Barbecue season is winding down, which sounds depressing, but really just means less obligatory afternoons eating lukewarm hotdogs off paper plates while trying to not to splash meat-juice all over the shirt you've been sweating through next to a mosquito hive. Maybe I'm going to the wrong parties?
The next best thing, you'd think, would be transferring the barbecue concept indoors for year-round fun. That's the idea, in theory anyway, at Back Deck, the newly opened restaurant in Downtown Crossing. But it feels a bit more like a "barbecue" set-up in a function room at an airport hotel.
A long wooden deck stretches through the middle of the space, lined with umbrellas, outdoor lanterns and potted greenery. The open kitchen where cooks charbroil and charcoal grill is meant to affect the experience of an authentic barbecue, although doling out passive aggressive grilling tips like you'd normally do is probably discouraged.
Sitting at the u-shaped bar in comfy wooden deck chairs places you somewhere in the middle of those high-concept theme brackets. The cocktail list, however, pulls you back into the yard. A drink like the Blueberry Limoncello Cooler (made with Triple 8 Blueberry Vodka, limoncello, muddled mint and blueberries and soda) is the type of drink you'd suck down at most barbecues, and is well-suited for diners looking for a cocktail that's just interesting enough to wash down their meals (although visually unimaginative and occasionally just a pint glass of watery booze fruit). But you're not actually at a friend's house, you're at a city bar where you're paying for your drinks (most are relatively cheap, however, between $8-$10), which means you'd expect something more professional.
The West St. Cooler, (made with watermelon, Ragged Mountain Rum, Aperol and soda) comes closest. The touch of Aperol pulls it back from being too sweet, but it would benefit from a healthier balance toward the bitter side. Either way, it's heartening to see Back Deck feature locally made spirits like the Ragged Mountain Rum. It shows that with a few tweaks, Back Deck could at least be as close enough to your own back deck to warrant a visit.
Barbecues are for beer
The beer list at Back Deck is well-curated, with plenty of local options, and not a macrobrew in sight. You certainly won’t find Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter, Shipyard Export Ale or Rapscallion at your typical backyard barbecue, unless you’ve got friends with much better taste than mine. The specially made Back Deck Lager here from Rapscallion is actually the Harvard 1989 Lager, but a rose by any other name, as they say. It’s exactly the type of light, crisp lager you’d want to crack open on a hot summer’s day.