Though their dishes are plated with an upscale attention to detail, the kitchen staff at The Wild Horse needs little more to prepare them than ingredients sourced from local farms and an open fire pit. Thus is borne the restaurant’s cozy, New American dishes with a dose of international flair. Broiled haddock, Moroccan-spiced rack of lack, and upside-down shepherd's pie pair with a rotating selection of 24 draft beers, which can include regional favorites as well as brews from across the world. From steaks and wild sockeye salmon to signature sandwiches, burgers, and flatbreads, these dishes accommodate meals from late-morning onwards, including late-night bites.
The Wild Horse's spacious and inviting dining area echoes the rustic spirit of its cooking. An open kitchen lies within full view of the wooden tables and horseshoe-shaped booths. Edison bulbs surrounded by wireframe cages hang from the ceiling and cast a gentle glow across the taupe walls and decorative tree branches.
The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location—a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.
Kitty O'Sheas Irish Pub maintains an animated atmosphere with nightly entertainment. Every Saturday through Wednesday, live music echoes against the cozy interior's dark hardwoods, spilling out onto the pub's deck on warm nights. Festivities begin at 9:30, a half hour after the kitchen closes for the night and several hours after the sun sinks back into the center of the earth. Before then, however, cooks sizzle up a lineup of traditional Irish pub grub. They fill bread bowls with their signature Guinness beef stew, top shepherd’s pie with hearty mashed potatoes, and assemble five sandwiches, including an Irish reuben. They also prepare a selection of American favorites, such as burgers and a pub platter filled with chicken tenders, potato skins, and buffalo wings.
One might leave Red Lulu Cocina & Tequila Bar, which was named this year's best new restaurant north of Boston by Boston Magazine, with some sense of the broad scope of Mexican cuisine, geography, and culture. That epiphany might come from the selection of 180 tequilas, which slip down in shots, release bell peals of clicking ice in glasses, or blend with lime in thick margaritas rimmed with salt. The tantalizing menu also parades traditional Mexican ingredients, though they are tangled into surprising configurations.
Red chandeliers glow, bringing to life the colors of chipotle peppers on plates at plush black booth seating, all beneath red wallpaper. In the tequila lounge, ample couches create a circle around red, candlelit tables for resting a glass of sangria or a mojito muddled with strawberries or cucumber. A row of inset shadowboxes displays the colorful lucha libre masks typically used in overblown battles and attempts to go out in public without being recognized as Kevin Bacon.
The Gloucestershire "Old Spot" pig is a fitting mascot and namesake for The Old Spot. The breed, once a staple of English farming, is docile, warm, and always in search of tasty grub. The pub and its inhabitants are similar--a crowd of neighborhood regulars who take their Guinness at the hardwood bar. The menu of meat pies and curried chicken evokes a cozy pub dining experience. Seated near the picture windows that run the front length of the pub, diners cut into crispy portions of fried haddock, the batter dashed with spritzes of lemon, malt vinegar, and tartar sauce. Though less neighborly figures necessitated the restaurant's end as a music venue, it continues to offer weekly trivia nights where the answer is always "John Major".
The bar at The Naumkeag Ordinary was made from reclaimed wood, and it's that mentality—of sustainability, renewal, making the most of what you have—that defines the restaurant's ethos. In the kitchen, for instance, chefs use local, in-season meat and produce to craft an ever-rotating menu of gourmet comfort food, which has included everything from deviled eggs with basil, pesto, and bacon to pork loin with spinach, parmesan, cornbread stuffing, and kale. Dishes as exotic as duck and sweet-potato hash anchor the weekend brunch specials, which help ease the homesickness of being away from the office for at least one more day. Patrons can always find something new on the chalkboard menus posted inside or out near the patio.