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Kingston's Solstice is suburban but not substandard

We tend to get a snooty here in the Boston restaurant and bar scene when it comes to our suburban brethren, but Kingston's Solstice is a beacon of hope.

Bartender Craig Orrock may be seeing more of Luke O’Neil in his Kingston establishment. Bartender Craig Orrock may be seeing more of Luke O’Neil in his Kingston establishment.

We tend to get a little snooty in the Boston restaurant and bar scene when it comes to our suburban brethren. Clearly the complicated secrets of fine food and drink are so obscure, they can’t possibly be smuggled across geographic lines. So for years while my sister and brother-in-law, who live in Kingston, Mass., had been telling me about their favorite restaurant, Solstice, I always sort of brushed it off thinking that it wouldn’t be right for me. Fine dining in Kingston? There was nothing but sub shops and chain-aspirational family-style troughs there when I was growing up. Of course, as so often happens when talking to my family about anything, it turns out I was wrong.

There are obviously lots of good restaurants throughout Massachusetts, outside of the city, but rarer still – much rarer – are ones that also parlay their talents to the bar as well. It’s still largely a wasteland of flavored mojitos and martini lists out there, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised to be served a sort of white Negroni variation when I sat down at the large bar inside the the renovated 19th-century train station by bartender Craig Orrock. Made with Beefeater, Lillet and Suze, it was sharp, lively and bitter with its blend of floral botanicals from the French aperitif wine and gentian liqueur. The fact that they even carry either of those products here is a very welcome surprise – Suze is pretty rare anywhere, never mind at the abandoned train station I used to throw rocks at while walking down the tracks as a kid.

The rest of the cocktail menu is a push-and-pull between more classic craft-cocktail-style updates (Hemingway Daiquiri, Pegu Cocktail) and more populist-driven vodka comfort drinks. The Solstice Sidecar takes a vodka infused with Earl Grey tea, lemon juice, honey syrup and Grand Marnier, for a tannic and honey-sweet sip. The Chubbs Peterson transfers the tea infusion to bourbon, with lemon juice and peach bitters. Like the food menu itself, from chef owner John Cataldi, (steamed bao pork belly buns, duck wings, tuna tartare nachos with sriracha aioli), it feels a lot more like Cambridge than Kingston. Good news, mom! I might be coming home to visit more often now.

63 Summer St.,
Kingston, Mass.

Elsewhere in the burbs

Alma Nove, Hingham
The Hingham waterfront restaurant is best known for the Mediterranean cuisine ofchef Paul Wahlberg (yes, of that Wahlberg family), but they’ve recently installed an authentic absinthe fountain, which has to be the first in the South Shore. April 22 is Absinthe Night, where they’ll be treating customers to taste of the misunderstood spirit.

Steel and Rye, Milton
We raved about this new Milton entry a few months back here, and since then the accolades have continued to roll in for both the food and cocktails, like their Rosa Del Sur, made with tequilla, grilled pineapple, rose water and Peychaud's bitters.

The Barrel House, Beverly
This new north shore spot leans on some of the old-saloon vibe so prevalent throughout the city now. The beer list is extensive, and the cocktail list is an impressive mix of classics (Aviation, Jack Rose Sazerac) and innovations (The Cooper: Applejack, Root, orgeat, egg white).

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