Drumroll please! I got a job! Two months out of college and I am a full-time, real-life adult employee! Which of course means that we had to go out and celebrate by stuffing our faces with ridiculously delicious, slightly overpriced food. A quick OpenTable search brought us to a little hideaway gem on Stuart Street called Rustic Kitchen. Its tucked away near Flemings Steakhouse (the steak that started it all) and Ostra. We lived just around the corner at Emerson for two years without ever discovering this place and damn, were we missing out.
The entrance is easy to miss, with only a small sign by the door, and the steps lead us down into an unnervingly quiet foyer. Before we opened the front door, I briefly wondered if I’d taken us to the wrong place. But inside, the dining room is warmly lit and spacious — it has the feel of coming home that no other place we’ve visited has managed to capture. Our table was set for four, which irks me to no end, but the tables for two forced couples to sit next to each other at booths set into the wall, so I didn’t mind our arrangement as much.
Our waitress won Gabby over immediately. One of Gabby’s pet peeves is noncommital waiters. When she asks for a recommendation from the menu, she’s genuinely looking for an opinion and if/when they respond with “they’re both good,” she gets very grumpy. At Rustic Kitchen, we knew we wanted sangria but we couldn’t decide between the red or the white. When asked for her opinion, our waitress suggested we get a glass of each to try them both. Gabby was very pleased and thats exactly what we did. Throughout the night, our waitress was polite and decisive and helpful, which we very much appreciated. Her upbeat and bubbly personality was infectious and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves with her.
The pre-appetizer bread was so phenomenal that we barely left enough room for the rest of our meal. It was a garlic foccacia bread (my personal favorite) served with an olive oil, vinegar, and hummus dipping sauce that was absolutely mouthwatering. On our waitress’ recommendation, we ordered the arancini appetizer — fried risotto balls, stuffed with mozarella cheese and served on a bed of arugula. We were almost completely stuffed after just our pre-dinner plates! Rustic Kitchen does not skimp on serving sizes. For the main course, I ordered the New York strip steak in a red wine jus, with mashed potatoes and Gabby ordered the baked stuffed haddock. I finished every bite of my steak and had to restrain myself from licking the plate clean, it was so good. Gabby was a bit over enthusiastic with the arancini and as a result couldn’t finish her haddock, although she said it was very good and she would have if she could. To my dismay, dessert aficianado that I am, we skipped dessert because we were so stuffed from the meal. I’ve made the executive decision though, that one day we’ll go back just for dessert tasting.
As our waitress suggested, we each ordered a glass of sangria, one white and one red. After tasting each, we decided that I liked the white better and Gabby liked the red. Which, of course, ended up contrasting perfectly with what we ordered to eat. But they were both very good. The red was sweet but dry, and the white was tart and cool, both excellent choices.
We give Rustic Kitchen a 9 out of 10. Everything added up to a wonderful night, but it wasn’t the best food we’ve had in the city. It comes in a close second to places like Gaslight and Marliave’s. Not bad at all, but missing that wow factor in most of the food.
Rustic Kitchen, 210 Stuart Street, Park Square, Boston