Davis Square is full of great restaurants and bars – and full of people. The sidewalks are often almost unbearably congested, and it’s easy to run into a long wait at every dinner spot on the square or enter a bar so packed you can barely reach the restrooms. I love Davis, but I hate crowds, so I was excited to stumble on a new place set back a little bit from the center of the action. Five Horses Tavern has taken over Sagra’s old space, and from the beer selection alone, I was a fan even before stepping inside.
The great beer is hardly a surprise as Five Horses’ owner used to be a manager at one of Inman Square’s best beer havens, Bukowski Tavern. Nonetheless, I was still excited to receive my La Fin du Monde with its matching glass. Also awesome? The giant chandelier made of tap handles that graces the front of the restaurant.
The food is a mixed bag, but the restaurant’s still young, and I’m hoping it’ll work itself out. While we were quite impressed with all of our appetizers and side dishes, the entrees themselves fell short. On the starter side, we initially balked at getting a $4 order of bread and butter – something most restaurants give for free – but it turned out to be well worth it, as the creamy goat cheese butter was divine. (One of my dining companions ended up adding some of the leftover butter to his cheddar jalapeno mashed potatoes, which brought them from good to excellent.) We also started with the fried calamari (perfect texture and nice addition of mangoes, but could have used a bit more salt) and pork belly tacos (I’ll take a few more of those, please).
My tater tot obsession weighed heavily on my choice of a burger; the burgers and sandwiches all come with a choice of the tots, the cheddar jalapeno mashed potatoes, fruit, or greens. As expected, the tots were perfect, comparable to my other favorites at Cambridge Common. The burger, though, was disappointing. It was cooked perfectly rare, as requested, which many restaurants never seem to get right, but it was still somehow dry and bland. Three of us ordered burgers or sandwiches served on the shiny country bread roll; it looked so good but tasted so dense and dry. Quite a letdown after the great appetizers. My dining companions fared similarly with their entrees.
There’s a lot that Five Horses Tavern is doing right, though, and its location might help keep it a little quieter than some of the nearby night spots, like The Burren and Joshua Tree – until word spreads about the fantastic beer selection, that is. I certainly intend to give the food another try; there’s plenty of potential here. And you know I can’t resist those tater tots.
Five Horses Tavern
Hours: Mon – Sun, 11:30am – 1am
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.