Those craving Southern-style food but who don’t want to lose the East Coast air of pretension are lucky if they want to catch a deal in Back Bay. Buttermilk & Bourbon, the New Orleans-style tapas restaurant by Jason Santos that is nestled amongst the multimillion-dollar townhomes on Comm Ave, has plenty of small shareable plates priced under $20, making it a treat but not one that will shatter the bank.
B&B’s interior is the definition of millennial-friendly, with white brick walls, black-and-white tile floors, and a cozy candle-filled fireplace straight off of Pinterest. It’s the perfect backdrop for “influencers” who spend more time photographing meals than eating them, and a quick scroll through the restaurant’s tagged Instagram photos show many 20-somethings laughing over beignets and some sort of brunch beverage concocted with a swirl of soft serve and sparkling wine in a can. Sadly for me, the dim lighting for dinner made getting a good photo nearly impossible.
I started off my meal with the confit Berkshire pork belly cracklings, which were accompanied by a tangy mustard dip and cheddar salt. While incredibly simple, the fatty bits of pork belly became addictive when coated in the dipping sauce. I followed these with my personal favorite part of the meal—honey-glazed biscuits, which had a gorgeously caramelized exterior and were served alongside a smoked cinnamon butter and pimento cheese spread. The butter erred on the cloyingly sweet side, but the pimento cheese spread added a welcome hit of salt to the indulgent biscuit.
I have to be transparent here—I’m not a seafood fan, but even I found the shrimp and grits to be delicious. The bits of tasso ham added a touch of smokiness and salt, however I found the duck fat drumettes, which were coated in crab fat caramel, to taste offensively fishy, and to distract from the duck. Still, the fried coating on the drumettes had a wonderfully crispy texture, aided by the addition of puffed rice.
The most disappointing part of my meal was the fried chicken, which was labeled as “Nashville hot.” I slathered my piece in white barbecue sauce and bit down nervously, anticipating a delicious painful burn. To my surprise, the chicken lacked real heat. Sure, it was solid fried chicken, and the sauce was heavenly, but advertising a lightly spicy seasoning as “Nashville hot” takes off some authenticity points.
A salad of baby spinach and strawberries lightened up the fat-heavy meal, with bits of creamy goat cheese and sunflower seeds, tossed in a fruity vinaigrette. Albeit not New Orleans-inspired, the refreshing salad offered a much-needed break from the deep fryer. The coffee-crusted hanger steak was another highlight; the meat was incredibly flavorful and a perfect medium rare, and while the coffee added complexity, it didn’t overwhelm the dish. Ironically, while neither of these screamed Big Easy, they were without a doubt my favorite entrees.
The dessert selection was a bit more on theme, offering molasses biscuit bread pudding, and—of course—beignets. The bread pudding was syrupy sweet and decadent, swimming in a salted caramel sauce. I found it a bit too sugary and could only stomach a few bites while wishing for some fresh fruit to brighten up the dish. On the other hand, the beignets were everything I could hope for: golden brown, fluffy, and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce. Served alongside vanilla bean cream, the beignets ensured that this would not be my final visit to Buttermilk & Bourbon. The honey biscuits were reason alone to come back.