Detroit pan pizza plus wings, hummus, mussels, and a winning beer list to boot
The Boston-area restaurant scene can be a pretty scary place these days, as increasing rents, a lack of workers, and the sheer number of dining spots out there all lead to stressful times for many spots in the region. Construction is another big issue as well, as can be seen by at least one restaurant owner near the Encore in Everett saying that the place had to close for this reason, while the Green Line Extension through Somerville and Medford is also wreaking havoc in some spots, especially in Somerville’s Ball Square, which is essential separated from much of the rest of the city for the time being due to the Broadway bridge being shut down.
So basically, if you’re going to open a new restaurant or bar in a formerly bustling commercial area that now looks like a good wind gust will blow tumbleweeds down the street, you’d better have a good draw. In the case of a newish place called Avenue Kitchen + Bar, it may indeed have just that, as the restaurant offers a type of pizza that you won’t find at nearly any other independent eatery in the local area, which is a pretty big deal in such a pizza-crazy section of the country.
Avenue Kitchen + Bar resides in the space at the tail end of Boston Avenue where an outstanding Italian seafood restaurant called Pescatore had been until it closed in January. Avenue opened its doors there a few months later and renovated the space a bit, though not so much that frequent customers of Pescatore wouldn’t recognize it.
The main space, which used to have a small bar off to the left, now has a bigger bar that dominates the space more, while the dining area looks like a condensed version of what had been there before. Pescatore also had a takeout space to the left, and this remains in place, allowing customers to quickly grab a to-go pizza (or other items) without having to walk into the restaurant space. A small private-feeling outdoor patio can be found behind of the dining area, adding a bit more capacity to the smallish restaurant during the warmer months.
One of the big trends these days is casual upscale comfort food spots that feature inventive twists on classic dishes, and Avenue Kitchen + Bar seems to fit into this category quite well. Its menu includes mostly new American fare and modern takes on old-fashioned items, including black garlic hummus, maple chili duck wings, roasted beets (which seem to be everywhere now), beer-steamed mussels, a Cobb salad, burgers, crispy chicken sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, steak frites, and, well, you get the picture—dishes that can be found in countless neighborhood restaurants and bars these days.
Something that helps make Avenue Kitchen + Bar stand out is its Detroit-style pizza, which originates in the Detroit area (just in case you weren’t sure) and which is a bit like Sicilian-style pizza in that it is baked in a pan and cut into squares or rectangles. There are differences, however, as Detroit-style pizza is thicker and more crunchy and it goes through heavy caramelization along the edge of its crust—and the sauce is placed above the toppings and cheese rather than below, much like that of Santarpio’s in East Boston (though Santarpio’s pizza is completely different, more like a mix of Trenton-style and New York-style).
An initial tasting of some of the Detroit-style pizza at Avenue Kitchen + Bar mostly led to a “wow” moment, in turn leading to the question, “Why don’t more Boston-area restaurants serve this?” This is a completely decadent and sinful pizza that will fill you up in a hurry, and the ingredients used at Avenue are generally outstanding, including those on the meatball pizza, which includes an almost life-changing mix of ricotta, green peppers, red sauce, and freshly made meatballs. One minor caveat is that the red sauce is on the acidic and bitter side, which seems to work well with the ingredients on the meatball pizza, but perhaps not quite so well with the plain or the pepperoni where it is the dominant flavor. Other options for pizza include a white pizza with mushrooms, a pulled chicken pizza, and a beef barbacoa pie with braised short rib.
The beverage program at Avenue Kitchen + Bar features a rather impressive list of beers, including ones from some of the best breweries around (Lawson’s, Fiddlehead, Toppling Goliath, Zero Gravity, Maine), while the wine list includes a number of reds and whites, and a few rose and sparkling options. Cocktails run the gamut from classic to modern, and include Sazerac, old fashioneds, bee’s knees, and martinis. The bar itself is a nice spot to order a drink or two—or to enjoy a meal, for that matter, since it’s a pretty mellow and relatively comfortable space, especially on weeknights when it’s a bit more quiet.
Ball Square is a tough place to be these days if you’re any kind of business, let alone a restaurant and bar that’s already facing some uphill battles right off the bat. But the fact that Avenue Kitchen + Bar features a delicious food item that perhaps only one other nonchain restaurant (Volo in Swampscott) in the region serves should go a long way to help bring people into this place. And once the Broadway bridge reopens, Ball Square will no longer be cut off from the world, and there’s a good chance that this appealing little spot will be discovered by more and more diners.
AVENUE KITCHEN + BAR, 158 BOSTON AVE., SOMERVILLE. AVENUESOMERVILLE.COM