Y’all fixin’ to get some dinner?
Estelle’s is the latest brainchild of Brian Poe (Tip Tap Room, Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake) in collaboration with Executive Chef Eric Gburski, formerly of East Coast Grill. Located on the corner of Tremont and Mass. Ave., Estelle’s is slinging Southern food with a side of “Y’all come back now, y’hear.”
Poe and Gburski did a knock-down renovation of what used to be a video store and a pizza joint to create the unusual space at Estelle’s, where floor-to-ceiling windows pour light and people-watching opportunities onto pale wooden tables.
When we visited, the music ranged from Bob Marley to a Latin remake of “Love Potion No.9” while informed servers scuttled about clutching steaming bowls of Andouille sausage and smoked chicken gumbo ($8.25) and cold craft beers retrieved from the gleaming bar (30 on tap, 70 in the bottle).
The food is more Gulf Coast than low-country, meaning more Cajun, Creole, and French influences.
Chef Gburski makes good use of the 100 rotating beers on hand as well—he’s often given the first and last crack at the kegs, so a lot of the cooking gets a healthy dose of the hoppy stuff.
Starters include deep South favorites with a twist, like spicy smoked chicken liver deviled eggs ($3.95) and a buttermilk fried chicken thigh with watermelon-radish salad ($6.95). We of course tried the gumbo, which had a wallop of heat and a thinner consistency than you sometimes see, but an enjoyably smoky taste. The tasso ham hushpuppies with orange-chile honey ($5.95) were perfectly crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle, with a pleasant tang, though not much porcine flavor.
You’ll see some of the usual suspects for side dishes, like mashed sweet potatoes and buttermilk fried pickles.
The cornbread comes out in a fist-sized slab with subtle maple butter, and the red beans and rice are more enjoyable than most with tomatoes bringing some much-needed flavor to what can often be a bland dish.
Entrees add more unique ingredients to the classics, such as a braised duck leg and fried oyster étouffée ($21.95), Cajun cornmeal-crusted catfish with pecan-parsley relish ($19.95), and grilled jumbo Gulf white shrimp with a seared jalapeño grit cake and spiced corn nuts ($22.95). Our blackened Boston redfish felt a little more broiled than blackened and didn’t have much heat, but the tomato-bacon jam offered up some richness ($19.95). The slow roasted brisket and smoked provolone po’ boy ($10.95) got a nice kick from the pickled hot pepper relish; the meat itself was a bit dry and might have benefitted from a hit of gravy often served with beef po’ boys in Louisiana.
Desserts are limited but potent—sweet potato pecan pie, an enormous red velvet moon pie with chocolate chile sauce, and a creamy chocolate-peanut butter-banana pie that made both the peanut butter-hater and the banana-hater at the table drool.
Estelle’s only offers beer and wine at the moment, but they do have a special vodka on hand that allows them to mix up obligatory Bloody Marys during their weekend brunch hours. The Southern influence can be felt here as well, with crowd-pleasers like buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy ($6.95), pain perdu, Louisiana-style French toast, ($8.95), chicken fried steak ($12.95), and chicken wings with Belgian waffles ($10.95).
Estelle’s is the latest in a growing number of Southern-style dining spots that have popped up in Boston over the past few years. With the temperatures hovering constantly near the “Dear God, when is spring coming?” level, they are your new go-to when you need a little heat. Bless their hearts for that.
782 TREMONT ST.