Loyal Nine [MA, Cambridge]

I ate at Loyal Nine with a few friends earlier in the summer and I’ve been meaning to write about how very good this place is. There’s a separate thread on LN’s coffee and its virtues as a cafe (link below), and I agree with all the accolades there, but no thread on its virtues as a dinner destination (although there’s praise here and there on other threads).

We had:
Soused bluefish: Loved the fish, but were not completely convinced of the pairing with the Boston brown bread.
Fried soldier beans: One of the hits of the night. Crisp, crunchy, salty.
Sallet: Boston lettuce, goat cheese, disks of kohlrabi. Very nice combination.
Steel cut oats: Pan fried oats with spinach, turnips, garlic. Much more than the sum of its humble parts.
Pork ribs: Very tender, the sweetness of the molasses nicely cut by hot peppers.
Duck breast: I did not get to try any, but it was a lovely pink in the center and highly praised by those who ate it.
Fried clams: Cleanly fried, with no excess grease, and a delicious accompanying aioli.
Liver pate: Richly livery, smooth, and nicely paired with something jammy.

There was more, but the bottles of wine that went with the meal, and the passage of several weeks, has erased what else we ate from my memory, other than the recollection that there wasn’t a single false step (the brown bread and bluefish came closest). The balance of tastes and the precise execution made this among the 25 (or so) best meals we’ve had in Cambridge/Boston/NYC/SF/Beijing/Delhi/Munich in the last 5 years. (I choose that specific time period because we spent a bit of 2011 in Italy, eating our way from Venice to Palermo, and not much can compare with that.)

It was a lovely early summer evening the night we ate there, and we sat in their beautiful garden. Our first choice had been Oleana, but the difficulty of guaranteeing garden seating there made us change. We’re glad we did. Given our love for Oleana, that’s a significant statement.

Loyal Nine Coffee and Cafe

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It’s been quite a while since we’ve eaten at Loyal Nine, but I can still clearly taste the fried soldier beans (I would love to recreate those!) and the fabulous fried clams. I could make a meal out of both of those.

thanks for sharing! this sounds wonderful. i also haven’t been since last summer and would really like to go again soon. the garden sounds lovely. i hope this place is doing ok - every time i walk or drive by no one is in there. last night lone star was absolutely packed and no one appeared to be in loyal nine. maybe the garden was full. :frowning:

I love this kind of review, thanks so much.

I didn’t love Loyal Nine. I loved a couple of items that we were served over the course of the tasting menu, but at some point, the amount of vinegar in the pickling brines just wasn’t enjoyable anymore. I really wanted to have another higher-for-us spot to go, but Loyal Nine just didn’t do it for us.

Interesting that the tasting menu relied so heavily on pickled foods – given that that’s not a particular emphasis of the regular menu. Perhaps they feel that the tasting menu has to be “different”?

We ate there last year with cousins who live in the area. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember what we ate, but we all enjoyed it. The only negative point was the noise. It was just on the border between loud and too loud.

I’ve had a few great meals at Loyal Nine this year, one on their patio and one at the chefs counter. Both times we had their tasting menu, which they call a shared supper. It is an outstanding value at $50/pp, and borders on too much food. I had a veg friend at one of the meals and the substitutions they prepared for her made me a bit jealous.

The outdoor space is absolutely beautiful, one of the best in the city, and they even welcomed our dogs there (if you narc on this karma will get you). Don’t miss their syphon coffee service which is a show unto itself.

I got a taste of what you might have experienced in a pulled pork sandwich for lunch today. The pork was vinegary, it was topped by very vinegary pickled onions, and the sandwich was served with a vinegary pickled carrot as a side. The toasted briochy bread the meat came on was excellent, though.

Went here last night, had the tasting menu at a table for six. There was a good deal of pickling going on, but all good in my book. (The owners, one of who, was doing some of the waiting, make their own ceramic plates and cups for the restaurant, and he signs his “Fermented Joy”, which should give you some idea of his proclivities.) Highly recommend this place, though as one other poster commented, it is too loud (which the modern concrete interior doesn’t help with.)

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Happened to catch an episode of Andrew Zimmern’s show last night featuring him fishing for eels in the Charles with the chef from Loyal Nine. Some tasty, colonial-era eel dishes were then prepared. If that’s your thing, worth seeking out!

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In the Charles? Happened to see a large eel in Boston Harbor from the deck at Legal Harborside over the weekend. Are fresh water and salt water eels different?

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold