
Steel & Rye
95 Eliot St., Lower Mills, Milton