Cheat Sheet: The Glenville Stops
The Gist: Opened in April, this contemporary tavern stakes an unassuming claim in a residential patch of Allston, nestled between restaurant and retail-lined Harvard and Brighton avenues. Soon the neighborhood's student population will return and start to spread the word. So now's a good time check out a fresh (and incidentally, spotless) gastropub entry with a gung-ho attitude.
The Vibe: The 75-seat interior is the result of a renovation that merged, gutted and outfitted three former Glenville Street storefronts, and much of the work was done by the father-son ownership team of Mike and Fred Chapman. (The "Stops" nods to a similarly named tavern in the UK, where the elder Chapman formerly lived. He's now a retired history professor who earned his doctorate at nearby Boston College.) Colorful Tiffany lamps hang over a large central bar they built, and there's a semi-private area for large parties. It's a bit British, and the TV-free space is clearly designed to keep attention on the food and drink. But the owners are engaged - Mike is head barkeep, Fred is an attentive room-working GM - and 26-year old chef Juan Pedrosa is an affable charmer who frequently delivers the dishes himself. (And isn't afraid to court constructive feedback from guests.)
Eat This: Pedrosa says he was inspired by the energy he feels percolating in the Harlem restaurant scene right now, and that he wanted to dive deep into some of the Latin cooking on which he was raised. Passion prevails in standouts like a duo of day boat scallops ($11, pictured) which cut like butter. Trot them through a chocolate mole sauce, then scoop up a salad of compressed jicama and grilled mango; eyes roll back. Equally excellent is four quick seared shrimp ($9) in a zinging chorizo aioli. The earthiness of drizzled sofrito is brightened nicely by thinly sliced celery pickles. Though Latin influences predominate, the menu also taps into Pedrosa's professional roots in other restaurants. The Mediterranean of his former work as sous chef at Trade is referenced with supremely tender lamb meatballs ($12) and a smooth, light, house made tzatziki. Meanwhile Asian-inspired sticky pork riblets ($11), served with shishito peppers in a peach sauce, are a natural extension of his work with Great Harbor Yacht Club's Tom Berry, who was Ming Tsai's sous at Blue Ginger before becoming opening chef of Bambara.
Drink This: It's only beer and wine here, but it's a big selection. The bar boasts 30 beer taps, including one rotating cask selection. And there are another 30 wines by the glass; five of them available on draft. Local craft brew picks include Idle Hands, Jack's Abby, and Ipswich Ale, and there's quite the assortment of English ales. There's even a selection of British sodas: Fentimans Botanically Brewed Beverages, which includes flavors like "dandelion & burdock."
Skip This: It's a consistently strong selection, though charred octopus ($15) with a gigante bean salad and masa seca most elicited a shrug. Evidently, though, it's one of the menu's biggest movers - so the people have spoken.
The Damage: Bar bites are in the single digits, shared plates around $10, and larger dishes in the mid-teens. So the damage is mild and fair.
The Verdict: Pedrosa has designed a menu that feels like a very unique marriage of (mostly) homespun Latin with elevated pub food, and he pulls it off with both youthful exuberance and professional polish. It seems like a gamble to launch this in the residential area of a neighborhood skewed toward under-grad and early twenty-somethings. But if the returning wave of younger crowds can help foot the bills with strong bar tabs (and they surely will), the rest of us will have a new under-the-radar favorite on our hands.
The Glenville Stops, 87 Glenville Ave.; 617-903-3638