At low-key, cozy Parlor Sports in Somerville, smaller is better
1 Beacon St., Somerville
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to midnight; Friday 6 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, noon to midnight (brunch noon to 3 p.m.)
Major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped
America has long had a love affair with the corner tavern, that compact watering hole where you could meet friends, watch the game, or sip a brew in peace. Parlor Sports, opened in 2011 by the folks at Trina's Starlite Lounge (right next door), brings that spirit to Inman Square.
Unlike the darkness that envelops you when you walk into Trina's, Parlor Sports is airy, light, and bright, a sense created by the large windows and the eight flat-screen TVs, often tuned to the latest Red Sox game. With its sleek bar, light wood paneling, and stainless steel tabletops, the place oozes urban chic. Yet its small dimensions — seating about 30 in a 16-by-22-foot space — create an intimacy that belies any thought of snootiness.
If you go by the weight of the food and alcohol menus, the beer and spirits carry more heft than the food. There's an extensive selection of draft, bottled, and imported beer, plus spirits and cocktails. Wine is relegated to a single line: red, white, sparkling.
But if you want a nibble with your Newcastle Brown Ale ($5), Harpoon IPA ($5), or Dark & Stormy cocktail of rum and ginger beer ($9), the fare is a definite cut above typical bar snacks, although there is the requisite amount of salt and grease.
A very nice twist on the usual is the Mexican pretzels ($7), which came out piping hot and gloriously chewy. The “Mexican” part comes with a cup of the salsa con queso, a gooey dipping sauce that says “cheese” more than “salsa.” Other snacks include the pepperoni roll ($4), wings ($7), and Parlor pie ($12), a platter of house-fried kettle chips, pulled pork, bacon, jack cheese, sour cream, jalapeno, pickles, and salsa con queso.
Of course, there are burgers: the basic ($7), the double burger ($9), and the Parlor burger, ($10), which tops the beef with American cheese, bacon, and bourbon sauce. Because there's always a vegetarian in the crowd, there's a veggie burger ($10) with chipotle aioli and savory with its black bean overtones. Served with fries, the well-flavored dish would satisfy the carnivore palate as well.
Parlor Sports also has an updated version of Mom's standby, the grilled cheese sandwich, which features Muenster and fontinella cheese ($5). Among the various choices, you can add bacon or apple mostarda for $1, or arugula for 50 cents. We opted for the apple mostarda, a blend of marinated apples and onions, which gave Mom’s version a kick in the apron strings.
But if you really want to pack your arteries, go for the Southern lust club, smoked pulled pork, applewood smoked bacon, and cheese with a side of slaw ($12). The bits of bacon were bright with flavor and crunch amid the warm mass of the shredded meat.
There's also the steak and cheese sandwich ($11), and the herb chicken sandwich ($9). There's no escaping salt here: It saturated even the Cobb salad ($12) with its romaine base and buttermilk ranch dressing. That's not counting the bacon, sliced eggs, and slightly dried out fried chicken nuggets that only a Colonel Sanders addict would relish.
Such miscues can be forgiven amid the friendly service, the more than reasonable prices, and the comfortable setting. Once upon a time in downtown Boston, there was a beloved Lilliputian-sized tavern called The Littlest Bar in Boston. It closed in 2006 amid much mourning, and eventually reopened on Broad Street, but in a bigger space. Parlor Sports now looks to snatch the tiny crown, the small spot with the big heart.