By Steve Saleeba,

BOSTON (CBS) – One hundred and twenty-six years ago, French immigrant Henry Marliave decided to start a restaurant on Bosworth Street in downtown Boston. You’ll find it hidden away down a back alley, with a battered, old-fashioned wooden sign hanging near the doorway. The minute you walk inside you realize how the building has managed to survive through parts of three centuries.

The main level’s vintage tin ceilings and old-school tile floor remain in place. Little more than a fresh coat of paint covers up the tales of late night press clubs, a rumored brothel, and a Prohibition-era speakeasy that boasted a number of documented liquor seizures.

A few years ago, Grotto chef Scott Herrit bought Marliave, tweaked the atmosphere and transformed the menu before reopening. On the drink menu, names reflect the restaurant’s roots, with cocktails called The Molasses Flood of 1909, Warren G. Harding, and Yellow Journalism. The $3.50 Miller High Life may appear a bit out of place next to a $9 Delirium Tremens, but it seems to set the standard that there’s something for everyone’s taste.

Sticking with the “something for everyone” theme, Marliave’s menu choices bounce from burgers to beef wellington, and Reubens to rabbit. Marliave bakes its bread and burger buns fresh in house and uses local ingredients whenever possible. The Reubens ($14) and Pizzas ($13) reflect the pride Herrit puts into his food. The hamburger is a gem. The restaurant purchases the hamburger meat from a sustainable farm about two hours north of Boston. The mouthwatering taste of fresh beef on your taste buds makes the $12 price tag extremely easy to swallow. Did I mention it comes with a side of succulent house-cut French fries drizzled with truffle oil (a side of baked beans or salad are the other two options)? For the adventurous, a prosciutto-wrapped rabbit tenderloin with roasted sausage, Gorgonzola and caramelized onion polenta, while pricier ($25), is well worth the risk of giving this dish a try. The payoff is exquisite.

That same “something for everyone” theme is echoed in the three-floor layout, with a more upscale upstairs, an oyster bar on the lower level, and a small outdoor porch. The $1 oysters during happy hour offer another intriguing reason to visit.

I have run into the occasional gripe about service. Based on my experiences and others, I’d say it’s far more “hit” than “miss”. The most common complaint I have come across is cost. But, unless you’re willing to pay more or settle for less, there are very few places I’ve come across where the trifecta of food, atmosphere, and price rival Marliave.

marliave 1 Restaurant Review: Marliave

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Comments (2)
  1. Patrice says:

    I haven’t been there in years because the service was lousy and the food was only fair. Had been there several times and decided it wasn’t going to get any better so I just gave up. I’ll have to try it again to see if the author is exaggerating (journalists do that).

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